Healthier Versions of Common College Staples

Trade #1: Ramen noodles

When I was ten my Mom started rationing my Ramen intake.  In the dark mires of a 2-pack a day habit, I called Top Ramen and asked for some advice to make my Ramen less “nutritionally deficient than a bag of potato chips” (mom’s words not mine).  The call center woman recommended I put frozen vegetables in it, gave me coupons for a 35 cent package of food (thanks?) and promptly disconnected.

15-some-odd years later I still believe putting vegetables in a perfectly balanced flavor profile is a load of crap.  Meet Koyo Tofu and Miso Ramen.  The rewards for trading in this ubiquitous college staple?  A 25% reduction in salt, half the calories, twice the fiber, and higher-quality slower-digesting carbohydrates.  Granted, at $1.25 a pack you’re looking at a 38% price hike, but that’s still a heck of a low price per meal.  Throw some chicken in there and you are well on your way to a meal that would make your mom proud.  Not that you like, call her every day or anything.  Or care.  We won’t tell anyone.

With flavors like Lemongrass and Garlic Pepper, its organic wheat noodles, and politically correct names like Asian Vegetable, it’s quite the grown-up version of Ramen.

 

Trade #2: Upgrade Your Spaghetti

You thought I was going to tell you to go whole wheat, right?  Well, you’re half right.  Allow me to introduce Spelt, an “ancient grain” with a different nutritional profile from wheat.  A lot like gluten-free products, ancient grains have been overhyped a bit.  According to an LA Times article, marketers have led consumers to believe they are safer for people with wheat sensitivities and richer nutritionally—neither of which is true. The main advantage over wheat the ancient grains have is variety.  Wheat is a great source of fiber but it’s everywhere–delivering the same trace minerals and vitamins day after day.  Spelt has a different mineral profile, a somewhat nutty flavor and is a welcome change for most.

I’ve tried out this brand and had good success with it:

 

 

 

As for toppings, tomato sauce is pretty free of nutritional sins.  It always wins over creamier sauces like Alfredo although Progresso does a light sauce that won’t ruin you for a week.  (Olive Garden’s Fettucine Alfredo has 1220 calories!)

The only gripe I have with tomato sauce is its needlessly high sugar content.  A simple tomato sauce with a little olive oil and spice is yummy in its own right.  I recommend Hunt’s No Sugar Added Pasta Sauce.  If the flavor doesn’t float your boat (we think it will—5 stars on Amazon!), there are tons of things you can do to change it up.   Red pepper flakes, some grated parmesan, garlic, olive oil, or Italian spices are what the fancier sauces have anyway, and if you have them on hand it’s not a big deal to add them.

Trade #3: Cereal for… Omelet Muffins!

Ahh, wouldn’t it be amazing if every morning you woke up with perfectly tousled hair, fresh breath and plenty of time to make and eat an omelet?

In the real world, these egg muffins are a great sub for your usual starchy cereal and/or banana combo.  Diabetics have known for a long time that starches in the morning = blood sugar level spike = food cravings mid-morning for more starch (i.e. junk food).  The best thing about these little egg muffins?  They can be pre-made then nuked in the microwave, creating the ultimate hot grab-and-go breakfast.

 

Here’s the Recipe:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cooked meat, cut or crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced vegetables
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup water
  • Optional Ingredient Idea: Make a Mexican Omelet Muffin by adding 1/4 cup shredded cheese, onions, and lightly drained salsa to the eggs.

Directions:

1)    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease 6 muffin tins with butter or coconut oil or for easier removal line with paper baking cups. The baking cups also help the muffins hold their shape.

2)    In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add meat, vegetables, salt, ground pepper, and any other ingredients and stir to combine.

3)    Spoon or scoop into the muffin cups.

4)    Bake for 18-20 minutes until a knife inserted into the center of an muffin/omelet comes out almost clean. The omelets will continue to cook for a minute or two after removed from the oven.

5)     Remove the omelets from the muffin cups and serve, or cool completely and store for another day.

 

Sources:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/19/health/la-he-ancient-grains-20110220

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/carbohydrates.html

http://www.olivegarden.com/Menu/Nutrition/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/omelet-muffins/

 

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