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Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite, Less Healthy Foods

by Courtney on February 9, 2013

Well hello, and happy Saturday to you all!

This morning, I have a fun post to share with you all. I’m a part of a new campaign with GNC called the “Total Lean Challenge,” which is a 12-week lifestyle program that includes nutrition, meal plans, workouts and video instruction, and community support.

For each week of the challenge, one of us is asked to share a fun new workout, along with various tips, tricks, and resources for various aspects of health and wellness. Today, my post is going to focus on one of my favorite things…

Healthy alternatives to less healthy foods

Now you guys know me…I’m a huge advocate for eating the real deal, but I also enjoy some healthier alternatives from time to time because, let’s face it…if we indulged in the real deal ALL the time, then we’d probably be feeling pretty crappy, sluggish, and blah.

So let’s start with pizza, for example.

Pizza is probably one of the biggest calorie bombs out there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in other ways! Try making a “crust” out of a whole wheat pita or tortilla. Top with some sauce, a bunch of your favorite veggies (for an added nutritional boost) some protein (chicken sausage for me!), and a little mozzarella cheese. Easy as pizza pie. Winking smile

Another favorite comfort food of mine would most definitely have to be a big bowl of chicken and broccoli alfredo. Because I mean, really…what’s not to love?

But thankfully, there a ton of healthy swaps you can make:

  • Most traditional alfredo sauces come loaded with heavy cream and cheese. Try using my skinny alfredo sauce, which swaps in healthy Greek yogurt for much of the heavy stuff.
  • Bulk up the good stuff (i.e., the chicken and the broccoli) which are both going to give you the most nutritional value.
  • Make smart choices with your pasta…stick with an actual serving (then load up on the other stuff!) and opt for whole wheat.
  • Looking to cut back on the carbs? Swap in spaghetti squash for your pasta. It’s just as delicious (and is in the photo above).

So what about sweets??

Well, as you guys probably know…I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Winking smile You can count on me having some sort of sweet almost daily, but I also have a few favorites that aren’t quite as loaded in the calorie department.

For example, my Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I probably make these at least once ever 1-2 months, and they are not only easy, but super tasty, too. The mashed banana helps you cut back on added fats, and they’re just as delicious when made with whole wheat flour and good quality dark chocolate. They’re also soft, more like little muffins than cookies, but they are great at satisfying a sweet tooth.

Another new favorite evening dessert of mine would have to be this little concoction.

While I don’t think they’ll ever be anything better than a bowl of ice cream, this little dessert is certainly a great substitution. Just mix a container of Greek yogurt of choice (I like vanilla), mix in about a tablespoon of peanut butter, and top with about a tablespoon of chocolate chips (you can also feel free to crumble some TJ’s cat cookies like me). Winking smile

I first got this idea from Colleen, and have been loving it ever since. It’s SO good!

Another favorite? “Wouldn’t Know They’re Healthy” Blueberry Muffins. Trust me on this one…they’re amazing.

And finally, one last favorite of mine (which can arguably be labeled “healthy” depending on what you define as healthy), are these soda cupcakes.

Rather than add in all the oil and eggs, you simply mix a box of your favorite cake mix with 12oz. of your favorite diet soda (like I said…these could be argued as healthy…I don’t judge either way!). Be sure to check out this post for some delicious cake + soda combos.

Lots of good ideas for you there…hopefully you find one you like!

Last but not least, as a part of this week’s Total Lean Challenge, may I present to you your Saturday Workout Plan.


Time to get that rowing machine revved up!

row & work interval circuit


Question for the Morning:

What are some of YOUR favorite healthy alternatives to less healthy foods?

Disclaimer: Fitfluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Khushboo February 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

Great tips, Courtney! Instead of typical fried chicken, I like to dip my chicken in egg whites and then coat it in oats- yummy without the grease!


2 Nicole @ Fruit 'N' Fitness February 9, 2013 at 7:45 am

I love using pumpkin or banana in place of some of the sugar and butter in most cookie recipes. Another easy substitute is greek yogurt, its good in sweets and savory dishes like buffalo mac and cheese.


3 Linz @ Itz Linz February 9, 2013 at 7:50 am

Spaghetti squash for regular pasta definitely wins in my book! I also swap plain greek yogurt for a lot of things – especially sour cream. I can’t remember the last time I even bought sour cream!
Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted..Free Flow Friday


4 Ashley @ Life and Fitness February 9, 2013 at 7:53 am

I’ve also been satisfying my sweet tooth with Greek yogurt and choc. chips. It almost tastes like frozen yogurt, almost haha.
Ashley @ Life and Fitness recently posted..Fancy Schmancy Over Here


5 Kristen @ notsodomesticated February 9, 2013 at 8:16 am

Great tips! I do the “healthier” pizza thing all of the time! Yum!
Kristen @ notsodomesticated recently posted..A Week of Dinners: The Good, the bad, and the burger.


6 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution February 9, 2013 at 8:24 am

My favorite thing is to take chicken breast and cut it into nuggets, then coat it with egg white and panko bread crumbs, then baked and coated with a little hot sauce – healthier hot wings!


