A Chef’s 8 Favorite Healthy Living Hacks

Simple changes and swaps to make your life healthier and more delicious

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Avocado baked with an egg

Updated Jun 12, 2017 @ 3:19 pm

 By Carolina Santos-Neves

Ever wonder how chefs stay healthy, with all the knives and flame they contend with daily—to say nothing of the butter and salt? Carolina Santos-Neves, chef-partner at New York’s West Village restaurant Comodo as well as Brooklyn’s Colonia Verde, and alumna of the Natural Gourmet Institute knows her way around a healthy kitchen. She shares her eight super-smart uses for clean ingredients you may already have, including healthier desserts, more nourishing breakfasts and even an all-natural burn remedy you’ll want to reach for next time you have a close encounter of the burned kind.

Flavorful Vegan “Bacon”


The next time you make that Cobb or wedge salad, swap the bacon for crispy shiitake mushrooms. Preheat your oven to 425°F, toss thinly sliced shiitakes with olive oil and salt and a touch of smoked paprika, and lay them out on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 10-12  minutes and you’ve got some crunchy ‘shrooms. The umami flavor dominates and will truly help you forget bacon even exists.

Shiitake mushrooms salad

Swap Fat for Flavor


Next time you make a coconut veggie curry—or any recipe with coconut milk for that matter—try replacing the coconut milk with your favorite brand of coconut water. (I’m partial to Harmless Harvest.) Not only will it lighten up the fat content of the dish dramatically, but you’ll be getting a nice dose of nature’s super-hydrating H2O.

Coconut water

A 50-Second Low-Sugar Dessert


What’s your favorite kind of sorbet? Mine is without a doubt mango (or banana…it’s a close call). I’ve tasted my share of brands when it comes to this frozen treat, but my favorite sorbet is still the one I make at home in all  of 50 seconds. Here’s how: Keep a bag of your favorite frozen fruit in your freezer and anytime you want something sweet, just drop about a cup of the frozen chunks in your blender, add a touch of water (or soy, almond or cashew milk if you want a creamier texture) and blend until smooth. DIY sorbet is just as sweet as store-bought but has no added sugar. It’s quick and easy and kind of life changing. And you could even have it for a guilt-free breakfast.

Sweeten a Burn with Honey

It’s happened to all of us. There you are, cooking up a little something quick (or even a little time-consuming) and oh no! All of a sudden you’ve burned yourself. Now, everyone has their opinion on what to apply or what to do after a small burn incident. Some say butter, others say ice, but I say a touch of honey and so does the Center for Disease Control! Honey’s natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help heal your wounds and soothe your pain.

Ghee Whiz


You’ve probably heard that ghee, a.k.a. clarified butter is in fact really good for you, and if you haven’t, then it’s time to spread the good news. This clarified butter has been used in Indian cooking for many years and is a big part of Ayurvedic philosophy. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids plus vitamins A and K and is low in dairy content. Adding it to your diet can really assist in reducing inflammation and improving your digestive tract. You can slather ghee on toast, add it to your coffee (it’s said to slow down the release of caffeine) and even use it for sautéing. You’ll barely remember your old friend butter after trying this multipurpose spread.

The Ultimate Portable Breakfast

Take a break from yogurt and avocado toast in the morning with this satisfying, delicious breakfast that combines healthy fats and proteins, and that’s easy to take on the go: An egg and avocado all-in-one. Preheat your oven to 425°F, slice an avocado in half, take out the pit, crack an egg into the middle of the avocado, add salt and pepper and cook for 25 minutes. Top it with a touch of olive oil and hit the ground running.

Refuel with Nature’s Sports Drink

The first 3 ingredients in most commercial sports drinks are water, sucrose and dextrose—but we know better than to think all sports drinks are good for us. The ideal make-it-at-home replacement? Switchel, a newly-trendy health tonic made with all natural ingredients that taste and replenishes way better than most sports drinks. You can also try apple cider vinegar and seltzer or Gatorade’s new organic options.

Switchel sports drink

Keep Your Micro Greens Green

You’ve just purchased some beautiful microgreens at the farmer’s market, and no sooner do you get them home than you notice they’ve begun to wilt. Next time you buy the fragile greens, store them in a bowl filled with cold water. Remember, they are plants and need H2O, just like us.