A friend recently pointed out an article about how to shave 100 calories from your day. Some suggestions were helpful, others not so much. Instead of focusing on calories, I recommend making healthier swaps in your food choices. Not only will you reduce calorie intake, but more importantly you will increase protein and nutrients while lowering sugar and saturated fat intake. Below are my top healthy swaps.
Switch to lean meats
Lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish provide the SAME amount of protein as red meats, but are significantly lower in calories and saturated fat. Try chicken fajitas, turkey chili instead of regular, turkey or veggie burgers instead of beef, etc.
Use spices to flavor foods
Instead of using sugar try cinnamon, nutmeg and other sweet spices. Instead of using salt try pepper, chili powder or other flavorful combinations. This will provide extra flavor without added calories.
Choose low fat or non-fat dairy
Switching from regular to non-fat dairy items can save you in the long run. Non-fat greek yogurt provides 120 calories, and 0g fat per 6oz cup. On the flip side, the regular fat product provides 170 calories and 6g fat (4.5g saturated fat) while sugar and protein are the same amount. Having 2% or whole dairy products once in a while is fine, but try to incorporate low fat or non-fat as often as possible.
Use banana or other fruit to sweeten foods
Using banana in your dishes provides a perfect amount of sweet flavor without the added sugars! Try banana instead of jelly on PB&J, add frozen banana to smoothies, use it as an ingredient in baking or try my favorite: Oatmeal. This oatmeal is free of any added sugar but tastes just as good. Simple chop up banana in plain oats and THEN cook your oatmeal. Whether it’s in the microwave or stove top, the banana adds enough sweetness that it doesn’t require anything else. Mix in some raisins, cinnamon, flaxseed and a dallop of peanut butter for a balanced breakfast.
Make a Healthier Sandwich and Salad
Choose mustard or hummus over mayonnaise, choose whole grain bread and use bread instead wraps. Wraps provide similar amounts of calories and carbohydrates as bread, but since wraps are larger they hold more food, making it easy to go overboard with calories and fat. Instead of regular salad dressings, try vinegar and a small amount of olive oil. Or add hummus to a salad to make it creamier. For both salads and sandwiches use lean meats and go wild with the vegetables.
Whether it’s regular or alcoholic beverages, liquid calories can make a big difference in your health. If you aren’t a water drinker, I suggest starting to become one NOW. All of those other beverages that claim to be life-changing really aren’t. Water is all you need to be fully hydrated throughout the day. If you are an athlete, Gatorade might be needed during workouts, but for all of us normal people, water will do just fine. If you don’t like water, try adding some fresh lemon or lime to your drink or try seltzer or sparkling water. When it comes to alcohol, try light beers and choose the drink that you will sip the slowest. 12oz of light beer, 5oz of wine and 1oz of liquor all have roughly 100 calories so choose what will work best for you.
It’s All About the Portions
Even if you are eating healthy foods, if your portions are too large you will be taking in extra calories. If you usually have 3 drinks per night, switch to 1 or 2 and drink water in between. If you usually have 2 cookies, have 1. If you normally have 2 cups of pasta try having 1 cup and filling the rest of your plate with vegetables and protein. Making small reductions in meals can make a big difference in your health. Listen to your body and eat until you are comfortable, not stuffed. This is a good indicator of what size portions you really need.
Find alternate ways to relieve stress
In moments of emotional stress it can be easy to overeat, which can negate any healthy eating that you do. Try to focus on other ways to relieve stress such as walking or other exercise, talking to friends, reading… or playing with puppies!