Remember the joys of eating chicken nuggets, hot dogs and fish sticks as a child? Just because you’re an adult now doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite childhood foods. As adults, we usually become more health conscious but there are alternative ways to indulge in your favorite foods growing up without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.
Baking vs. Frying
A good place to begin is with your cooking methods. Many childhood foods, such as chicken fingers, fish sticks and french fries, are deep fried in saturated fats. Saturated fats have the potential to raise the amount of low density lipoprotein (LDL also known as “bad cholesterol”) in the bloodstream. An excess of lipoprotein can create an overabundance of cholesterol to enter the bloodstream, rather than going to the liver as it should. The LDL then has the potential to react with free radicals and may damage blood vessel walls.
The best solution for this is to bake these foods rather than fry them. For instance, a quick brushing of egg white over sliced potato wedges can help them brown and crisp up while baking, giving you that satisfying crunch.
Ease up on the salt
Many commercially prepared foods preferred by children are high in sodium. This mineral is essential to good health, in that it helps regulate bodily fluids by alerting the body to when it is time to dispose of or replenish water. It also helps maintain muscle contractions and nerve transmissions, which are vital to human survival. As a result, humans developed a desire for sodium.
However, consuming too much has the potential to adversely affect the brain, skin, heart, stomach and even bone density. The National Heart Association recommends ingesting less than 1500 milligrams of salt per day. Here are some ways to cut back on salt while maintaining a rich, full flavor profile.
Marinades – Marinade your veggies and proteins in fresh, tart fruit juices and oils to impart a tart or sweet flavorful note and tenderize your food.
Wine – Adding wine to the cooking process can instill a distinct richness to a wide variety of food. The alcohol will burn off in the heat, leaving behind a decadent richness to the food’s flavor.
Herbs and spices – Using fresh herbs and spices is a fabulous way to brighten the flavors of childhood foods without all the excess salt.
Vinegars – Childhood foods can have a flat, bland taste that is better suited to a child’s still developing palate. As an adult, many of these foods, especially vegetables, can be pickled or doused with flavored vinegars to extend their flavors and add a pleasing punch. Not only that, vinegar can help lower cholesterol, remedy indigestion and provides many other health benefits.
Substitutes for red meat – Hamburgers, hot dogs and other childhood foods that are made with red meat can be bad for the adult heart. Today’s vegetarian meat substitutes run a close second to the real thing taste-wise, and provide ample protein and other nutrients that adult bodies need. There are large numbers of commercially available meat substitutes, and literally hundreds of recipes for delicious red meat substitutes made from grains, tofu, mushrooms and other ingredients that one can use to make them at home.
Sweets – What child doesn’t love sweets? To cut back on sugar, try substituting processed sweets for fresh fruit or mix it in Greek yogurt for a healthy, refreshing snack any time of the day.