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3 Simple Swaps for a Healthier Approach to Your Diet

Healthy eating is hard, but it doesn't have to be. Ditch the restrictions, not your favorite foods.

Photo by Evelyn Semenyuk on Unsplash

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply clean up your diet, navigating healthy eating can seem like a chore. Between low-carb keto and high-carb vegan, the choices are endless. In a culture filled with a lot of diet noise, the misinformation can be overwhelming to digest.

It feels like every day a new influencer is popping up with their secret formula to weight loss success. These flashy fad diets promise quick results but are more restrictive than realistic. All focus on eliminating one food group and emphasize another, leading to deprivation.

A healthy diet is one that incorporates all foods while prioritizing the ones that are most beneficial to our health, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy if you tolerate it.

In short, a healthy diet is one that works best for you, that can be sustained consistently over time.

Instead of struggling to keep up with the trends, ditch the diets and focus on forming better eating habits.

Healthy Meals are About Addition Not Subtraction

A healthy approach to diet starts with prioritizing addition over subtraction. In a deprivation mindset, we don't satisfy our cravings and end up bingeing on guilty pleasures. Resulting in shame, guilt, and regret over our lack of willpower. Ultimately, reinforcing the diet cycle as we start again tomorrow, promising to be good.

Switching the emphasis to what we’re adding to our plate over removing, lets us fill up on the better for us foods, without denying the ones we can't live without.

No one food is to blame for all our health issues. With these easy swaps, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Look for Opportunities to Fill up on Fiber

Fiber is the number one superfood in a healthy eating arsenal. It creates bulk in your stomach and acts as a brush, keeping us full and our digestion running smoothly. Fiber swells with liquids and sends a signal to the brain saying you’re full.

Found in healthy whole grains, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fiber is the most underrated, unsexy, and under-consumed nutrient missing from our diets.

Here’s how I incorporate more fiber in, without sacrificing the foods I love:

Swap high-fiber tortillas, bread, and crackers for traditional varieties. Replacing corn or flour tortillas, with high-fiber tortillas for my breakfast tacos adds 8 grams of satiating fiber without feeling deprived. As a result, I’m more full and less likely to reach for a sweet treat an hour after breakfast.

Try subbing oatmeal or wheat bran flakes for regular panko breadcrumbs. Some purists may say you need panko in your meatball recipe, but I have yet to meet anyone who can tell the difference. Panko is made from white flour, which won’t kill you (despite what some will have you believe) but it's an easy opportunity to boost fiber without anyone unnoticing.

Try an alternative pasta. Who doesn’t love pasta? But when you make the mistake of reading the label on the box, you may be sadly disappointed to see what one serving is. An alternative pasta, like whole wheat or lentil, has about 5 grams of fiber, making your sad serving size much more filling. Be wary of other gluten-free options, as rice and even quinoa pasta often clock in at the same amount of carbohydrates as regular white pasta, with little to no fiber content. If you can’t eat gluten, then lentil pasta is your best option.

How to Eat More, Not Less: Volume with Veggies

Despite the diet culture lies, you don’t have to give up your favorite foods in your effort to eat healthier. There are so many options available these days that make adding more vegetables to your plate easier than ever.

The vegetable imposters like zoodles, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash, or even hearts of palm lasagna are great options but sometimes they can’t replace the cravings for the real deal. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Try incorporating ½ the veggie option with ½ the regular version. You get the satisfaction of having your favorite foods and the feeling of satisfyingly full.

I’m a volume eater, aka I like to eat a lot. With a tiny portion of pasta on my plate, I feel cheated. So bulking my plate with an abundance of vegetables leaves me less likely to spend the rest of the night endlessly snacking to feel satisfied.

We eat with our eyes first, by filling our plate with beautiful and beneficial vegetables is the best way to ward off deprivation.

Enjoy a Sparkling Spritz over Sugar-Spiked Soda

Despite good marketing, life is not better with a coke. Soda, even the diet ones, can wreak havoc on our health and derail our best healthy eating efforts. And while 100% fruit juice may appear to be the healthier option, often it can have just as much sugar as the same glass of soda.

An 8oz glass of soda has 22 grams of added sugar, which equals 10 teaspoons of sugar.

An 8oz glass of orange juice has between 18-22 grams.

The problem with drinking liquid sugar, whether it’s soda or juice, is it doesn’t satiate us. And when we gulp down 22 grams of sugar, our insulin levels spike, and we’re left crashing minutes later.

Personally, I would rather savor a decadent chocolate brownie over sipping my sugar through a straw. Still, for some reason, I can never seem to enjoy drinking plain water.

If you agree and the bland taste of water won't quench your thirst, try a simple sparkling elixir. A refreshing spritz that won't leave you crashing from a sugar high.

Here's how to make it:

Pour your favorite sparkling water, unsweetened flavored or unflavored, into a fancy glass. My favorites are Spindrift, La Croix, and Topo Chico. The fancy glass is key here, making it feel like a special treat.

Next, add a couple of splashes of 100% juice of your choice. Great options are pomegranate, cranberry, grapefruit, or pineapple.

Add a squeeze of lime, and you have a refreshing beverage that satisfies your tastebuds without being a sugar bomb. You can even spice it up with a little bit of fresh ginger juice for a satisfying kick.

A Simple Approach for Long-Lasting Health

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, restrictive, or complicated. Extreme diets set us up for failure and don’t give us the right tools we need for a sustainable, long-term healthy eating solution.

With a little re-vamping, we can make healthy eating a habit that fits our desires and preferences and leaves us satisfied, not stuffed.

Small steps won’t give you overnight success, but they will create powerful changes, lasting far longer than the hype of the latest fad diet.

healthy
Katherine Bennett
Katherine Bennett
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Katherine Bennett

Professional chef. Sharing stories, secrets, and recipes from behind the line of a professional kitchen.

See all posts by Katherine Bennett

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