How can you stay healthy and fit but still enjoy the same foods you love? Easy – there are endless substitutions you can make for most recipes to make them “fit-friendly”. Sure, your favorite dishes will taste different with some of these substitutions. They will probably taste better! It’s important to give healthier foods time to let your palate adjust to the healthy changes. I promise, once you do, you will stop craving the salty and the sweet in excess, and food will become more enjoyable.
Here are some changes you can make:
- Swap white rice for quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice. White rice has a high glycemic index (68), which basically means it has a very similar response in your body to that of pure glucose. Your blood sugar spikes quickly, followed by a rapid drop, causing lethargy, fatigue, and fat storage. Quinoa, on the other hand, has a glycemic index of less than 10. It is a complete protein, one of the few plant-based sources.
- For you chocolate lovers – skip the lighter stuff and cross over to the dark side. The darker the chocolate (higher cacao %), the better! Dark chocolate has less sugar, and is an outstanding source of iron and magnesium. Bonus: Caffeine content is more concentrated in dark chocolate. Of course, don’t overdo this one.
- If you’re a coffee drinker, this can actually have a huge impact on your overall health simply because it generally is a daily habit (for those who choose to partake). If you’re ordering a triple venti vanilla latte every morning, holy cow is that a lot of extra calories for a morning pick-me-up. A Venti vanilla latte made with 2% milk is 320 calories, has 9 grams of fat, and 44 grams of sugar! Even if you’re just in it for the taste, there are some healthier options. Have it made with almond milk or skim, that cuts about 100 calories. Ask the barista to go easy on the syrup. The best, of course, is to drink your coffee black with a splash of your favorite milk and some cinnamon.
- Cut out as much refined sugar as possible. Use fruit as sweeteners – instead of adding sugar to your morning oatmeal, try a drizzle of honey and some banana slices. You can even employ this switch-a-roo in your baking! Use a ripe banana as your sweetener in cookies, breads, brownies, etc. The possibilities are endless!
- Trade volume for quantity. Instead of having one monster-size muffin (if you must), have two mini muffins. You will feel more satisfied, and you would have eaten less of said muffin.
- When you’re getting your yogurt fill, definitely go for the greek variety. It has double the protein, and it is creamier and thicker than regular yogurt! Bonus: It is useful in baking to soften texture.
- This one is my favorite: Instead of using condiments like mayo, aioli, ketchup, butter, etc., use sliced avocado! Avocado is brimming with healthy fats that your body needs. They also have high levels of fiber, protein, and potassium. Definitely a necessary addition to your post-workout meals.
The list is endless, really, but hopefully this will get you started thinking about how to make these small (and tasty) changes in your diet to aid you in your quest to fitness!
But seriously, you reap the quantifiable benefits of exercise through both your mind and your body! Here are some of the many good things that come from exercise in any capacity:
- Energy! The act of exercising allows oxygen and nutrients to be delivered more readily to your tissues. Also, the long-term cardiovascular improvements that come from consistent exercise mean that your heart and lungs will work more efficiently, giving you more energy.
- Weight Control! This is an obvious one for most, but it is unequivocally necessary for function of all body systems, and it boosts self-esteem! Win-win.
- A Better Mood! That’s right – if you’re feeling down, working out might be the last thing you want to do. But, it has been proven to be a natural mood enhancer. Exercise releases a variety of happy brain chemicals, like endorphins. The act of exercising may even just make you feel better about yourself, which is a great way to improve your mood.
- Libido! Exercise can enhance your libido in more ways than one. Mainly, exercise releases testosterone which increases “the urge” in both males and females!
- Prevents disease! Likelihood of conditions like heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes (type II), and many more, is dramatically decreased if you are at a healthy weight and exercise consistently. Physical activity makes our bodies produce HDL, the “good” cholesterol which battles unhealthy triglycerides.
- The benefits of physical activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html. Accessed July 2, 2013.
- Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Mayo Clinic.
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389. Accessed July 28, 2014.
- Hamilton LD, et al. The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2008;5:845.