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Monday, July 24, 2017

8 Small, Smart Summer Swaps With Large Health Benefits!

I absolutely love the idea of making small, but significant food swaps and hope you do too. Similar to SMART goals that are S (specific), M (measurable), A (attainable), R (realistic) and T (Time-bound), be smarter about making lasting and simple healthful changes instead of changes that will make you 'slip up' on your new way of 'cleaner eating'. 
For instance, unless you have Celiac Disease or are allergic to wheat, there is no reason to give up gluten. Gluten in and of itself is not 'evil'. Just limit the quantity of bread you eat and watch that it is a quality choice too. Be deliberate in choosing your food battles! 
After all, who doesn't love a toasty brioche or slice of warm, crusty sourdough bread on a limited basis? Have a sugar craving? How about making attempts at minimizing your sugar intake by not adding any to your morning coffee or having plain nonfat yogurt with fresh or frozen berries and a sprinkling of cinnamon instead?
It so restrictive to say you will NEVER eat this or that again, right? It's actually great discipline to see how well you can follow a cleaner diet that will definitely add more quality to your life! Really! Check out the following 8 swaps...

(1) Replace Refined Carbs With Whole Grain Versions.
  • Whole grains are just so good for you and there is so much scientific evidence to prove its worth over and over again. Whole grains contain important key nutrients such as fiber, protein, B vitamins, antioxidants and even important trace minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc.
  • Another benefit to whole grains is that it does improve bowel movements and the promotion of healthy bacteria in the colon.
  • Additionally, there are many marketing 'tricks' to make you believe that you are getting whole grains, but watch out for those tricks and look out for key words such as: whole-grain corn, whole-grain barley, popcorn, millet, quinoa, and brown rice as examples.
(2) Add a serving of fruits and veggies to your menu.
  • It is always a good to know you are contributing to your heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease as well as providing the body with essential nutrients that also promote healthier skin!
  • It is so easy to swap out pita chips for cucumber slices or vegetable slices to your hummus craving. Even adding fresh fruit or a few almonds or nuts to your nonfat yogurt adds flavor and vitamins!
  • Making scrambled eggs in the morning? Just add in some fresh spinach, mushrooms and onions to make it tasty and more nutritious too.
(3) Go Meatless One Day Per Week (or more if possible).
  • Especially for those out there that may find it difficult to give up meat all together, giving it up one day a week really is not a sacrifice! Reasons to go meatless for one or more days per week can help to reduce heart disease and stroke, limit cancer risk and even diminish the chances of getting diabetes! 
  • Make meat a treat instead of a main meal! By making fruits and veggies the main addition to your diet instead of making meat the main meal you are improving your longevity, your overall health and simply diminishing the opportunity for chronic disease.
  • Make a positive impact on the environment by helping to minimize water usage, reduce greenhouse gases and even reduce fuel dependence. "The meat industry uses so much energy to produce grain for livestock that if instead we used the grain to feed people following a vegetarian diet, it would be enough to feed about 840 million people". (As found in: Pimentel D. Pimental M. Food, Energy and Society, Third Edition. CRC Press 2007, pgs. 67-75).
(4) Replace Sweetened Yogurt with an Unsweetened Variety.
  • We all know and read about how good yogurt is for your health, but be wary that not all yogurts are the same! There are so many yogurts out there with a deceivingly large quantity of added sugars and additives that it defeats the whole purpose of eating healthy in the first place!
  • Instead of the regular Yoplait you would buy at the grocery store, swap it out for a nonfat greek yogurt or even low-fat greek yogurt. Add your own fresh or frozen berries, a small handful of nuts or even a tbsp. of plain rolled oats with a tsp or two of honey or maple syrup to 'liven up' the flavor.
  • If you are having a real craving for a baked potato, swap out the sour cream for nonfat yogurt instead! With a small amount of added herbs and/or a 'wee-bit' of salt, it is hard to tell the difference!
(5) Replace butter with olive oil. 
  • Butter is saturated fat. Definitely not recommended as saturated fat is not good for you. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, on the other hand, is 'touted' for its health benefits and positive health contributions. The one premise is to not cook with olive oil, at least not at high temperatures because of its lower 'smoke point'.
  • What is a smoke point? Learn about what a smoke point is here and why it's important to know about it. 
  • Olive oil is deliciously rich tasting and can easily be swapped out for butter. Try it out on avocado toast, season fish or chicken with homemade pesto (watching quantities of the ingredients of course) and make a simple salad dressing with a squeeze of lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. 
(6) A Serving of Nuts Instead of Pretzels or Chips.
  • In going back to refined carbs -- like pretzels and chips -- its best to go to eating as naturally as one can by eating real food...like nuts.  (*just watch out for the salt content). 
  • Nuts contain so many benefits such as anti-inflammatory qualities, lowering prostate cancer risk for men, and lowering risk of colorectal cancer in women in addition to more benefits found here
  • Nuts most certainly lower the risk of death from many chronic conditions. 
(7) Replace Red or Processed Meat with Plant-Based Protein.
  • There is more and more note-worthy, impactful information available to us now linking red and processed meat with a risk of cancer. A good reason to minimize if not stop eating it all together.
  • There are plenty of hearty and delicious substitutes for red meat that include 'umami' tasting grain bowls, veggie burgers and even rich and delicious hummus dips.
  • The American Institute for Cancer Research advises eating no more than 18 ounces of red meat a week, in addition to limiting bacon and other processed meats.
(8) Have a serving of seafood instead of chicken or beef.
  • Seafood is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for our health by lowering triglyceride levels, improving blood pressure and lowering the risk of atherosclerosis (too much plaque formation in arteries). 
  • Seafood cooks up fast and hence is on the dinner table quickly. This can be a big advantage for weeknight dinners when time is limited, yet a nutritious meal is important for getting 'things done' during the week!
  • Lastly, seafood or fish doesn't need to smell "fishy". In fact, the fresher the fish makes the smell nonexistent! As in everything, watch for a good sale price or shop around. It is worth it to make seafood a regular part of your healthy diet. 
Eating healthfully doesn't mean you've got to sacrifice taste! It's about making simple, doable changes that make you feel like you are not 'missing out' on good foods and at the same time you are giving yourself the benefit of leading a healthier lifestyle. A win-win best case health scenario is always good.

'Swap out the 'pharmaceuticals' with real food every day'.

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