7 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution February 9, 2013 at 8:26 am

Oh, and you can mix a ranch packet with greek yogurt for a dipping sauce!
Kristy @ Kristy’s Health Revolution recently posted..Dreary Day


8 Erica @ For the Sake of Cake February 9, 2013 at 8:32 am

I’ll definitely have to try your alfredo sauce! My husband was just saying how he could go for “something alfredo”! lol


9 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

Lately my favorite evening snack has been plain rice cakes with “frosting.” I mix about 1 tbsp peanut butter + 1/2 a scoop chocolate protein powder + a splash of almond milk until it resembles frosting. Then spread it on 2 rice cakes, and if I’m feeling really crazy, a sprinkle of granola or raisins. It’s SO good and tastes so decadent – almost like dessert! :)
Katie @ Talk Less, Say More recently posted..Fitness Friday Catch-Up


10 Pickyrunner February 9, 2013 at 8:40 am

Sometimes I just want the real deal but I’ve found that substitute apple sauce or lighter ingredients can still offer a pretty good flavor that I like. Some of these are great tips although I’m a firm believer in true moderation. If I want mac and cheese, I’m going to eat it and not worry about whether or not it has a few extra calories.


11 Brooke @ Running In Heels February 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

LOVE all of these ideas! I love substituting greek yogurt or applesauce and adding half stevia half sugar to quick bread recipes.. so much better for you and still delicious!
Brooke @ Running In Heels recently posted..Skinny Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe and My Favorite Sock Hoarder


12 kim@hungryhealthygirl February 9, 2013 at 9:03 am

When baking, I always cut down on the amount of oil and sugar a recipe calls for. I also try to use half coconut oil with half applesauce or mashed banana. And like you said, I try to use whole wheat rather than all purpose flour when baking too.
kim@hungryhealthygirl recently posted..Constantly Killing Time and Giveaway Winner Announced


13 Elizabeth @ My Neon Running Shoes February 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

I have seen the cupcake recipe where you substitute diet soda for other ingredients. Does it turn out well? I’ve had my doubts haha. I’ll trust what you say though :-)
Elizabeth @ My Neon Running Shoes recently posted..This post is backwards


14 AVERY @ Southern Belle Living Well February 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

Thats one of my favorites too! An alternative that I like to do us use salsa as a salad dressing, not only does it SWRIOUSLY cut down on calories/fat, but it also has way more flavor than normal salad dressing!


15 Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections February 9, 2013 at 10:03 am

I love those cat cookies from TJ’s! What a good idea, putting them in greek yogurt. That’s such a good alternative to ice cream. I’ve gotta try that sometime!
Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections recently posted..Finally Friday: Week Recap


16 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries February 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

Great swaps!! I love your skinny alfredo – it’s a great alternative to the high calorie stuff. I need to try your blueberry muffins too! Both Cody and I love blueberry muffins, so I’m sure they’ll be a favorite.
I also like to use applesauce to lower the amount of butter or oil in baked goods or to use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo.
Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..02/08/13: Fitness Friday


17 Lea@runningfordummies February 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

I love your healthy food swaps! Everything looks so delicious! thanks for sharing!
Lea@runningfordummies recently posted..How to Make Your Treadmill Runs Not Suck


18 Melanie @ Beatifully Nutty February 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

Your banana chocolate chip cookies are one of my all-time favorite “healthier” cookie recipes. Whenever I make them people are always shocked to hear what they are made out of. I love that. The majority of time I bake I use either applesauce, Greek yogurt, pumpkin, or pureed black beans to substitute for the fats. The product ends up even fudgier than the original recipe. Extra fudgy brownies? Yes please!
Melanie @ Beatifully Nutty recently posted..Cabbage Roll Casserole–Give it a Chance!


19 Abby February 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

Love it! That alfredo always looks wonderful. Froyo will always be at the top for me. I love that you can make it as healthy or unhealthy as you want! Moderation at it’s finest. :)
Abby recently posted..Friday Five – Froyo, Self Love, and Zombies


20 Jenn @comebackmomma February 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

Stopping by from FFA. Love the alternative to Pizza idea. I recently posted a healthy dessert idea here:


21 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats February 9, 2013 at 10:53 am

I like subbing Laughing Cow wedges for cream cheese and greek yogurt with sour cream. I save so many calories and it tastes wonderful! I also load up with as many veggies as possible to avoid overdoing the bad for me foods.
Karen @ Runner Girl Eats recently posted..Key Biscayne Half Marathon


22 Katie @ Skinny Minnie Moves February 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

I love onion rings, not figure friendly, so I make my own
baked clean version! also
chicken tenders! Here’s an almond crusted baked tender instead of


23 Amanda @ A Latte Learn February 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

I think I’ll be baking some desserts this weekend. Those all look so gooood! :)
Amanda @ A Latte Learn recently posted..The Golden Lamb


24 Renee @ Fit For Motherhood February 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

I love making pizza using Trader Joe’s Naan bread, it is so good. I also like to replace the oil in cupcakes with applesauce, they are so good and no one can ever tell the difference. :)
Renee @ Fit For Motherhood recently posted..Tomatoes with Mozzarella Cheese


