Nutrition really is my passion. I may have several hobbies and many projects that bring me joy, but there is nothing that thrills me more than being healthy. I really do feel like it's my calling in life. I may not be a certified nutritionist yet, but I'm working on it! Now I am definitely not the epitome of health. It's certainly easier said than done. But I'm working on it! However, I get a lot of questions from family and friends on how to eat healthier. So here's a list of my favorite substitutions, tricks and tips:
- There's a lot that worry that changing your eating habits is too expensive. While this is true in part if you're used to eating Mac & Cheese or Top Ramen, for the most part the increase in price is trivial. I think most people assume that eating healthy means you have to buy everything organic or farm raised. While that may be ideal, for many of us (myself included), it's not realistic. Being healthy means eating consciously. Be aware of what you're putting in your mouth. Read the ingredients. Buy produce in season and get yourself a good fruit and vegetable wash to rid yourself of any harmful pesticides, waxes, toxins, etc. Never cook produce in the microwave if at all possible because it zaps all those good nutrients and you're left with nothing but roughage. The fresher, the better. You can also save money by buying frozen fruits/veggies. They were picked while in their prime and are ready to eat. Canned food can also be good (although fresh/frozen is preferred). Be careful though of super high amounts of sugar/salt. Look for canned fruit that sit in their juices rather than syrup. You can also drain and rinse your canned foods before using them.
- Read the nutrition labels. Ingredients to watch out for: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), High Fructose Corn Syrup (or any corn syrup for that matter) and hydrogenated oils. Also be aware of the order of ingredients. Anything that has sugar or salt within the first three ingredients should be a warning sign. And of course you should take into account the sodium, sugar and fat content. Trans fats are evil. Saturated fats are not so great. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are preferable.
- Buy food as close to its natural source. For example, pure Maple syrup is much better than butter flavored syrup. Just read the ingredients (do I sound like a broken record yet?) and if you can't pronounce an ingredient, then don't eat it.
- In regards to salads and dressings; beware of fat-free dressings. Like most fat-free items, they make up for the decrease of fat by increasing the flavor, aka. sugar. You'd be better off buying the full fat version and limiting the amount you use. Try mixing your creamier salad dressings, like Ranch, with plain yogurt (up to equal amounts). And always ask for the dressing on the side so you can determine how much to use. I like to dip my fork in it and then stab at my greens. Yes, I'm one of those people.
- If you simply can't eat raw veggies without a dip, then try hummus. But don't overdo it either. Hummus may be good for you but it's still high in fat. Good fat is good, but not a lot of it. It's still fat.
- If you're making breads or muffins, try substituting applesauce for oil, equal parts. No joke.
- Try substituting plain nonfat yogurt for sour cream. Lowfat cottage cheese is also a good choice. Both are high in protein and low in fat.
- I've had great success in substituting rice milk for cow's milk in many recipes. We're not huge milk fans here...
- Soymilk can be good, but not too much of it. It's overproduced and I tend to question the quality of the soybeans they're using. Soy also has a tendency to have hormone-like effects on the body if used in large amounts.
- Ground turkey vs. ground beef. I actually mix the two because my husband prefers the taste of ground beef. So I buy the huge packs of ground meat at Costco and cook it all up that night with some chopped onions and salt/pepper. I then put 1 c. of each mixture into a baggie and pop it into the freezer to save for a later date.
- Mix whole wheat with white. That goes for pasta, flour, or rice (brown with white). It makes it more palatable for the hub, etc. ;) Be aware though that the cooking time varies for different versions of grain.
- I cook my rice in broth. It adds more flavor and I end up doing without added butter.
- When something calls for a lot of butter, I use half the amount it calls for and substitute the rest with olive oil. That way you're balancing fats and taste. And just a little FYI: olive oil does NOT do well at high temperature. So use peanut or coconut oil if you're going to do any kind of frying, etc.
- While you're sauteeing your veggies, you'll find yourself wondering where all the oil went. Don't add more! Simply add a little water or broth (or don't even use oil at all).
