My Top 3 “Substitute” Foods and The Power of Habit

I like carbs. I like carbs a lot. When I play the “desert island” game, I’m pretty sure bread’s on my list of things I would require. And cheese, don’t even get me started on cheese. I eat it, and my tongue smiles, my insides beam with light, and my entire well-being is temporarily bursting with euphoria.

So let’s be honest, a part of me is screaming: “PALEOOOOOO!!!!!! I WILL AVENGE THEE!!”

Nonetheless, if I were to honestly evaluate the past 8 days of being strictly on this way of eating (we are no longer using the “d” word here at Chez Haley), I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

1) It’s not THAT hard to go without dairy; I was pretty much using it as a reason to avoid cooking meat and preparing vegetables. It takes two seconds for me to grab a few string cheeses or slop a bunch of cocoa powder in my quart of Fage and call it “dinner”, but that doesn’t make it okay.

2) Just as in everyday life, there is a way around the rules. Enter: substitutes.

You don’t have to be “paleo” to appreciate healthier alternatives to things like pizza, pancakes, and chocolate cake. You just don’t. As much as I espouse this movement in my writing, I do want to make it clear that I am not strictly a “Paleo blog”. My utmost intention is to provide you with good information that will allow you to live life more thoroughly. And as I’ve always stated, my proverbial door is open if you wish to tell me that I am failing at that. I mean that honestly.

Anyway, below are some of my favorite food subsititues of all time, let alone on the paleo protocol, along with links. to recipes I’ve cooked – or will cook very shortly here. Because God knows I don’t yet have the talent to create something this fantastic myself.


3. Zucchini pasta noodles

I just love pasta. Who doesn’t? Well, my Mom. But unless you’re my Mom, you are crazy-cray for not loving buttery, saucy carbosity all up in yo’ grill.

…yes. My eccentricity aside, I was so thrilled to have discovered “zoodles” through one of the best-known paleo food blogs, Nom Nom Paleo. While she had me at her blog’s name, Michelle Tam has captured the hearts of thousands of bloggers, journalists, and general food-lovers with her amazing, award-winning recipes that even sugar-fueled carboholics love. I recreated her Zoodles Recipe without meatballs and with goat cheese and it was incredible. I did it a second time with just plain ghee and it was even more incredible! Less is more, sometimes. Once you can nail down cooking time for your preferred firmness, this is the best thing ever.

Wish List (aka, “You WILL see me make this in the future” List)

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce


2. Pizza made with cauliflower crust

Oh man, if there’s one thing I love even more than pasta, it’s pizza. I’ve made this recipe before and it was simple, yet fantastic. It’s been over a year since I made this, but images of the tender crust and party of flavors still infiltrates my memory. Pizza, being the paragon of carby-cheesy fantasia, is adored the world over. Now you can enjoy a slice or 7 without capitulating! Yes, this recipe in its entirety only contains about 515 calories. That’s the amount in ONE large piece of Papa John’s cheese pizza. LOLWUT?!

The best recipes made with alternative crusts (lol) are also paired with cheese, though I’ve seen many-a dairy-free pizza online that looked incredible.

Wish List

Paleo Chicken Pesto Pizza



1. Chocolate mug cake

Because chocolate.

Seriously, though. This has to be my number one for multiple reasons. It’s ridiculously easy, it’s fast, and it’s freaking chocolate. I cannot exude enough positivity over having discovered this. Whether I’m in a bind in the morning, need a mid-day boost, or am itching for a pre-workout snack, this recipe has been there for me through thick and thin. I made this recipe from PaleOMG and have been using it regularly for over a year.

Little did I know that there’s even an entire food group dedicated to “mug cake”.

Wish List

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Cinnamon-Apple Mug Cake

I suppose the lesson here is that no matter what way you eat, you can make it fun. And fun is a wonderful thing.


On another note, let’s talk about habit.

