One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of the word “diet.” Diet has become synonymous with torturing our bodies by cutting out certain food groups for short periods of time only to return to our original eating habits, all the while expecting great weight loss results. But guess what? In reality, you are always on a diet, as a diet is just “habitual nourishment.” It might just be a bad diet.
A diet is not a short term crash-course in starvation. The thing is, once you start thinking of it as a long term commitment, it actually gets easier to work towards healthy habits and desired weight goals. Healthy changes can be made slowly and incorporated over time, producing better results that are more likely to stick.
Inspired by the recent article in Men’s Health mentioning a number of easy food swaps you can make to save your life and health, we thought we would pass some of the tips along while adding a few of our own.
1. Say goodbye to sugary drinks, and hello to water: There is a reason everybody mentions this tip – it works. Ditch the soda (yes including all diet sodas, they are no better for you) and watch out for fruit drinks. Don’t be fooled by the labels, most fruit drinks such as grape juice or cranberry juice contain at least as much sugar as soda. Your best bet is always plain old water without any flavor additions. In regards to the number one complaint about water, don’t worry, the more you drink, the less boring it becomes and the less sugar you crave.
2. Fruits are your friend, unhealthy snacks are your enemy: It is so easy to fall into the lure of the unhealthy snack when you are hungry. Turns out, this is fairly easy to avoid. Plan ahead and pack a piece of fruit to avoid temptation. Bonus: since fruit is naturally sweet, it will help curb your appetite for junk food.
3. Traditional grains are out, alternatives are in: For so long, pasta and other grains have been a staple of many, many diets, so much so that it seems impossible to to have a meal without them. But there are alternatives. Consider using spaghetti squash instead of pasta, or quinoa instead of rice. Spaghetti squash is great with a simple sauce and meatballs (if you want to go all out, you can even make the meatballs with ground turkey), and quinoa is delightful with ground turkey or beef, asparagus, and sweet potato cubes.
4. Sweet potatoes vs. regular potatoes: Speaking of sweet potatoes, they make a great substitute for the traditional potato. There are a thousand and one ways to prepare them so you never get bored, and they a wonderful source of good carbohydrates.
5. Swap pretzels or chips out for nuts: Craving something salty? Head towards the nut aisle. Nuts are filled with the healthy fats you need and they satisfy the need for salty food. Try to stick to lightly salted nuts and remember almonds or walnuts are a better choice than peanuts.
6. Swap yogurt for…yogurt? By this I mean be wary of the type of yogurt you are buying. Yogurt is good for you, but if you don’t read the labels, it is easy to get trapped into buying yogurt ridden with sugar, aspartame, and other additives. Consider purchasing organic or Greek yogurt. And while we’re on the topic of yogurt, did you know plain yogurt makes a great substitute to sour cream?
7. Bring back the homemade food, get rid of store bought goods: I don’t just mean baked goods, this includes goods such as tomato sauce, which often contains unnecessary amounts of sugar, or pizza dough. With homemade goods, it is much easier to control what goes into your food. You skip all the added preservatives, and it tastes way better. Remember, it doesn’t take that much longer to make the product yourself than it does to go to the store and buy it.
8. Eat protein for breakfast instead of carbs: No matter what cereal companies tell you, cereal is not the best way to start your day. Try subbing out cereal out and eating eggs in the morning. And Men’s Health points out that if you have a time crunch in the morning, you can always hard boil eggs the night before and peel them in the morning.
9. Swap out the attitude that healthy eating has to be boring or hard: This may not be a food swap exactly, but it is worth mentioning. If you think eating healthy is going to be as difficult as climbing Mount Everest, then it probably will be. Your success at maintaining a good diet relies heavily on your attitude. Go into with an open mind, ready to make the long term change. The reward will be more than worth it!
Remember, a good diet is a lifestyle that can save your life.
(Photo by Rudi Riet)