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Rediscover Your Childhood Favorite Food

Enjoy healthier versions of the comfort foods you loved as a kid with these smart substitutions.

Hungry for the comfort of mac and cheese or a big juicy burger? Those childhood favorites are so tempting, but it can be tricky to fit them into a healthy lifestyle, especially when every new recipe contains a surprise ingredient you don’t have on hand.

The good news is that it’s easy to enjoy those familiar favorites by making some smart substitutions with a few key items. Stock up on these 4 surprisingly versatile foods and you’re well on your way to recreating better-for-you versions of the dishes you loved as a kid, whenever the craving strikes.

BLACK BEANS

Loaded with valuable antioxidants and fiber, canned beans are convenient, filling and most importantly – delicious. For an easy meatless meal or a handy way to make a more heart-healthy burger, try these options:

  • Taco Night Done Right. Cook beans with a splash of olive oil, some garlic and a pinch of oregano, mashing with a back of spoon until they’re the texture you like. Load them into soft corn tortillas and top with goat cheese and fresh salsa.
  • Southwestern Turkey Burgers. Get your burger fix by adding a can of beans to your turkey burgers with some minced onion and chili powder; top with mashed avocado before serving.

LENTIL PASTA

Compared to pasta made with refined grains, gluten-free lentil pasta provides 3 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein per serving, which makes a smart substitute in your favorite noodle recipes. For an extra flavor boost, consider the following:

  • Spiced-Up Macaroni and Cheese: Take your favorite cheese sauce to the next level with a dash of ground chipotle or smoked paprika, depending on your heat preference.
  • Asian-style Chicken and Noodles: For a super-fast weeknight meal, slip some fresh ginger and garlic into your chicken stock and add cooked lentil pasta along with shredded rotisserie chicken. Top with chopped scallions, cilantro and a splash of sriracha.

BANANAS

There are plenty of ways a bunch of bananas can satisfy your sweet tooth, from breakfast to dessert. And because bananas are naturally fat-free and rich in potassium, their health benefits are undisputed. If you like baking, try using mashed bananas to replace about half the oil or butter in a recipe. However, if you’re looking for a more spontaneous treat, here are some ideas:

  • The Best Banana Sundae. Stash peeled bananas in the freezer before they become overripe and then use a food processor to whip them into a rich, dairy-free dessert. Top with fresh berries, chopped nuts and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
  • Homemade Oatmeal. You can avoid adding sugar altogether if you stir in a spoonful of peanut butter just before serving and top off your bowl with fresh, sliced bananas

FROZEN EDAMAME

A half-cup of shelled edamame packs 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein into one 90-calorie serving. Keeping a bag of these beans in your freezer is a smart way to add a valuable nutrition boost to just about any meal. For example:

  • Greater Guacamole: If protein is your goal, substitute mashed edamame for some avocados the next time you make guacamole. An added bonus? Fewer calories, too!
  • Fantastic Fried Rice: Transform leftover brown rice into a quick and colorful meal with shelled edamame, chopped red bell peppers and scallions, and crushed peanuts.
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