It's that time of year -- a new year and a new beginning. As a nutritionist, I often hear from new clients that they make New Year's resolutions early January and by Valentine's Day, they are discouraged and back to their same old patterns. Resolutions such as, "I have to lose weight" or, "I want to eat healthier" tend to be too broad, and therefore do not generally work. What I have found in my private practice is that small action-oriented steps and simple substitutions tend to work a lot better.
Here are some smart-and simple food swaps that you can actually implement and incorporate into your everyday routine to help you lead a healthier life.
1. Choose whole fruit instead of juice.
Juice tends to be high in sugar and low in fiber. Fresh fruit, on the other hand, contains more fiber than the juice and has a higher water content, both which are excellent for weight loss. Eating an orange instead of guzzling down a pint of orange juice can save you over 150 calories. Imagine how many calories you can save if you make this switch daily.
2. Start your day with a low fat Greek yogurt instead of a doughnut.
Greek yogurt is an excellent breakfast as it is high in protein, which can keep you full longer. Top your yogurt with fresh fruit and a handful of walnuts to round out your breakfast. A doughnut, on the other hand, is full of calories without much nutrition.
3. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains.
Grains and starches are not taboo and do not need to be avoided to be healthier and lose some weight in the process. The trick is to eat the right kind of grains. Whole grains are the best choice as they are chock full of nutrients and fiber. Include brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal instead of white bread, white rice, and white pasta.
4. Drink water and seltzer instead of soda.
Soda contains pure sugar, is liquid candy, and a waste of calories. Why not eat your calories instead of drink them? Swapping soda for water or seltzer can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, orange, or cucumber or throw in a few fruity ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze for flavored ice cubes).
5. Eat an English muffin (whole grain, of course) instead of a bagel.
Making this swap can save you over 200 calories. While both a bagel and an English muffin are just one item, a bagel is equivalent to approximately five bread slices whereas an English muffin is more like two bread slices. Save the bagel as an occasional treat.
6. Start your meal with a vegetable salad (dressing on side) instead of a fried appetizer.
Starting your meal with a fresh salad is a great way to include vegetables into your diet. Salad and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, full of fiber, and low in calories.
7. Choose a low-fat tomato-based soup instead of a cream-based soup.
I am a soup lover. I enjoy eating soup in the cold winters in NY and also in the summer. Soups make a great snack, a healthy appetizer, and even a great meal. The key is to eat a vegetable based soup and to skip the cream. Great choices include 10 vegetable soup, minestrone soup, and white bean and escarole soup.
8. Eat an apple or a pear as a snack instead of a bag of chips.
When you feel the urge to nibble, go for a healthy piece of fruit instead of a bag of chips.
9. Choose salmon instead of steak.
I advise limiting read meat and choosing fish instead. Grilled salmon, for example, is high in protein, much lower in saturated fat than red meat, and full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
10. Finish your meal with a cup of blueberries instead of a slice of blueberry pie.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients and low in calories. If you want to indulge in an occasional slice of pie, make it a sliver, and surround it with a cup of fresh fruit.
Here's to a happy and healthy 2014!