25 Chelsea @ LittleOneRuns February 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm

this is probably going to sound really bad, lol but i don’t have healthy alternatives…i just eat the real thing, but i like to eat about 90% healthy all the time. so i guess it balances out :)
Chelsea @ LittleOneRuns recently posted..Friday Letters #4


26 Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl February 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Thanks so much for sharing these great healthy food alternatives! Some favorites of mine include: spaghetti squash in place of pasta, “riced” cauliflower in place of rice, mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, and beans/veggies in place of meat. And if we are talking snacks, I am currently obsessed with Pop Chips. They totally satisfy my chip craving, but I don’t have to feel guilty about eating them It’s a win-win :).
Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl recently posted..Bourbon Tofu and Vegetables Over Whole Brown Rice


27 Danica @ It's Progression February 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I love finding healthy alternatives…For baking, I like to sub applesauce, mashed banana, and pumpkin puree for butters and some oils…We love having pizza for dinners, and I always make our own crust so there aren’t any wonky ingredients in there (love using almond meal instead of flour too).
Danica @ It’s Progression recently posted..Friday Random


28 Michelle February 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Great tips ! Love the soda in cake idea…i also love the idea of applesauce in cakes or brownies too !
Michelle recently posted..Food Photo Friday aka My Eats From Last Week


29 Shel@PeachyPalate February 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I love zucchini noodles and quickly blanch them for an amazing much more noodle like texture! :) Mashed banana works wonders in baking and rather than just focusing on cutting calories I just choose wholefoods so instead of oil or butter in baking I use nut butter or tahini or even coconut butter as opposed to oil! Banana softserve is an amazing ice cream alternative especially with nut butter stirred through!
Shel@PeachyPalate recently posted..Energising Food & Nutrients


30 Allison @ Life's a Bowl February 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I totally agree that you should be able to enjoy anything that you want, but in moderation! And healthy alternatives to make those “heavier” favorites are always appreciated :) One of my fave subs is applesauce in sweet breads that call for oil… I’ve been meaning to try subbing Greek yogurt- I’ve heard it’s great!


31 Chelsie February 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Spaghetti squash is a favorite of mine. I hardly ever eat pasta anymore these days!
Chelsie recently posted..Snowed In


32 Ellie@Fit for the Soul February 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

One of my favorite ways of making something lighter is by using greek yogurt instead of buttermilk or too much oil/butter, etc. It’s a great way to make baked goods rise! It’s also great like you mentioned, in creamy sauces and all that good stuff. :)
Ellie@Fit for the Soul recently posted..Cajun Sausage Mac N Cheese


33 colleen @ thegiftofmondays February 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

good thing i’m reading this now as i pigged out on a large fries (which i NEVER do) and a McFlurry (again, which i NEVER do) at McD’s today. it’s been a stressful couple of days and i just felt like i needed it (which of course i didn’t but i’m an emotional eater and that side of it won the argument today!)

one of my favorite EASY sweet tooth treats is to take a few bananas and slice them up and put in the freezer for about an hour. take them out, put them in the blender and wala…one ingredient ice cream!!! you can add cocoa powder if you want chocolate flavor. my kids love it!!! and honestly, it is better than the McFlurry!!!
colleen @ thegiftofmondays recently posted..i know how it feels to be broken


34 Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily February 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I love this!!! I dropped 45lbs since last May by eating the real deal on my favorite foods, but I still have about 50 more pounds I need to lose and it’s time I change things up. I’ve been at a plateau since November and while I fully believe in “everything in moderation,” I have noticed that sometimes eating the real things all the times leaves me feeling sluggish, bloated and just play gross. I’m saving all of these ideas, thanks again :)
Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily recently posted..Snow,Pinewood Derby and a Challenge


35 Bek @ Crave February 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I think my creations are quite healthy. The base is chobani 0% and oats, then I add in chopped fruit, dark choc chips and whatever else does my fancy. I get to knock over a bunch of cravings, balance out the sugar so not to get a sugar high, good protein, fibre, wholegrains and much more filling then your average ice cream!
Bek @ Crave recently posted..Beach Weekend Photos


36 Chantelle @ A Tale of Two Pretties February 10, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I just bought a spaghetti squash earlier this week–guess I know what I will be making with it! That alfredo looks outrageous. So excited!
Chantelle @ A Tale of Two Pretties recently posted..A Look at Painters with Portfolios


37 Jenna @ Crazy Healthy Fit February 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I love your healthy alternatives! I love to make a “clean” ice cream dessert. To make: blend about 1 cup almond/coconut milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1 T peanut butter, a spoonful cocoa powder, and stevia to taste. I usually add some walden farms chocolate or caramel syrup and some sprinkles at the end. This just needs to sit in the freezer for about 30 min and its ice cream! Trust me, you cannot taste the cottage cheese (i dont like cc)
Jenna @ Crazy Healthy Fit recently posted..I’ve been M.I.A


38 Katie February 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I like to add spinach to lots of food. So, it’s basically bulking stuff up. From smoothies to sandwiches to random dinners, it’s safe to say that I go through a decent amount of spinach…
Katie recently posted..Board Games & Nacho Cheese Make Life Better


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