Makeover Your Eating for a Healthier You

By Sarah W. Caron

Ready for a healthier 2013? These easy food swaps will help you cut your calories without sacrificing too much and have you on the road to good eating in no time.

But here’s the thing. If you want this to be the year that you really become healthier, it’s important to makeover your eating habits smartly – and that doesn’t mean all at once. Instead, take the turtle approach: slow and steady.

“A slow transition is much more likely to be a lasting transition. Let’s face it, changing everything you eat can send you and your lifestyle spinning,” says Terry Walters, author of Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source, of Avon, Connecticut. Walters suggests making one healthy change per week. “Slow transitions like this make it much easier on your digestion, your mood, your budget – even your friends and family!”

So start with one food swap at a time, and the changes won’t feel like a big deal at all.

Smart Food Swaps
Great food swaps start with a plan. You want to remove things that lack good nutrition and replace them with better alternatives. “When it comes to swapping foods, look at what you’re eating and think about how you can move it closer to the source. Each step closer can have significant health benefits,” says Walters.

Milk – Milk is a staple – in cereal, coffee and more. But when you are trying to lose, it’s not always the best choice. Kimberly Snyder, celebrity nutritionist and author of The Beauty Detox Solution, says that almond milk is a better option. “Dairy can be very difficult for many people to digest and is extremely mucus forming. Foods that are difficult to digest may make weight loss harder,” says Snyder.

Potato Chips – Love the crisp crunch of potato chips? We don’t blame you. But even the healthiest version isn’t that healthful. Instead, Walters says to try kale chips – seasoned kale baked to a crisp. You’ll still have that salty crunch, but you won’t have all the fat and calories.

Tortilla Chips – Chips and dip are the perfect snack for cozying up to watch the game. But those chips? They are loaded with sodium, fat and calories. Instead, serve your dip with crisp cucumber slices (and other veggies!), which are perfect for scooping and way more nutritious.

Candy Bars – If you have a sweet tooth and gravitate toward chocolate, it’s OK. We get it! But what you choose matters. Snyder says to skip candy bars and instead go for a square of organic dark chocolate. “Try to get one that is 65 percent or higher cacao, which is full of antioxidants and will digest more cleanly. Just make sure to limit yourself to about an ounce – it still contains sugar and caffeine,” says Snyder.

Sour Cream – Love sour cream on your baked potatoes and in your favorite dips? Unfortunately, it comes packed with high calories and fat. Instead, turn to Greek yogurt, which has much fewer calories, lower fat and more protein. Preethi Mahadeviah, who writes, a lifestyle and fitness blog, says you can even spice up the yogurt for an additional treat. “Take fat-free Greek yogurt and add a dash of salt and a good sprinkling of garlic powder and stir until you get a creamy consistency. It tastes amazingly sinful,” says Mahadeviah.

Bread – Swapping whole grain bread for white bread is a good step in the right direction. But if you really want to make a major health change, try using lettuce to make a lettuce wrap instead of your normal sandwich, says Snyder. “You’ll still feel satisfied because you can pick it up and eat it, but you’ll also feel much lighter and more energized because you don’t have to digest all that extra bread,” says Snyder.

Mayonnaise – And what will you put on that sandwich (err, lettuce wrap)? Mayonnaise is a staple for many, but one tablespoon packs more than 100 calories and 18 percent of the daily recommended amount of fat. Instead, try hummus, which has about a quarter of the calories and a fraction of the fat and sodium. And, with all the varieties available, you can get a good flavor punch from it too.

Rice – Stir-fry and rice is one of those super easy dinners that people love. But if you want to pump up the nutrition, trade the white rice for a whole grain. Brown rice is good, but quinoa is even better. Quinoa is rich in fiber and protein and low in fat – a trifecta of nutritional excellence.

Cereal – Yes, cereal is an easy answer for breakfast. But many are high in sugar and highly processed. Oatmeal is one good option because oats are a whole grain and if you are flavoring your own, you can control what’s in it. But you can do even better with eggs, says Simone Gloger, BSc, RHN, CPT and nutritionist for the Dukan Diet. “Studies show those who eat eggs for breakfast stay full longer and lose more weight,” says Gloger.

No Rush
Making little changes like these will open your eating up to healthier, lower calorie meals – without leaving you feeling deprived. “Deprivation doesn’t serve anyone or anything. That’s why a slow change is much easier and tends to be more successful,” says Walters. So edge into your changes and you’ll see big rewards this year. Happy eating!


Want to try those kale chips?

Walters shares her recipe for Kale Chips from Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source. They are so simple to make.

1 large bunch kale (about 4 cups firmly packed)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove stems of kale by holding stem with one hand and with other hand pinch stem at base of leaves and slowly pull stem toward top of the leaf. Discard stems. Wash and dry leaves thoroughly and place in large mixing bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and massage into leaves.

Add pepper to taste and spread out kale in single layer on prepared baking sheets.

Place in oven and bake for 10–15 minutes or until kale is dry and crispy and just barely brown on the edges. Remove from heat, transfer to bowl and serve.

Variations: Once you master the classic recipe, experiment with a variety of herb and spice combinations, such as cumin and cayenne, onion powder and dill, and even curry or herbs de Provence.

Serves 2.

(Recipe reprinted with permission from Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source.)

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