Getty; Inset: Courtesy Alie & Georgia
Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, a.k.a. Alie & Georgia, host Cooking Channel food-travel series Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia. Visit PEOPLE.com every Thursday for their playful spins on celebrity recipes, cocktails, entertaining ideas—and, of course, lots of laughs!
Perfect pairings are called that for a reason: They’re perfect together. Chili with sour cream, pasta topped with parmesan cheese, ice cream covered in jimmies. Without their counterpart topping, most of these dishes would be healthier, yes, but also almost not even worth eating (don’t tell ice cream we said that).
While we adore that finishing touch that brings out the flavor of our favorite dishes, what we don’t love is the crazy-high calories even just a dollop can add to the dish.
We’ve gathered some of our favorite alternative toppings that are versatile, delicious and, best of all, won’t send your meals and snacks over the calorie-count edge. Because what would you rather spend your daily caloric intake on: a fistful of bland yellow shredded cheese, or a doughnut? That’s what we thought.
Instead of Sour Cream on Your Chili, Try: Greek Yogurt
Tart, tangy Greek yogurt has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. It’s packed with probiotic cultures, and is lower in lactose and has twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt. Be sure to get nonfat, and unless you want your chili to have a strawberry or vanilla flavor, make sure to get the plain kind. Opa!
Instead of Cheese on Your Pasta, Try: Pesto
Pesto sauce packs quite a flavor punch even in small doses. It’s traditionally made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese, but this canvas takes kindly to tweaks, additions, and even complete overhauls. Use spinach in place of basil for kick of potassium among other benefits, and almonds in place of pine nuts for a different flavor profile. You can lower the amount of cheese or oil to make it even more diet-friendly.
Pesto is also a snap to whip up, and stays good in the freezer for months, so you can always have it on hand. Other swaps: Use it in place of mayo on sandwiches and burgers, serve it with chopped veggies or chips instead of a fatty dip, or add it to savory baked goods for intense flavor. Okay, that last one wasn’t healthy, but it is delicious. Pesto, chango!
Instead of Sprinkles On Your Ice Cream, Try: Goji Berries
These crazy-healthy berries that are native to China have been popular in the health-nut community for a long time, and are now getting their moment in the sun with us less-nutty folks as well. It’s hard to deny the benefits of this so called “fountain of youth” — an antioxidant powerhouse and a huge boost of vitamin A, this small berry is similar to a raisin in size, and sweeter in taste. Easiest to find dried, using it to top ice cream, yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal makes a great alternative to the more sugary alternatives that are normally used. Goji? Go YOU!