With fad fasts and lemon flushes littering the “diet” market, it can feel impossible to make a big health difference without taking drastic measures. In reality, though, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be extreme. Sometimes all it takes is a few simple substitutions, and you can boost your diet by cutting calories, fighting fat, regulating your blood pressure and packing more vitamins into each meal.
Switch Up Your Salads With Baby Spinach
If you’ve already incorporated salad into your daily diet, good for you. Not all leaves are alike, though. If you want to get the most out of your greens, go for raw spinach. It has more than triple the iron and folate of iceberg lettuce, meaning you’re supporting healthy cells and blood in your body with each bite.
Drink Water Instead of Soda
Thirsty? Rather than going for a soda, grab a glass of water. Soda is high in sugar and empty (non-nutritional) calories, so instead of thinking of it as a thirst quencher, think of it as a treat to be enjoyed sparingly. If it’s carbonation you crave, club soda is a calorie-friendly alternative, and you can always jazz it up with a little lemon.
Switch to Unsalted Butter
We cook with butter, we bake with butter and we spread it on our dinner rolls. Butter is almost unavoidable, so rather than attempting to avoid it entirely, be wise about the butter you buy. In terms of fat content, unsalted butter isn’t better than salted butter, but making this simple switch will cut out a lot of sodium in the long run.
Go Whole Grain When It Comes to Crackers
The familiar 4 o’clock grumble is in your stomach and you can feel yourself reflexively turning to the potato chips. Reach instead for whole grain crackers, and give your brain and belly healthy energy to get through the afternoon slump. Just like white crackers and chips, whole grain crackers give you that crunch you crave, and the whole grain aids digestion and helps keep your heart healthy.
Select Seasonal Fruit for Dessert
We know how hard it is to pass up a good-looking pastry, but plump, ripe fruit can be equally indulgent. Rethink dessert and treat yourself to fresh seasonal fruit rather than candy or sweets. You’ll get that sugary boost your sweet tooth is after, while stocking up on some essential vitamins and nutrients.
Toss in Fresh Lemon Juice Instead of Dressing
Ranch, bleu cheese and Thousand Island salad dressings are undoubtedly savory, but they can turn a healthy salad into high-fat fare. Swap out your heavy, oil-laden dressings for lemon juice and you will instantly save yourself from hidden calories.
Go With Lowfat or Soy Instead of Whole Milk or Cream
Save yourself from extra fat and calories by making the simple switch from cream to skim milk. Even if you just switch from half-and-half to reduced fat, you can save about 100 calories with every cup of coffee. If you substitute soy, you can save an extra 20 calories on top of that.
Use Fresh or Frozen Vegetables Instead of Canned
You’ve already won half the battle by incorporating more vegetables into your meals, but it’s time to take that a step further by making sure you’re not accidentally adding more sodium along the way. Canned vegetables contain added sodium as a preservative, so buy fresh or frozen whenever possible. If you must eat canned vegetables, rinse them before cooking to remove some of the excess sodium.
Drink 100% Juice Instead of “Fruit-Flavored” Drinks
We’d love to be able to juice our own fruits and drink fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning, but sometimes it just isn’t practical. The next best thing is 100 percent juice, because you’re more likely to get all the vitamins and fiber of the actual fruit than you would if you were to drink a fruit-flavored beverage. Flavored beverages also often contain extra sugary, unnatural sweeteners, so read their labels and find the actual percentage of juice in your fruity drinks.
Season With Spices Instead of Salt
We know it’s tempting to reach for the salt when your meal needs some extra oomph, but challenge yourself to season with spices instead. Too much salt (sodium) can contribute to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Protect your arteries and your heart by flavoring your meals with pepper, spices and seasoning mixtures. When choosing your seasonings, remember to check the labels to be sure they don't contain garlic salt or other types of salt.
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