A friend recently pointed out an article about how to save 100 calories from your day. Some suggestions were helpful, others not quite as much. Instead of focusing on calories, I recommend making healthier swaps in your food choices. Not only will you reduce calorie and sugar intake, but you will still be able to enjoy your favorite foods while increasing protein and nutrients. 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 steak and other red meats, but are lower in calories and saturated fat. Try chicken fajitas, turkey chili, fish dishes, turkey or veggie burgers instead of beef, etc.
Choose low fat dairy and cheese
Switching from whole milk to low-fat dairy items can save you in the long run. Low fat cheese and dairy keeps protein intake the same, but decreases the amount of saturated fat, which can be harmful to heart health. Full fat is OK in moderation, but when possible choose low fat milk and yogurt, and low fat cheese for sandwiches and other cheesy dishes.
Use banana or other fruit to sweeten foods
Using banana in your dishes provides a perfect amount of sweet flavor without the added sugar! 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. Simply chop up banana in plain oats mixed with milk and THEN cook your oatmeal. Whether it's in the microwave or stove top, the banana adds enough sweetness that it doesn't require any added sugars. Mix in some raisins, cinnamon, flaxseed and a dallop of peanut butter for a balanced breakfast.
Use spices and herbs 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.
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 or are exercise for more than one hour at a time, Gatorade or G2 can be helpful during workouts, but for regular everyday activities, 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 lean protein. Making small reductions in meals and leaving some food on your plate can make a big difference in your health. Listen to your body, eat slowly 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, yoga, journaling, talking to friends, meditation, reading... or playing with puppies!