Well…we’re two weeks in. How are your resolutions coming along? This is usually the point where I start falling off the wagon. Schedules get busy and all those dreams I had of working out and eating healthy and taking time for me and having more family time and keeping the house clean and organizing every closet and…let’s just say this is about where I start throwing in the towel.
I have realized that beginning a new year is the easy part, but day-to-day, step-by-step choices are what make or break me. It is not a big new year’s resolution that changes my life, but the small steps I take each day that snowball into the healthy, whole lifestyle I know I’m capable of.
My favorite place to see growth, of course, is in the kitchen. I’m not very good at dieting. (I just love cheese too much.) But one thing I appreciate about a good “diet” is what I ultimately learn along the way. Like controlling portion size, how my body responds to certain foods, and how to make healthy substitutions.
I’m no expert by any means, and some readers are probably saying, “Duh. Everyone knows that.” But actually, not everyone does. I never did. So if you’re like me and are open to learning just a few healthier food substitutions, you’re in the right place. These are my favorite small steps that I take daily to help me feel better about what I’m eating, and hopefully reach my health goals.
Plain Greek Yogurt vs. Sour Cream
My family LOVES chili and tacos, but while they’re noshing on calorie-laden sour cream, I’m feeling good about my lighter option with fewer calories and carbs, less fat, and loads more protein. Plus those yummy yogurt cultures that are good for my gut! (It’s also a great sub for mayonnaise in tuna or chicken salad.)
Triscuits vs. Chips
I love crunchy things. LOVE them. And my family is kind of addicted to chips. So when I’m trying to eat better, nothing satisfies my crunchy carb craving like Triscuits. They’re not the perfect snack (yikes canola oil), but there are literally only three ingredients: wheat, canola oil, and salt. So on the scale of Doritos to cardboard…I feel okay about these.
Turkey vs. Beef
Hear me out! My family hates ground turkey. They don’t like the flavor. They don’t like the texture. They can tell it’s wrong just by looking at it. So my answer? I mix them. Half turkey, half beef, mixy mixy. Not only do I feel better about what we’re eating, it also saves money on our favorite dishes. We all win and our spaghetti is none the wiser.
Zoodles vs. Noodles
This one is a bit harder to pull off with the kids, but my husband’s favorite ‘pasta’ dish right now is Zucchini Roll-up Lasagna. Thin-sliced zucchini rolled around your favorite lasagna filling? Feel good mama…feel good.
Cottage Cheese vs. Everything
You heard me. In many diets, cottage cheese is a PROTEIN, which, for cheese lovers like me, means you can get your craving met daily with zero guilt. Not everyone loves cottage cheese, but you have to admit it makes a pretty dang good substitute in lasagna roll ups, as a chili topping, mixed with fruit, stirred into chowders or soups, on top of salads, etc.
Pumpkin: My Sneaky Secret
Guess what is in a can of pumpkin…There’s pumpkin in there. That’s it. Which means I can crack open a can of pumpkin and literally just stir vitamins and nutrients right into my chili, spaghetti sauce, enchiladas, curry, soup, or stew. Heck, muffins and cakes like it, too. And pancakes and waffles. And…
Real Spices instead of Packets
Years ago, I picked up a packet of “Chili Seasoning,” read the ingredients, and then separately purchased the ingredients that I could read. I haven’t bought a packet of seasoning since. They are often full of fillers, preservatives, and sodium that I can’t even pronounce. This substitution lets me control how much salt goes into my dish while leaving out all of the questionable stuff. And if I want a little extra garlic, in it goes!
Soda vs. Soda Water or Kombucha
To give me the same bubbly, cold satisfaction of a soda, I grab a soda water or seltzer. NOT the sweetened kind. (They are usually filled with artificial sweeteners which make me gag from a mile away.) If you don’t like the flavorless bubbles, mix them with an organic juice. Or you could be braver than me and try kombucha! I hear it has a similar and gut-friendly satisfaction for soda drinkers.
Cold Brew vs. FruFru
If you can tolerate drinking actual coffee, this switch will make you feel good about that five-dollar “Mommy treat” in your hand. Starbucks’ Honey-Almond milk cold brew is only 50 calories and it is SO so good. I also love their sweet cream nitro cold brew. For any switch at the coffee shop, skip the creamy sugary drinks and instead go for a latte with a pump or two of your favorite flavor.
All the Vegetables
Finally, just add vegetables. Whatever you’re making, find a way to incorporate more fresh vegetables. Halve the meat and supplement with some cubed zucchini or canned pumpkin. Stir in an extra handful of spinach. Try zoodles AND noodles together. Skip the bread and make it a lettuce bowl. Have you tried beets? Cauliflower? Black bean brownies…too far?