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Eating for Flavor and Health

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by: Kristen Johnson, RDN, Chief Nutrition Officer For On Target Living

I recently had a girl’s weekend at a friend’s house in North Carolina and couldn’t help noticing some items in her refrigerator. Coffee Mate creamer, packaged shredded cheese, miracle whip, Greek yogurt butter, tofurky, packaged croutons, bottled salad dressings and chocolate ice cream in the freezer.

Eating for Flavor and Health

I wanted to tell her that she doesn’t have to sacrifice her health for flavor or give up the things she loves. All she needs to do is upgrade them or make them better. There are so many healthier substitutions on the market today. You don’t have to search high and low to find these items either– all it takes is looking at the ingredient list. Forget about reading the nutrition facts panel—we all need calories, fat, protein, and carbs—however, it just depends on the quality of these items.

  • Less Ingredients Are Best
  • Choose Real Ingredients That You Can Pronounce
  • Avoid Processed Corn, Canola, Soy, Whey, Palm Oil & Artificial Ingredients
  • Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (Processed Corn Sugar)
  • Avoid Hydrogenated Oils (Trans-Fat)
  • Avoid “Natural Flavors”

Instead of processed coffee mate creamer that contains high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, choose a coconut milk creamer or organic half and half. Instead of shredded cheese in a package that contains preservatives and non-clumping agents, buy a good quality organic cheese or goat’s milk cheese and shred it yourself. Instead of Miracle Whip get a mayonnaise made with avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil. Instead of butter made with Greek yogurt, canola oil, and artificial ingredients, stick to the real deal like butter made from grass fed cows or switch to organic virgin coconut oil.

“Remember that manufacturers put these buzz words on packages to get you to buy it!”

Instead of processed GMO corn filled tofurky—stick to one ingredient organic meats.


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This Thanksgiving treat yourself with real foods that provide the most flavor and health benefits.

Thanksgiving Turkey Ingredients: Organic or free- range turkey, olive oil, salt & pepper

Homemade Stuffing Ingredients: Bread, butter, onions, carrots, celery, seasoning

Imitation products are never better than the real deal! Yes, that pint of ice cream that is 100 calories is definitely too good to be true. If you look at the ingredients you will find that “cream” isn’t even listed and that the majority of the ingredients are probably whey protein or soy/corn based.


Did you know that Ball Park Beef Franks don’t even list “beef” in the ingredients?


Time to choose a better hot dog, with real beef. And yes, there is such a thing!


Find better croutons, salad dressing and chocolate ice cream by looking for items with healthy ingredients—things that you can actually recognize. Instead of processed ice cream–make banana ice cream! Or make your own salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic mustard, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Why waste your health on something that is so not worth it when there are so many better options out there? Whatever it is you love—just make it better by choosing these items as close to their natural source as possible. You may find that foods in their most natural state will be more flavorful anyway. Life is too short to miss out on the good stuff!

Think of foods that have not changed for thousands of years like fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy grains, nuts, seeds, butter, etc. and start adding these to your life. Make eating simple again—don’t let food manufactures confuse you by throwing buzz- words on the package. Check the ingredients and use your best judgment when buying anything that comes in a box, package, or can.


Use this food substitutions chart to help guide you to healthy and flavorful foods.

healthy-food-substitutions healthy-substitutions-chart

Substitution recipes can be found in our Target To Table cookbook.

See page listed on substitutions chart for directions.