Ah, yes. Habit. We all have habits – positive and negative alike. Most of us are trying to create positive ones that we will stick with for the duration of our lives. All of us have bad ones that we would like to rid ourselves of. It’s no secret that bad habits die hard and good habits are hard to form, so how do we deal?

15 minutes a day.

15 minutes a day will get you fluent in another language. It will get you in shape. It will help you ace an exam. Commit yourself to 15 minutes of doing something every day and see where it goes. You could even try for 10 if it makes it easier. We all have 10 minutes to spare, right?

Another way to get yourself in the habit of something is to have a sense of accountability. That person or other motivator that keeps you in check. It could be a friend, a family member, a paycheck, an app, or just the CEO of U (aka, yourself, and the most important person in your life). It’s all about motivation and feeling “responsible” in a way. If you don’t feel a sense responsibility to do it, you won’t do it.

Brief as it was, I suppose you can consider that my extended “Thought of the Day”.

Off to my 15 minutes of exercise.

Recipe of the Moment (ROTM): Brussels Chips ‘n’ Bacon Bits

I really, TRULY should be sleeping. I’ve even set a timer for myself for writing this entry: 30 minutes, no más. If I can come within ten minutes of exceeding that, I’ll be impressed with myself. 

Anyway, after a cringe-inducing day (let’s just say: I could definitely improve upon my “wingin’ it” skills), I chose to remedy the overdriven state of my noggin with some gym therapy. I once wrote an essay about the mental health benefits of exercise, and for good reason: it works! I get a little miserable if I don’t move for a while, so this was a much-needed interlude in my evening. What was even better was the nourishment that followed said physical indulgence: enter, the latest and greatest snack craze – BRUSSELS CHIPS!


These things are so dang good, they’ll erase any memory you had of hating brussels sprouts as a kid, I promise that. The bacon probably helps. As to why I’m eating something so seemingly random, I do feel obligated to jump in and let you guys know that I have returned to the paleo way of things. Except this time, I’m doing the unthinkable. Yes, I’m giving up dairy in addition to everything else that paleo already bans. So no grains, beans, sugar, peanuts, or even cheese, which everyone knows is my favorite food on the planet and planets beyond.

What kind of sadistic person am I, you ask? Why in  the world would I give up my favorite food in existence for a “crazy diet fad?”

I suppose it’s because I’m curious, and not just because of paleo. Paleo isn’t the first “diet” to associate dairy with negative effects. That was a vegan thing before it was a paleo thing. It’s also part of the “GFCF” thing that some circles are talking about for autism prevention. I’ve found, however, that research is difficult to do on food unless you experience food yourself, so I’m taking the initiative and going at least four weeks without dairy to see if I feel any better or different. Today was my first day. 

Audience: “Alright, let’s just get to the brussels chips.” Done deal. Allow me to regale the story of…

Brussels Chips with Bacon

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients: 7-10 minutes (depending on how burnt you like your chips)

Outer leaves from at least 10 large brussels sprouts (for 1 serving…and believe me, you’ll want more than one!)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2-4 strips of bacon


1. Peel the outer leaves from as many brussels sprouts as you have the patience for. I had peeled about 30 smaller ones, which took monumental concentration and perseverance, thank you.

2. Stick ’em in a bag and pour some olive oil, salt, and pepper in there to taste. Even if you have a ton of leaves, do not put more than one tablespoon in there; you don’t want them too oily.

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes – even more if you want them extra crispy.

4. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small strips/bits (I literally cut them, as seen below) and microwave for 2-3 minutes. I know, I’m lazy. If you want to get fancy, simply place the bits in the oven with the sprouts, with the understanding that 1) you need to ensure the bits are actually bits and not strips and 2) the grease will saturate the leaves and might make them soggy.

5. After everything is done cooking, toss the two together in the same bag and – voilà! You’ve created a masterpiece.

I suppose I’ll need to give a formal update tomorrow after I have these as my work snack, but I’m predicting some great snacking power here already. Feel free to try this and let me know your thoughts. 

By the way: 23 minutes. Not bad!

– H

Thought of the Day: If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic! (from “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill)