As documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are the leading causes of death for many Americans. These diseases have direct linkages to a lack of exercise and poor diet and diets higher in total calories, processed sugars and unhealthy fats but low in fiber. Certified life coach and nutritionist Rhonda Huff agrees, stating, "Diet is the No. 1 contributor to disease. If you have a clean diet, regardless of genetics, your chances of getting a disease are significantly lower." It is essential to the health of our national community to start making dieting changes.
Typically, foods that are considered "bad" for us are the ones we love to eat the most. It's easier to grab the Doritos off of the shelf. The shiny eye-popping bags reel us in, and they are loaded with dangerously addictive sodium. But to improve your health it is important to learn to not habitually choose to please the palate over nourishing the body. The heightened levels of sodium in the salty bag of chips can overtime contribute to an increase in blood pressure and the possibility of a stroke.
Rhonda asks, "If you can change your life by just changing your diet, what are you waiting for?" Most people are discouraged by the idea of dieting. They associate it with eating less and being hungry. What if I told you it was possible to eat more food and fewer calories simultaneously?
Eat more food and fewer calories? At the same time?
Unlikely. Impossible. Inconceivable.
These are just a few of the words that probably came to mind when you read that statement. When most people consider a weight loss-driven diet aimed at reducing overall caloric intake, they imagine a world of infant-sized portions and appetizer plates. If it's not a juicy cheeseburger shouldering a mountain of fries on a plate the size of your high school cafeteria tray, then it is not a real meal.
So what's the trick?
Eat larger quantities of nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean cuts of meat. Avoid foods containing high amounts of processed carbohydrates, refined sugars, and artery-clogging fatty meats. Tara Milhem, author of the health-focused cookbook Tara Bites puts it into perspective when she says, "The more nutrients it has, then usually the less calories it has. Think broccoli vs. Twinkies." By doing this, you will be able to consume more food and keep your overall caloric intake down.
For example, let's say your objective is to limit the amount of calories for one meal to 500 or less. As noted on Livestrong.com's free calorie counting service MyPlate, one regular white hamburger bun contains 120 calories. Multiply that times two for the bread you will use, and you're just about halfway to 500 before the meat even hits the grill. Next add 244 calories for the 85 percent lean 4-ounce beef patty. Say hello to two dry pieces of bread, some ground beef, and 484 calories.
Before we even begin to add the fries, cheese, ketchup, and everything else it would take to make this meal complete, let's explore the healthier option that would allow you to have your cake and eat it too (pun intended). Try substituting the conventional white bread with grilled large portabella mushroom caps. They hold together great as bread would and taste even better due to the fact they absorb flavors more. Not to mention one mushroom cap only contains 10 - 15 calories. Now swap out the 85 percent lean ground beef for the leaner 93 percent. With that same 4-ounce patty, you're only looking at 170 calories instead of 244. Go ahead. Add a little more if you'd like.
Assuming you are disciplined enough to avoid the 380-calorie medium fries from McDonald's and make your own with one standard size potato, homemade baked fries only add an additional 118 calories.
Starting to get the point?
This health-conscious meal allows you two large portabella mushroom caps, topped with a juicy 93 percent lean 4-ounce patty, and a side of warm crispy baked potato wedges for only 318 calories! That's a lot of food to chew, guaranteed to cover any normal-sized plate, fill your tummy, and keep you well under a 500-calorie limit! I would recommend topping it with caramelized onions, one large tomato slice, and some spinach. If you can't have a burger without cheese, sprinkle two tablespoons of cheddar on top for an additional 56 calories. As a dressing, honey dijon mustard would compliment this burger quite well and has 5 - 10 fewer calories than ketchup. On average, a typical cheeseburger with white buns, fries, and ketchup is a whopping 980 calories.
White hamburger bun -- 120 calories per bun
Fast-food fries -- 380 calories per medium serving
½ cup of ice cream -- 250 calories
1 package of tortilla chips -- 240 calories
1 cup cooked white rice -- 205 calories
Portabella mushroom cap -- 15 calories per cap
Homemade baked french fries -- 118 calories per potato
1 cup of greek yogurt -- 120 calories
1 apple -- 100 calories
1 cup cooked buckwheat -- 150 calories
Eating a clean and healthy diet doesn't have to mean walking around with a growling stomach all day. Unfortunately, that's the perception most people have toward low-calorie diets, but as previously mentioned, by making healthier substitutions to your diet you can literally eat more food. Natural and unprocessed foods are also generally higher in fiber, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer. A whole cup of non-fat Greek yogurt with some added fruit has half the calories as half a cup of ice cream. That's double the serving with only half the calories. It is absolutely possible to stick to a low calorie diet and eat more food. You just have to make the right food choices. Rhonda Huff asks us, "If you can change your life by just changing your diet, what are you waiting for?"
Photo: portabella mushroom caps, 95 percent lean ground beef, shredded parmesan, corn salsa, red onions, and baked sweet potato wedges