There are a lot of eating habits that we can modify to enhance our intake of nutritious foods. I hate putting food into the “good” vs “bad” categories because I truly believe the moderate amounts of the “bad” stuff is actually okay. I encourage it! So when it comes to changing our eating habits, we have three options: (1) cut down to smaller portions of the “bad” foods, (2) make healthy substitutes, and (3) do both (1) and (2).
Here are my top 5 food substitutes!
Food Switch Tip #1: Tomato Sauce vs Cream Sauce
The Situation: Mac and cheese is many people’s go-to comfort food dish. I get it. You like cheese. Cheese is by no means a culprit. The real culprit is the ridiculous amount of cream and cheese with which we DRENCH our food. They are loaded with calories and saturated fat which can increase our risk of heart disease and cholesterol.
Why Tomato Sauce?: Tomato sauce is rich in antioxidants and rich in Vitamin C (almost 4 times more concentrated vitamin C in tomato sauce than regular tomatoes)! When cooking with tomato sauce, add a little bit of fat into it like extra virgin olive oil because it increases in absorption of the tomato’s vitamins into our bodies. Oh…and because tomato sauce is delicious.
Cheat #1: If you really miss that creaminess in your pasta sauce, then add a just little bit of milk or cream to your tomato sauce. Bing Bang Boom. You’ll not only moderate your amount of cream sauce, but you’ll break away from the usual marinara sauce. (Lightly) Creamy Tomato Sauce is amazing!
Cheat #2: Another “cream” sub would be switching from sour cream to plain yogurt! Mountain High is my favorite brand for plain yogurt because it has a similar thick texture like sour cream.
Food Switch Tip #2: Brown Rice vs White Rice
The Situation: White rice is just the fluffy endosperm of the wheat grain. It eliminates the bran and the germ of the grain which contain fiber, fat, protein, and other nutrients. White rice isn’t completely empty of nutrients, but it is so low that it’s almost despicable (and deliciously so)!
Why Brown Rice? Brown rice includes the bran and the germ of the grain so it is so much higher in nutrients and fiber. Another debate is about the glycemic index (which in short is how high your blood sugar levels spike due to a specific food) of white rice. The GI is higher for white rice than brown rice. This is really important to those who want to avoid high spikes in their carbohydrate intake like diabetics! Even though it can be slightly chewier, brown rice can still be fluffy and delicious just like white rice.
Cheat: Have 1/2 brown rice and 1/2 white rice to slowly introduce it into your diet. Eventually, try switching exclusively to brown rice. Your colon will not be mad at you for that (*ahem* fiber helps with constipation *ahem*). This goes the same for pasta and bread: switch to whole wheat!
Food Switch Tip #3: Steamed/Roasted Veggies vs French Fries/Chips
The Situation: French fries are amazing. They are the most nutritious food items that you’ll ever eat. Did you know they are calorie free? Okay, so only 1 out of those 3 is true (that they are amazing). They are a well established guilty pleasure of mine. I cannot resist french fries or fried chicken. But they are generally drenched in fat which does not offset any benefit from eating potatoes.
Why Veggies? I don’t think I have to explain how WONDERFUL vegetables are. They offer so many health benefits due to their high levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals. I think that they are most delicious when oven roasted. Simply chop them into even pieces, light coat them in some olive oil/salt/pepper, and put them into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. AMAZING! Avoid drenching your vegetables in cheese, salt, or butter. Try enjoying fresh produce for their natural flavors. Like fruit, vegetables have their natural sweetness.
Cheat: If you order french fries, just order one side order for the table to share. That way, you have your fries but limit how much is eaten! Your friends will judge you if you take the last fry. Don’t be THAT guy (like me).
Food Switch Tip #4: Fresh Fruit vs Juice (Cocktails)
The Situation: That ocean spray cranberry juice you are drinking is really cranberry juice cocktail. You may as well drink a glass of added sugar. Avoid any drink that includes -ade, -drink, or -cocktail in its name. It all a different way of saying ADDED sugar. It is important to make the distinction of natural sugar versus added sugar.
Why Fresh Fruit? The real question is why not fresh fruit? They are naturally sweet fruit. You can juice them too! But if you eat them whole you get an added bonus: FIBER. Holla! Again, don’t confuse the restriction of ADDED sugar with the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. You literally cannot eat enough fruits and vegetables. You should rarely hear someone encouraging a MAXIMUM of fruit and vegetable intake.
Cheat: If you like your juice from a bottle, pour 3/4 of a glass over ice and add 1/4 of the glass with water. Diluting it will slowly curb your desire for such overwhelming sweet drinks.
Food Switch Tip #5: Water vs Soda
The Situation: This video is all the explanation you need.
Why Water? It quenches, it has zero calories, oh and yeah, we’re about 75% water, which we need to refill everyday. Think of our bodies like a tank of gas. Just like our cars need gas to run, we need water to run.
Cheat: I wish I could offer a cheat here but even if I suggested diet soda over regular soda, I’m not sure that would help. Especially since I know someone who used to drink a 32 oz diet soda every morning (also with lunch and dinner). I say, make water your go-to drink, even in restaurants. I’ve been a server and I wish that my guests would order other drinks besides water so that the bill would be more expensive. But, don’t let me or any other server pressure you. Water is more than fine…it should be everyone’s drink of choice. No cheat here.
There are simple ways to make substitutions when you cook at home or eat out. I challenge you to take special notice to how you FEEL after you gorge on a plate of french fries, Mac & Cheese, and soda VERSUS how you feel after you gorge on a plate of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and water. It makes a world of difference!
Follow the MyPlate standards (https://themoreyoungo.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/the-food-pyramid-is-out-my-plate-is-in/) and you really shouldn’t have a problem!
Happy and Healthy Eating