We’ve all felt it at times, that craving beyond mercy for a bacon cheeseburger or a mountain of nachos or a glistening (MSG!) Chinese takeout smorgasborg. Problem is, nowadays it’s so easy to come upon such things; our diets have easy access to cravings, and we’re sweating the outcome. The solution to food cravings, though, shouldn’t be the obliteration of such treats, but changing them up (cooking by your own hand) to make them more interesting (with the ultimate goal of finding the healthy where we once thought there wasn’t any at all).
Let’s take the heart-stopping bacon cheeseburger. Let’s deconstruct this bad boy. The unhealthy aspects are the fats and bread, not to mention usually American cheese. So switch said ingredients. Use focaccia bread, cooled and hardened whole-wheat pasta (the ramen burger is awesome), or kamut bread. Still damn tasty and also able to discourage overwhelming said bun substitute with too much slop. For the bacon, use turkey bacon (I know, Internet, but admit it, it’s just as good). Or put a free range egg on instead. Then, in terms of the meat, hand-fashion a patty of local cow, and you’ve got a masterpiece that is every bit healthier than a fast food slimy product.
Then nachos. Unlike burgers, they are effortless to make, so take a bit more time in deconstructing and reconstructing this dish. First, use home cooked sweet potato chips. Then pile on the ground chicken or turkey (garlic, onion, herbs of any sort, and lemon), halloumi cheese (that’s right, I said it), cherry tomato salsa, fresh guacamole (spicy as you can make it), and oven the whole damn thing. The trick here is to single out each component and ask yourself if it’s healthy, but more so if it’s delicious on its own.
Chinese takeaway is a difficult craving to ignore, and MSG is not usually found in the home kitchen. So be liberal with your soy, oyster, and fish sauce, as well as garlic. Custom stir-fries are awesome, especially when you handpick each ingredient. And if you buy a wok? Money. Just use brown rice instead of white, and discover how crispy tofu is actually better at absorbing your favorite sauces than chicken, and you’re in business.
I know what you’re thinking. The very nature of food cravings is that they’re unhealthy. But it’s empowering to take each food craving you have and master the creation of said gastronomic item. The pizza becomes a day-long ordeal resulting in your perfect product. The sweet tooth converts you to a pastry chef (not overnight, but the challenge is mesmerizing). Whatever your craving, deconstruct it and reinsert your own ingredients, cook it your way, and the effort involved will hinder the overeating of said craving. Michael Pollan wrote that junk food is fine if you cook it yourself.
My craving, for instance, is almost always fried rice. Buying that from a takeout joint? Very unhealthy. But when I get to make the rice a day in advance, let that future simmer, then purchase each ingredient knowing exactly how good the fruits of my effort are going to be, that’s much more gratifying and in turn healthier than asking for that same slop brought to you in a dripping box (the container and food itself a swift but forgettable experience, as opposed to the triumph of epic, masterful cooking).