How to “Healthify” Pizza, Tacos, Alcohol & Dessert

So, you’ve committed to a healthy diet and things are going swimmingly so far. (Yassss!) You’re feeling good–more energetic. Maybe you’ve even dropped a few pounds. Then your friends invite you to meet them at your local pizza place for slices and beer. Now what?

The Yes Health Coaches to the rescue! Because life simply isn’t complete without pizza, tacos, drinks and dessert, here are their tips for how to order your guilty pleasures without completely kicking your healthy eating habits to the curb.

Pizza 

  • Pizza is calorically dense and can be tough on your blood sugar, so keep it to two small thin-crust slices, tops.
  • Some restaurants offer “whole grain” crust, although keep in mind it’s usually a mix of whole grain and refined, white flour.
  • A slice of pizza is not really a balanced meal. (We, too, are sad about this.) To make it so:
  • Order a large salad, veggie dish or lots of veggie toppings (just be sure to pass on the fried ones). The more veggies the better!
  • Add some extra protein–think chicken or ground meat and skip the pepperoni, sausage and bacon. (Albeit tasty, these are lower in protein and send your meal’s sodium content sky high.)
  • Consider foregoing the crust and just eating the toppings and cheese off the crust. (Remember to still keep it to two slices’ worth of toppings. The fat and calories in the cheese add up fast!)
  • Note: High-protein vegan pizza options in restaurants can be challenging. The vegan cheese might have little to no protein unless it’s made from nuts or tofu. Meat substitutes (Tofurky, TVP, seitan, etc.) vary widely in terms of quality ingredients and protein content, and in most cases anyone who needs to avoid soy or gluten will be out of luck.

Tacos

    • Avoid anything deep-fried. (This, sadly, includes tortilla chips.) Ask your server if they have vegetables (jicama, radishes, bell pepper, etc.) to dip in your salsa or guac instead.
    • Pick ONE carb source; e.g., if you’re getting tacos with corn tortillas, keep it to two tortillas and skip the rice and beans, or go for a “naked burrito” in a bowl (no tortilla) and have ½ cup of combined rice (ideally brown) and beans. 
    • It’s best to skip flour tortillas altogether. (They’re a huge carb bomb!)
    • Try a broth-based soup or ceviche as an appetizer. This will fill you up so you’ll be more inclined to save half your meal for later. (Tip: ask for a to-go box when you order and pack up half your meal when it arrives.)
    • Go for fajitas. This high-protein dish usually comes with lots of veggies. If you have them with corn tortillas, keep it to two.
    • If you really want more than two tacos, order four and take the filling from two of the tacos and add it to the other two.
    • If the tacos come with a “double layer” of corn tortillas, remove the outer layer
  • For an extra low-carb option, ask for lettuce leaves in place of tortillas. This adds extra veggie to the mix, and no need to limit yourself to just two lettuce leaves! 😉 

Alcohol

  • If you do have alcohol, make sure it’s with a meal. Pairing it with protein, fiber and fat will help lessen the effects of the alcohol on your blood sugar.
  • Moderation is key. Do your best to stick to one drink. A glass of light beer, 4 ounces of red wine or 1 ounce of your liquor of choice with club soda and a splash of fruit juice are all good options.
  • Keep your meal low-carb. Your body will use the “alcohol calories” for energy first, so any extra carb calories are more likely to be stored as fat, rather than used as energy.
  • Skip the extra sugary drinks (i.e. margaritas, pina coladas, mojitos, etc.) and cocktails in which soda or fruit juice are the main mixer.
  • If you’re really craving a higher-sugar drink, order the smallest size possible and call it dessert. Avoid simple carbs the rest of the day.

Dessert

  • A smart way to fit dessert into your diet is by “budgeting” for it. Stick to whole-foods-based, balanced meals that emphasize lean protein and fiber, and skip added sugar and simple carbohydrates (e.g., “whites,” such as white bread, pasta, rice, crackers, etc.). This will free up more “carb wiggle room” for the dessert of your choice.
  • Only have dessert after a meal. The protein, fiber and fat from your meal will not only offset the blood sugar impact, but will also make portion control easier.
  • Keep the portion size small, or plan to share it.
  • Work in a little extra exercise that day so you’ll have a greater “calories-in” budget.
  • Take a walk afterwards to keep your blood sugar level in check.

 


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