Updated 15th May 2024

How to eat your favorites in a ZOE-friendly way

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Do you ever feel like you shouldn’t eat your favorite foods? If you’re aiming to eat the best foods for your body, can there be room for delight?

Some popular foods aren’t as healthy as other options. But enjoying what you eat is also an important part of the puzzle.

At ZOE, we believe that no foods should be off-limits. It’s OK to indulge every now and then.

With some of our favorite dishes, that can mean eating a bit more sugar and fat — and that’s perfectly fine.

There are also ways to prepare meals to make them healthier. In this article, we look at how to make some popular meals a bit more ZOE-friendly.

The recipes we mention score highly, on average, in the ZOE app. If you’ve signed up to ZOE, we’ve provided links so you can see how these meals score for you.

If you’re not a ZOE member, and you want to learn more about how the program works, you can start by taking our free quiz.

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Cake

Few foods can make a celebration as special as cake. But the joy these foods bring is often tied up with the kinds of sugar and flour they contain.

The following recipes use almond flour and look beyond sugar and milk chocolate for sweetness.

If neither of these satisfy your sweet tooth, why not try cookies? The following recipe is low in sugar but high in popularity with ZOE members.

Pizza

We love pizza, but many kinds are highly processed, contain high levels of unhealthy fats, or both.

You can avoid some of the drawbacks by making your own pizza. And getting creative with your pizza base can make a big difference to your body’s responses.

Farinata, or socca, is a chickpea flour pancake that’s easy to make. It tastes a little different from your classic dough, but it’s one option for a terrific pizza base.

Roast dinners

A good roast dinner can really hit the spot, especially as the days get colder.

One way to boost the health profile is to make roasted vegetables the focus of the meal. And if you’re looking to avoid meat, a nut roast is a great option.

Here are some high-scoring recipes:

It’s a good idea to be mindful of portion sizes when you’re serving up.

Here are some other roast dinner tips:

  • making your own gravy with onion and mushrooms

  • adding lentils to fill out your meal

  • roasting potatoes in extra-virgin olive oil

  • adding butter beans into mashed potatoes

  • replacing potatoes with another vegetable, like cauliflower or celeriac

Macaroni and cheese

Mac and cheese is another hearty favorite, and as with roast dinners, portion size is important.

Having mac and cheese as a side along with a good salad will add fiber to your meal. It will also reduce the likelihood of the pasta causing a pronounced blood sugar response, which some people experience.

Changing up your pasta can help, too. Try a legume-based pasta, like lentil or chickpea varieties.

Or, you could replace half the pasta with beans or another vegetable, like cauliflower.

Here are some other dishes that can provide similar satisfaction in a healthier way:

And finally, try topping your meal with seeds. This will give you more healthy fats, fiber, and a satisfying, crispy crunch.

Burgers

Making burgers can be quick and easy, but many recipes include ultra-processed foods filled with unhealthy fats.

Having a burger without the bun can remove some refined carbs from the equation. These carbs can lead to prominent blood sugar responses in many people.

You could also replace the bun with lettuce leaves large enough to hold your burger together.

If you want a bun, whole grain and sourdough are the best options.

Making your own burgers is another way to boost the health profile of your meal. Homemade burgers are less processed, and they can be a way to add plants to your diet.

General tips

To make your favorite meals and treats healthier, here are some tips:

  • replacing sugar with prunes or dates in sweet dishes

  • trying almond flour instead of plain flour in baked goods

  • using extra-virgin olive oil instead of other oils

Having smaller portions can make a difference, too.

So, if you’re planning on pizza, try eating half of what you’d usually have, and make up the rest of the meal with salad.

This approach might make the pizza seem more special. Plus, you’re likelier to have leftovers. 

Overall, what accompanies your favorite dish can make a huge difference to the health impact of your meal.

For example, French toast can start your day in an indulgent way. And having it with plenty of seeds, berries, and live yogurt can help offset the effect on your blood sugar.

This approach can also contribute healthy fats, protein, fiber, polyphenols, and probiotics to your meal.

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Summary

The most important thing to remember is that it’s OK to eat what you enjoy, even if it isn’t the healthiest choice.

Don’t define yourself or your diet by a single day or meal. Feeling good about what you eat is an important part of healthy eating.

At ZOE, we believe that no food should be off-limits. Food should be a source of joy as well as nutrition, and healthy goals should always take joy into account. 

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas about ways to make some favorite foods healthier. Let us know how you get on!

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