I’m gonna say it. I’m not a fan of substitutions. For example, you know those lil’ break-out boxes in those terrible women’s magazines you pick up to read on the plane sometimes? They kill me. ‘Want a handful of m & m’s? Substitute….a handful of sultanas. Want a slice of pepperoni pizza? Substitute ¼ of a piece of mountain bread with low fat cheese and a slice of lite ham. Profriterole? Granny smith apple. These are not substitutions, any more than a frozen banana put through the blender is ice cream.

Even things that are similar are not. the. same. Brown rice may be a replacement for jasmine rice, but they are different in many ways. Brown rice doesn’t have the heavenly scent, soft texture and marry with south-east Asian food in a perfect union the way jasmine does. A glass of rice milk is nothing like a frosty glass of full-cream Jersey goodness. Cocoa nibs are not as delicious as a hunk of proper chocolate. And nothing, NOTHING is a substitute for butter, I don’t care what anyone says.

The folks out there telling you that they are sooo looking forward to that second plate of kale chips? Trust me, they’re not. And if you *are* looking forward to these kale-y snacks, please don’t call them chips. Call them dehydrated kale chunks and be done with it. If you’re looking forward to your quinoa salad, by all means look forward to it, but *as* a quinoa salad, not as a substitute for prawn risotto with lashings of parmesan. They’re not even in the same league.

So. I want to eat some cheesecake this week. And even though I still have a few kilos I would like to lose, I am going to have some. This is my actual cheesecake recipe, and it is actually a cheesecake. It doesn’t have a crust, but in all other respects, it is what it appears to be. The secret to making it ‘healthy’, whatever that means, is portion size. Make this into 6 tiny cheesecakes. Oh, and it’s piss-easy. So get baking.

Lau’s tiny baked cheesecakes for non-crazy people

This recipe serves 6 and is best made a day ahead.

250g cream cheese (room temperature)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/3 cup caster sugar
The juice of one lime or lemon
The zest of one lime or lemon, grated
1 cup of appropriate fruit – I used frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 150°c. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and zest together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Add the juice and beat for about 30 seconds. Split mixture between 6 individual ovenproof dishes and sprinkle with fruit chunks.

Boil a kettle. Place the six dishes into a large baking tray and fill the tray with boiling water to halfway up the outside of the dishes.

Bake for 35 minutes, turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door ajar. Remove from oven and, once cool, refrigerate 3+ hours (I made them a day ahead and we ate them over the course of a week).

Whaddya say, chums? Got any legit substitution suggestions?

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Disclaimer: I am not qualified in any way shape or form to give weight loss advice, this post draws from my own experience of balancing food writing and health. It should be taken as the egotistical ravings of a food and coffee fanatic and nothing more.

If you picked up my phone right now and scrolled through my instagram feed, I’d say 90% of what you’d find would be pictures of food, and the same goes for the people I follow. This is not surprising when you consider most of them are food writers, food bloggers, and the food obsessed. Food blogging is the ultimate excuse for gluttony, because every meal can be written off as ‘research’.

Consider if you will, exhibit A – me. I’ve never put on more weight in my life than when I’ve been writing about food. And I’d tell myself, based on meeting up with other food lovers for regular feasts or scanning through my instagram feed, where the world looks like one, continuous, envy-inspiring picnic, that everyone I knew was living a life of gluttony sloth much like mine.

But one day, I started to notice things. Other people would get to the end of a meal and go ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so FULL!’ and I’d be sitting there going “Uh, wha?’ Or I’d notice people did other things besides eating, like going to the gym. Or I’d hear about food bloggers who baked a batch of cookies for their blog, then ate one and gave the rest to friends and family. Immediately. Before the temptation to scoff the lot became too much. Or I’d notice that most people weren’t slowly expanding the way I was.

And here’s the real kicker. I write primarily about coffee, so the majority of my pieces concern macchiatos rather than deep-fried monaco bars. Most of things I eat will never ever be used as content for this blog!

So I decided I’d had enough of this crap.

And I’ve been trying, over the last 6 months, to remedy an attitude that has led me to an unhealthy lifestyle, and to lose the resulting kilos. And reading Thang’s recent post over at Noodlies made me think perhaps my insights would be worth something to someone else. Here’s what has worked for me so far.

  1. Walk everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. To work. Home from work. To dinner, to coffee, to your friend’s house, to the gym and back if you go to the gym. Anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours is fair game. Rain or shine, convenient or not, there’s no better way to stay active than to use your legs as your primary form of transport.
  2. If you can’t have ‘just a taste’, you can’t have it. Know your weaknesses. I believe that there are foods that cannot be part of your routine, or they BECOME your routine. So these foods become special occasion foods. But for actual special occasions, because when life is a feast, every meal has the potential to become a celebration, and that’s not always a good thing.
  3. Drinking your calories is for chumps. A recent study showed that our body ‘thinks’ liquids have a low caloric value, so don’t fill up on juice/soft drink/cappucinos/beer because your body doesn’t ‘know’ that a pint of cider is actually food. Eat your calories as solid food and suddenly, you’ll notice what you’re eating.
  4. Develop your own ‘default setting’. Willpower is finite. The reason making the same choices over and over again gets easier and easier is that you build habits, and habits are hard to break. This means that you don’t have to make a zillion tiny decisions every day, relying on willpower when you’re tired, distracted or hungry. You can still have sprite, or fried chicken, or sleep in and skip your morning jog, but the choice you have to make becomes the conscious one of opting out of your good habits, rather than the fraught one of ‘doing the right thing’.
  5. Variety over quantity and quality over cost. Try new/different/more/tiny slices of everything you can get your hands/mouth on. Don’t let your taste buds doze off, life is waaaaay too short to subside on porridge and carrot sticks. Smaller servings of delicious and interesting things does make eating more enjoyable and exciting, and means that you will miss the feasting/stuffing yourself mentality (that can be, let’s face it, such great fun) less and less.

What about you? Do you have any tips for healthy eating when surrounded by delicious food?

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