As martial artists, we all know that when we set a goal, we will stop at nothing to achieve it. In our never ending journey of becoming the best versions of ourselves, we convince ourselves to get rid of bad habits that could get in the way of success.
One of these habits is maintaining a healthy diet. It may seem easy at first, being motivated by the promise of six-pack abs and finally living a healthy lifestyle – but alas, for many of us, it could last for just a couple of weeks. We start to crave for pasta, cheese, and chocolate we’ve deprived ourselves of. We could try a little bite of lasagna, and next thing you know, we’ve devoured the whole plate.
Instead of going all kale-d out with your diet, why not turn your favorite cheat meals into something healthier? Sure, it would be great if you kept on eating the salads and the quinoa bowls but we at Evolve Daily understand that everyone needs a break now and then. After all, what’s a little change in promise of a big one?
Today, Evolve Daily shares 6 Cheat Meals You Can Turn Into Clean Meals:
1) Macaroni and Cheese
Nothing beats the comfort and tradition of a rich, sinful macaroni and cheese casserole freshly baked in the oven. Unfortunately, it’s rich and sinful for a reason. High in calories, carbohydrates and fat, macaroni and cheese is one of the worst dishes you could eat.
In this recipe, just a couple of substitutions results in the same satisfying cheesy-goodness you get from macaroni and cheese.
Baked Mac and Cheese
- 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Nobody can doubt that the cheeseburger tops the list of one’s guilty pleasures. We won’t go into the ingredients of a fast food hamburger, but we can tell you that it probably isn’t pretty – or healthy.
This recipe will make you forget about your fast-food fix, bringing the delicious flavors of chipotle, lime and avocado-ranch dressing instead.
Roasted Garlic Chipotle Sweet Potato Burgers With Avocado Ranch
- 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato (about 1 large or 2 medium)
- 1 head garlic
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
- 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced (use 1 for less heat)
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 large avocado, peeled and pitted
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 4 whole wheat buns, toasted
- for topping: avocado ranch, lettuce, tomatoes, maybe more cheese or whatever you want!
Preheat oven to 375. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves. Peel any excess paper/skin off from the bulb of garlic. Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil on top the garlic cloves and cover with foil and roast in a baking dish for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork and place in the oven with the garlic. Roast about the same amount of time as the garlic or until the sweet potatoes are soft. When garlic and potatoes are done remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.
To remove the garlic squeeze from the bottom of the garlic head to remove carmelized cloves. Mash and set aside. Peel the skin away from the sweet potatoes and mash in a medium size bowl. Add the garlic, cooked quinoa, egg, flour, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, lime juice, cilantro, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Mix to combine and then fold in the cheddar cheese. Place bowl in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. This helps form them into patties, but making them will still be messy!
While mixture is chilling make the avocado ranch. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally when needed. Taste and season additionally if desired. The avocado ranch can be stored in a seal-tight container for 1-2 days.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove mixture from fridge and form into 4 equal patties, then place in the skillet once hot. Cook for 5-6 minutes. The if needed add more oil and flip the burgers very gently (be gentle, they crumble easily when hot). Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Toast buns if desired.
Place on a bun and top with a whole lot of avocado ranch!
The delicious medley of ground beef, pasta, cheese, and bolognese sauce may seem like all the extra calories are worth it. Sure, it may sound like a good idea now but losing those extra pounds you’ve gained won’t be any fun – we guarantee it.
Instead, try this lasagna , packed with lots of veggies for extra nutrition. It has half the calories of your regular lasagna and cooks in half the time!
Super Easy Skinny Veggie Crockpot Lasagna
- (2) 24 ounce jars or cans of Italian tomato sauce
- 9 thick lasagna noodles with wavy edges
- 24 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese OR cottage cheese
- 3-4 cups chopped vegetables of choice
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella or Provolone cheese
- Parmesan cheese for topping
- fresh parsley for topping
Spray the crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Spread ½ cup tomato sauce to the bottom so the noodles don’t stick. Break noodles so that they fit and mostly cover the bottom. They will probably be awkward looking – not a big deal. Cover with about one third of the ricotta, veggies, sauce, cheese, and end with noodles. Repeat layers two more times for a total of three complete layers. End with a layer of noodles on top, covered with a thin layer of sauce and a little bit more shredded cheese.
Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. Turn the crockpot off completely and let the lasagna sit for at least one hour. This allows all the moisture to get soaked into the lasagna, and if you don’t do this it will probably be more like lasagna soup – still good, but not pretty. Depending on how long you let it sit, you can either scoop pieces out or just cut with a knife like normal lasagna.
4) Chocolate Chip Cookies
Who doesn’t love freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? Perfect with milk on a cold, rainy day, these sinful treats remind us of our childhood – and all that running on the treadmill we have to do after eating one.
This chocolate chip cookie recipe doesn’t use butter, white flour or refined white sugar. Sounds too good to be true? Check it out for yourself!
Best Ever Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 and 1/2 cups oat flour (regular oats blended)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- Optional: coarse sea salt
Take regular old fashioned oats or quick oats and blend them until they resemble a flour or powder in a blender or food processor. Combine the vanilla extract, large egg, and brown sugar in a bowl. Melt the coconut oil and let it cool slightly before adding to the bowl. Beat everything together until just combined.
Stir in the oat flour (measured after blending NOT before), baking soda, cinnamon (scale this amount to taste preferences), and salt. Stir until just combined and then fold in the dark chocolate chips. Chill the dough for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a cookie scoop (and pack these in the scoop very tightly or they may crumble), scoop out balls of the dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Press a few more chocolate chips in the tops if desired. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove and allow to stay on the baking sheet for another 2 minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack. Enjoy!
Nothing says breakfast more than a stack of pancakes slathered in maple syrup. Yes, you should eat breakfast like a king but it doesn’t mean that you have to look like one (a king in a cartoon, that is).
In this recipe, oats, whole-wheat flour and Greek yogurt is used in place of buttermilk, baking powder and flour. This is definitely one recipe you have to try.
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes
- 1 cup (123g) whole wheat flour (or white whole-wheat)
- 1/2 cup (40g) quick oats
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg (or 2 egg whites)
- 1 cup (240ml) milk
- 2 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (or light brown)
- 1/4 cup (63g) Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup add-ins like chocolate chips or fruit, optional
Toss the flour, oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Whisk in the brown sugar and yogurt until no lumps remain. Whisk in the vanilla until combined.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Stir gently until just combined. Do not overmix the batter or your pancakes will be tough and very dense. Add any mix-ins you prefer, but again – do not overmix the batter.
Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Coat generously with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Once hot, drop about 1/4 cup of batter on the griddle. Cook until the edges look dry and bubbles begin to form on the center or sides, about 1 minute. Flip and cook on the other side until cooked through, about 2 more minutes. Coat griddle/skillet again with nonstick spray for each pancake or batch of pancakes.
Keep pancakes warm in a preheated 200F degree oven until all pancakes are cooked. Serve immediately. Pancakes taste best right after they are made. Pancakes freeze well, up to 2 months.
6) French Fries
The perfect partner to your favorite sandwich, cheeseburger, or sometimes you can even just eat it on its own. And that’s OK; we won’t judge you (much). But we will judge you if you cook them in a large vat of oil.
Yes, we understand that potatoes are carbs, but sometimes, you just have to give in. This recipe bakes the fries instead of frying them, cutting the calorie count by almost half.
- 3 large baking potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the potatoes in a single layer. Bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes. Remove the fries with a spatula and season with salt.
Yes, we agree that everyone deserves a break. But remember, each time you indulge sets you back just a little bit farther from your goals. Why take the risk and sacrifice all that hard work you just put into your Muay Thai class? Don’t throw it all away and make these simple switches to your cheat meals!