If you’re like me, you love to eat, however, not everything out there that’s good to eat tastes as good as it looks…or worse, tastes just like it looks. So you’re thinking to yourself, I know, I do it too…”there has to be a better way than paper-thin substitutes, with unflavored stuff on it”, right? The answer: yes there is, in fact, there are many ways you can cut portions, trim calories and lose fat without counting the minutes until your next meal.
Now, you may be thinking “I already eat well”. The truth is, most of us could do a lot better. Some 87% of American adults for example, fall short on the recommended intake of veggies, according from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 92% of us are missing the mark completely on whole grains. The great news is, you don’t need to radically makeover your meals to improve your diet…just some subtle, strategic ingredient switcheroos at every meal would do it.
Let’s get started shall we?
Instead of: Nonfat fruit yogurt
Try: Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and unsalted nuts.
Benefits: Greek yogurt has nearly double the protein of regular yogurt (9 g vs. 17g per 6oz serving) for greater staying power; fresh berries add antioxidants and fiber; and nuts provide healthy fats that slow the release of natural sugars into the bloodstream. Add to that, you’ll drop nearly 12g of added sugar…and all for about the same number of calories.
Instead of: Fried egg on a toasted English muffin
Try: Hard-boiled egg and avocado on a sprouted whole-grain English muffin
Benefits: Those sprouted grains have more protein, fiber and micronutrients (such as Folate, Vitamin C, and Essential Fatty Acids), and fewer carbs than plain English muffins. Can’t find sprouted? Go for whole grain (just make sure whole wheat or another whole grain is the first ingredient). Adding a quitter of an avocado provides you those healthy fats so you’ll feel more satisfied. Boiling the egg instead of frying it in butter eliminates heart-clogging saturated fats. Boil a bunch at once and keep them in the fridge so you can prep this meal in the morning.
Instead of: Cheddar omelet with two eggs
Try: Veggie avocado omelet with one egg and three egg whites
Benefits: You’ll pack in more protein…three egg whites have nearly 10 grams of protein, compared to 6.3 grams for a whole egg…while being cholesterol conscious to boot. An omelet is a great way to sneak veggies into breakfast…try spinach, mushroom, and bell pepper. Add to that, you’ll get healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado (which is also high in potassium and a natural de-bloater). Eliminating the cheese saves 115 calories and 5g of saturated fat per ounce.
Instead of: Store-bought Smoothie
Try: Homemade smoothie with 1 cup of fresh fruit, a handful of veggies (kale, spinach, celery), 1 Tbsp almond butter, and 1 cup of almond milk or Greek yogurt.
Benefits: Making your own smoothie means more veggies and less fruit…so you’ll get fewer calories and less sugar, along with plenty of filling fiber. Nice! The almond butter provides good fat, which makes you feel satisfied, and which you need in order to absorb many of the antioxidants from the fruits and veggies.
Instead of: Pre-packaged sweetened oatmeal (I know…I know)
Try: Homemade oatmeal: Blend together 1/4 cup of rolled oats with 1/4 cup unsweetened whey protein powder; add 1/4 cup of hot coconut milk (in your dairy aisle); top with a small sliced or chopped apple and 1tsp of cinnamon.
Benefits: You’ll ditch the added sugars that create an artificial sense that they energize you, and by adding the protein powder, you’re actually displacing some of the oatmeal, trading quick-burning carbs for slow-burning protein. Coconut milk, besides being delicious, adds good fat (MCT’s) that boosts your metabolism and good cholesterol; the apple provides vitamin C and over 4g of fiber; and the cinnamon has many many health perks, such as it slows stomach emptying and improves insulin sensitivity (aka: carb tolerance). I should note, if you’re diabetic, always see your doctor.
Instead of: Chef’s Salad with bacon and cheese
Try: Green salad with salmon, tuna, or sardines
Benefit: The word “salad” doesn’t guarantee nutrition, in-fact, there are a ton of ways to make salads non-nutritional. By swapping out the bacon and cheese for fish, it provides the same protein…or more…and adds omega-3 fatty acids, which boost mood, help reduce inflammation in the body, and may help with weight loss. Second best choice is grilled chicken, another lean protein that will save fat and calories over bacon and cheese.
Instead of: Creamy Tomato Soup
Try: Black bean soup with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt
Benefits: Ditching the cream base halves the calories, and beans add tons of filling fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Beans are pulses, and studies show that people who eat them tend to weigh less and have smaller waistlines. Switching up the cream for a scoop of Greek yogurt still delivers calcium, but without all the saturated fat, and gaining a little protein.
Instead of: Sushi with spicy mayo
Try: Sashimi with wasabi and miso soup
Benefits: Sushi is made with white rice, which offers little nutrition for its 29g carb, 133 cal-per-quarter-cup price tag. Spicy mayo can add 99 calories and a whopping 11g of fat per tablespoon. Sashimi is just the fish…with all its lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Top it with wasabi (just a little), which is anti-inflammatory and certain clears the sinuses. Pair it with a small bowl of miso soup. You’ll feel fuller faster and eat less overall.
Instead of: Meatloaf made with ground beef
Try: Meatloaf made with ground turkey, mushrooms and pureed spinach
Benefits: Turkey has less saturated fat than beef (sat-fats are just plain bad for you)…choose at least 93% lean turkey; the veggies add moisture, flavor, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, and allow you to eat less meat. When you mix pureed baby spinach into the ground meat, you won’t even taste it! (which is great if you don’t like the taste of spinach)
Instead of: Pepperoni pizza on white-flour crust
Try: Veggie pizza on a cauliflower crust (I know it sounds weird, but it actually tastes great)
Benefits: A cauliflower crust replaces white processed carbs with veggies, upping the fiber and other nutrients. Cruciferous veggies are also anti-cancer and heart-healthy, protecting the branches of blood vessels against buildup of plaque. Save on saturated fat by skipping meat toppings…or try using vegetarian pepperoni…just watch the sodium, and swapping out some of the mozzarella for smaller amounts of a more flavorful cheese like parmesan.
Instead of: Spaghetti with beef meatballs
Try: Zucchini noodles with turkey meatballs (plus oats) and added veggies. (I love this one)
Benefits: Switching from beef to turkey saves on saturated fat, as does displacing some of the meat with rolled oats (use them as you would bread crumbs). Make sure to use a low-sugar tomato sauce, or try making your own, it’s not that hard. Replace carb-heavy pasta with a fresh vegetable that has vitamins, minerals and a filling fiber. If you can’t live without real pasta, mix in noodles made with whole wheat, black beans, quinoa (I use these), or almond flour, for more fiber and fewer carbs. Top with flavorful veggies of your choice…try bell peppers, broccoli (or broccoli slaw), tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Instead of: Fried Chicken
Try: Chicken dredged in almond or chickpea flour and baked (This is surprising delicious this way)
Benefits: You’ll save mega calories and carbs and get some added nutrients and fiber. Baking instead of trying slashes calories and prevents the formation of certain cancer-causing compounds which may develop when cooking with oil at high temperatures. (Sorry Colonel)
As you can see, it’s not that hard to cut calories, fat while boosting the nutritional value of some of the foods you already love. Some of the alternatives like almond flour, chickpea flour, cauliflower, etc … actually boost the flavors into the stratosphere. You can spice these dishes like you would normally, just be sure to watch any spice that has added salt. If you’re looking for alternatives to cooking with salt, try using celery seed and a little potassium. You don’t have to add a lot, and the flavor boost the celery seed offers is quite refreshing.