With the end of the year quickly approaching, resolutions may be on your mind. Did you meet the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2020? About 50% of all Americans make yearly resolutions, with the most popular being to lose weight. If it’s been your goal to get healthy, there are simple food switches that can set you on the right path. Eating well doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste.
Here are seven nutrition swaps to end the year healthy.
You may not realize how many calories you consume through drinking. Popular beverages like soda and energy drinks are filled with sweeteners and artificial flavors, so consider making a healthier swap by switching to fruit-infused water. If you miss the fizz, look for carbonated flavored waters. These alternatives have a fraction of the calories and sugars while still tasting great.
Another healthy alternative is fruit juice. Drinks made with real fruits often are high in vitamins and nutrients. Remember to look at the bottle to identify the serving size since natural fruit juices can be high in sugar. Inspect the label before purchasing, because many fruit juices come from concentrates or have artificial flavors added.
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White, whole wheat, whole grain or multigrain — your bread choices may feel endless. Perhaps you’ve discovered that white bread is the least healthy, but do you know why? It’s made from refined grains, which means it doesn’t include the whole seed.
In comparison, whole grain and whole wheat products utilize the entire kernel. Multigrain bread could include the entire seed or parts — it merely means it contains more than one grain type. Even whole-grain products could consist of a variety of whole kernels and partial grains. Look on the label to determine whether the grain used was complete or partial. If it were whole, it would be clearly described as such on the packaging.
Coffee in moderation has surprising health benefits. For instance, drinking it can decrease DNA strand breakage and lower your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. However, many people have found that coffee causes indigestion or is too bitter for their liking. In this case, they often add excessive amounts of sugars, sweeteners and artificial syrups to adopt the flavor to meet their preferences. While it may taste good, these additions take away from the benefits of coffee and provide very little nutritional value for your body.
A delicious and healthy alternative is matcha, which is made from green tea leaves. Typically, it’s ground up into a fine powder and mixed with water or milk to form a drink. However, you can also use it in baking. By ingesting the entire leaf, you receive 100% of its nutrients. In clinical trials with animals, matcha has demonstrated the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s packed with antioxidants, and some experts believe it could promote healthier cholesterol levels and help prevent cancer.
With this healthy switch, you can continue to enjoy your favorite sweet treat — chocolate. Instead of using milk or white chocolate for your desserts, substitute it with dark. This version has less sugar, which gives it a richer and more distinctive flavor. Flavanols in the chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes. In short-term studies, it has also increased insulin sensitivity.
Keep in mind that most chocolates are high in calories and can cause adverse side-effects if eaten in excess. Moderation is the key to this healthy swap.
Poultry and Fish
Does your household eat mostly red meat? Consider substituting in other protein alternatives like poultry or fish. In general, beef, lamb and pork all have higher concentrations of saturated fat, which can raise your cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease.
Comparatively, many types of fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of heart failure and help form a healthy diet. Poultry has less fat than red meat and is a terrific source of protein, iron and iodine.
Anyone in your family that has a gluten intolerance or high cholesterol will love this healthy alternative. This product, which is derived from coconut palm tree sap, is slightly sweet and has a fraction of traditional soy sauce’s sodium content. Coconut aminos is gluten-free and vegan. It’s also considered safe for people with diabetes as it’s a low-glycemic food.
You can use this product as a soy substitute, but it still includes salt, so exercise restraint.
Homemade Salad Dressing
Salads are healthy and nutritious, but you may be throwing empty calories on your meal when you add a store-bought dressing. These sauces are often loaded with sugar, saturated fat and preservatives. Instead of tossing them on your fresh greens, make your own at home. Homemade dressings are a healthier alternative, and they taste amazing — often better than their mass-manufactured counterparts.
Run a quick search online to find recipes for your favorite dressings. You’ll be surprised to discover how many ingredients you already have at home. When deciding what to choose, try to pick low-salt recipes to enjoy great taste without the adverse effects.
Take It One Step at a Time
Utilize these seven nutrition swaps to end the year healthy, and rest easy knowing you are starting 2021 off right. Remember to take it one step at a time — if you forget to implement a substitute, you can try again next time. To simplify the process, make a grocery list with healthy alternatives so you can stock your pantry in time for the holidays.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks about all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.