It’s never a bad idea to do something healthy for yourself. You only get one body and one chance to enjoy it, so why not treat it well so you can enjoy it longer? There are infinite “diets” out there proposing to get you fitter, healthier, younger. Don’t eat any carbs, only eat carbs, no meat, no dairy, grapefruit juice with every meal, cabbage soup as your only meal. These diets are usually all about limits. Limiting your calories, your carbohydrates, your fats. Why live a life with limits? It’s more about changing the way you think, changing your normal. Far better to think of food as LIMITLESS and ABUNDANT and NOURISHING.
Rather than saying “I can only eat 10 grams of carbs and 1200 calories per day” tell yourself “I will increase my daily intake of fruits and vegetables”. It’s far easier to add things to our routines than to take them away. Before you know it, broccoli will begin to taste good. You will reach for a peach after dinner instead of a cookie. A meal without meat doesn’t seem strange. Your body tells you thank you for taking care of it by feelings of energy, happiness, balance.
When you are beginning to make healthy changes, it is especially hard. You likely have years of habits built up. You probably have a daily routine that doesn’t lend itself to healthy eating or nutrition. Your social behaviors are probably centered around food and drinks. Maybe your friends, family, kids, significant others, encourage unhealthy behaviors. Step one is to make a promise to yourself to get healthy. For yourself, of course, but also for those you love. They want you around as long as possible too, and to be able to enjoy life to the fullest with them. The second step is to ask them for help. Proclaim your new goals, adding veggies, drinking more water, moving more. Ask them to keep you accountable to your new habits. Even better, ask them to join you!
Now all you have to do is at least ONE thing per day that will take you closer to your goals! Drink one extra glass of water in the morning. Say no to the vending machine in the afternoon. Pack your own healthy, homemade lunch. Get only one drink at happy hour and then have water. Go for a walk after dinner. Cook more. COOK MORE. That is probably the single most important thing you can do for your health. When you go out to eat, you have little say over what ingredients go into the food, how much oil is used to cook it, where the food is sourced from, portion sizes… but when you cook it yourself, you don’t use preservatives, you use fresher ingredients, you can choose your spices, etc.
With that in mind, here are some sneaky healthy swaps from my own experience. Most of these you won’t even notice a difference. For those that are different, it may be weird at first, but over time you will come to crave the healthier alternative to the original. Give one a try when you make dinner tomorrow!
Substitute half of the potatoes for cauliflower. Boil the cauliflower in with the potato, it will mash right in. They are light and creamy, season as you would regular potatoes. You will add extra fiber and vitamins while cutting the total carbohydrates and calories. You may get to the point of enjoying mashed cauliflower alone.
Smoothies are so perfect for hiding healthy food! They are delicious, and basically already healthy if you make it yourself. Watch out for store-bought smoothies that use high-fat dairy and high-sugar additives. Just take some plain or flavored greek yogurt, juice (as close to 100% as you can get), and some fresh or frozen fruit and blend in a blender. Add ice if you like it cold. To give your smoothies a boost, toss in half an avocado, a handful of spinach, some cooked carrots, kale, flax powder, etc.
Instead of sour cream, try plain Greek yogurt on burritos, soups, and baked potatoes. It has the same consistency, but with fat less fat and more protein per serving. It may be a bit weird at first, but give it time and you will prefer it, I promise.
Wheat bread/flour (gluten)
If all you buy in your household is white, enriched flour products, start sneaking in some wheat products or flax. They even make “white” whole-wheat bread to fool picky kids and significant others. (Note: if you have a gluten allergy, obviously don’t buy regular wheat bread. I’m sure you knew that.) But the more you can transition to whole-grain bread, rolls, pizza dough, brown rice, etc., the more fiber and beneficial vitamins you will pack into the same two slices of your turkey sandwich. Speaking of turkey…
Turkey instead of beef
As a veggie-lover who still cannot live without steak, I get it. Animals are delicious. All god’s creatures have a place… right beside the mashed potatoes (and cauliflower)! But there’s no denying that red meat isn’t exactly your heart & arteries’ bestie. So rather than swear off meat and go cold-turkey (see what I did there?!?) try subbing in ground turkey for half the ground beef in your next meatloaf or batch of lasagna. You may not even notice the difference, but your cholesterol sure will.
When whipping up a homemade batch of muffins or banana bread, try substituting applesauce (or pulp from juicing fruits) for part of the butter or egg. It can keep a baked good moist while making it vegan, or at least cutting down the amount of fat. Plus I think it counts as part of your daily servings of fruit.
I’m gonna be honest, this one I haven’t tried, but I have seen more than once and am dying to do this. For lasagna or ravioli, use thin slices of zucchini or eggplant as the noodles. Layer very thin strips with ground turkey (see above) and homemade sauce for lighter lasagna, or interlace strips for a fiberful ravioli with half the calories and no carbs. You can also bake a spaghetti squash and shred to use instead of regular pasta noodles to add vitamins and fiber and subtract carbs/calories without losing that strand feel.
Just start small, with one swap at a time, and work your way into healthy eating. Try a new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the store. Maybe starfruit or jicama will be your new favorite snack! Before you know it, you will feel better, and look better too. Your skin and hair and nails will benefit from a varied diet of fresh, nutrition fruits and vegetables, your inner workings will love extra fiber and vitamins. Don’t forget to hydrate! Drink water every 15-30 minutes throughout the day to look & feel your best.
What’ your best sneaky healthy cooking tip?