We love to eat. It’s as simple as that. And while we’d like to eat healthy all the time, food can be an especially enticing way to deal with stress...something none of us have been short on in 2020.

Comfort foods are called so for a reason—they provide a distraction and a reward for our minds and bodies during stressful times. While we’re all dealing with new routines, working at home, less social interaction, and our “new normal”, we might visit the fridge a few more times than necessary and maybe snack more than usual.

Here’s the thing: that’s okay, too. We’re not here to food shame or even to tell you to eat less of the things you love. Instead, we’re bringing you a list of healthy things to eat as alternatives to certain ingredients in your favorite meals. These are ideas you can hopefully take even further into the kitchen and find more ways to up the nutritional quality of what you eat.

Some people call them “hacks”. We call them “upgrades”.

Start off on the right foot.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So what better time to sneak in some nutrition? The great thing about this meal is that it usually includes baked goods, oatmeal, eggs, or loads of other things that naturally lend themselves to healthier foods.

Here are some easy ideas:

  • Add some power to your oatmeal with protein powder or collagen.
  • Oats don’t sound appetizing? Get hearty with some protein-packed waffles or pancakes.
  • Trade in your salty snacks for clean, protein-packed almonds.
  • Forgo the mayo and give your sandwich a protein-packed spread with hummus.

You can even create a healthier breakfast routine with these 10 minute breakfast ideas:

  1. Disguise your greens (or don’t). Increasing the amount of greens you get each day is important when it comes to getting the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. But you don’t necessarily have to go rabbit-mode and start scarfing down mounds of spinach, lettuce, or kale to fit them into your diet. One of the easiest ways to incorporate green vegetables is to blend them. That’s right, just throw them in with a daily smoothie and you’ll largely be covered. Add in a flavored protein powder, and your shake will actually become a nice treat for breakfast, a snack, or even at the end of the day. If you really want to up the green ante, try sprinkling some superfood powders in your oatmeal or simply mixing it into your lemonade. It’s a delicious way to get oft-overlooked types of greens, grasses, and grains.
  2. Substitute for the real thing. Peanut butter and jelly is one of our personal favorites. It can be a meal, a sandwich, and/or a treat all in one. But guess what? Most jellies contain a lot of refined sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives. What to do, what to do? Easy. Use real fruit. Instead of strawberry or raspberry jam, try slicing or spreading actual berries on your toast. You’ll be getting a lot of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins without the sugar jolt (and crash) of an off-the-shelf jelly or jam. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even substitute the bread for something like a nutritional bar, just like we’ve done with this PB&J Ravioli Recipe (it says it’s for kids, but go ahead and enjoy. We won’t tell). The great news is this strategy can be applied to almost any food. Start looking in your pantry for foods that are flavored with or named after fruits and veggies, and ask yourself if you can source the ingredient fresh. It’s a fantastic way to learn more about cooking and eating.
  3. Ditch sugary drinks for infused water. This one kind of follows suit with the above, but it’s just too good not to mention. Infusing water with fruits is easy, and you can create your own custom mixtures. Besides feeling like you’re at the spa while you’re drinking it, you’ll be getting hydration and a whole lot less sugar than you would with a soda or run-of-the-mill fruit juice. Start with these 23 ideas for infused water.
  4. Get more protein on your plate (or in your glass). Getting enough protein is important for nearly every system in the human body. Besides fueling and repairing muscle, it promotes satiety (feeling full), and it can aid in metabolism and weight management. It’s one of the big macronutrients in nearly every diet and it’s not too hard to sneak in extra servings throughout the day. Just remember to keep it clean. Sneak protein powder into your recipes to add extra grams. These powders can easily mix into everything from coffee, to pancake mix, to salad dressings and add a lot of flavor. Protein can also become a great baking ingredient for some of your sweeter plates like banana bread, pancakes, or of course, as a smoothie to replace a milkshake. The good news is, natural proteins can actually help balance insulin as opposed to refined sugars that send you on a rollercoaster. These are just five ways you can upgrade (*cough cough* hack *cough cough*) your everyday meals to be a little healthier. Now, we’d love to see what you come up with. Tag @drinkorgain in your posts or use #fuelbetterfeelbetter and we may feature one of your dishes. We just can’t wait to see where you guys go with this.

Happy and healthy hacking, everyone!

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