- Mix your sugar coated cereal with its plain counterpart. For example, Honey-Nut Cheerios with plain Cheerios, or Frosted Flakes with plain Corn Flakes, etc. You can also add a spoonful of plain yogurt to your bowl (or vanilla yogurt to just plain cereal). Same thing goes for those instant oatmeal packages (I personally HATE oatmeal and can only manage to choke it down in this manner). I also add plain yogurt, slivered almonds, and no-sugar applesauce to my oats. It helps :)
- If you're worried about the sugar content of jams, just chop up your own berries and make a spread; add some honey to taste. Or look for spreads made with juice concentrate rather than gobs of sugar or syrup.
- Don't just balance your meals, balance your entire food intake for the day. If you happen to have cereal for breakfast, then don't have a sandwich for lunch; have a salad with some chicken. Or if you have eggs for breakfast, then go ahead and have a sandwich for lunch. Snacks throughout the day should be nuts, fruit, vegetables, etc. that may be missing from your meals.
- Drink lots of water. Limit your intake of juice --unless it's crafty! And if you are really serious about losing weight, clearing up your skin, having more energy and being generally more healthy, then STOP DRINKING POP! I don't care if it's Diet or not (although that tends to be worse in my book, but I won't expound on any of my personal conspiracy theories right now...). It's a bunch of empty (and nasty) calories that your body DOES NOT NEED. So stop it. Just stop.
- More on water and liquids. Limit your intake during meals. It tends to water down your gastric juices and you won't be able to digest your food as well. So eat first, sip a bit during, and then drink some after you've finished and let it sit for a while. Don't fill up on liquid. Fill up on food.
- Limit your salt intake by using garlic/onion powder & herb blends. A little salt is good, like unprocessed sea salt. It helps stimulate the kidneys and detoxify poisons. But a lot is not so good, especially refined salt which contains anti-caking chemicals, potassium iodide and sugar to stabilize the iodine. You'll retain water and find yourself at risk for high blood pressure. So be careful.
- While nuts are a good source of protein and fat, most are rancid, and eating a rancid nut is worse than not eating a nut at all. If you can, buy your nuts with their shells still on. And always refrigerate them to keep them longer. This brings me to peanut butter. If you choose to buy natural peanut butter (I'm referring to peanut butter that is made with just peanuts and a little salt and has NOT been hydrogenated), you HAVE to keep it in the fridge. Also, limit your intake of peanuts in general. Peanuts tend to be quite toxic due to the chemicals, fertilizers and the carcinogenic fungus aflatoxin. Eat them sparingly.
- What does sparingly even mean? My good rule of thumb: if you feel like you need it, then eat it. This goes for peanut butter, hamburgers, chocolate, etc. Sometimes you need that iron your body is craving... but moderation is key. And don't eat till you feel sick. Eat until you're satisfied then box everything else up as leftovers.
- If you NEED chocolate every day, then by all means, eat it every day! But don't overdo it. A few chocolate chips or one piece of candy should suffice. Also, choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. It'll satisfy your craving more and it's richer in antioxidants. No joke.
- Enjoy eating. Chew slowly. Take the time to appreciate the flavors and let your salivary fluids do their job (which, combined with mastication, would be the beginning steps of digestion). And if you cave in to a craving, then enjoy it and move on! We tend to be very emotionally tied to food which does effect our bodies, for good and bad. Psychology and physiology are closely related... so eat well and be happy!
And after all is said and done, bless your food. We can try our best to pick the best foods, prepare them the best we can, etc. But we're not perfect and the food industry certainly isn't. So pray. It is my personal opinion and testimony that the Atonement of our Lord and Savior goes beyond saving us from our sins. It is a filler. After doing all that we can do, He comes in and does the rest. So pray for your food. And pray to be healthy.
Working out, on the otherhand, is a completely different story. *B
Working out, on the otherhand, is a completely different story. *B