Smart Food Swaps for Improved Health | Washington, DC Dietitian

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.

Washington - DC - Dietitian

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.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Drink Smart

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!

Washington - DC - Dietitian

Just sayin'...

Eating to Fuel Your Workouts | Washington DC Dietitian

Did you know that what you eat before, during and after workouts can impact your performance? Eating well not only gives us nutrients and keeps us healthy, but helps us maximize our exercise potential.

Eating before a workout gives you the energy you need for optimal endurance. Without proper fuel you may feel sluggish and weak, which will lessen the intensity of your workout and can mean fewer calories burned and less muscle gained. Eating after your workout helps repair your muscles and replenish your energy. 

So how can you prepare yourself with enough energy for a good workout? Eat to fuel your body by following these basic guidelines.

Pre Workout

About 1 hour before your workout have a 100-150 calorie snack. This food should be a carbohydrate since it is the body’s main source of energy. Good pre workout snack ideas include:

• Fresh or dried fruit

• Oatmeal

• Cereal

• Crackers

• ½ energy bar

• Pretzels

During Your Workout

If you are exercising for a short period of time (30-45 min) you don’t need food to keep you energized. Simply stay hydrated for optimal energy during your workout.

If your cardio exercise will be longer than an hour consider a sports drink such as Gatorade, or refuel with a product like Gu to keep your body fueled and your blood sugar stable.

Post Workout

Eating before your workout is crucial to your exercise routine, but eating after your workout is equally as important. Providing your body with carbohydrates and protein restores your energy and repairs your muscles, both which are important to decrease soreness and build up muscle for future workouts. The best after workout snacks include a balance of protein and carbohydrates, which can be found in these snack ideas:

• 1 cup of milk or chocolate milk

• ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich

• ½ protein or energy bar

• Yogurt with fruit

• High fiber cereal with milk

• Trail mix

• Turkey sandwich

• Smoothie

Another great way to get in this balance of protein and carbs is to eat a meal right after your workouts. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes of your workout for best repair.

Fueling your body before and after exercise is important for a strong and worthwhile workout!