In this post I want to share some of my favorite healthier alternatives that prevent me from consuming too much sugar, salt, bad fat and overall just too much food. I think this is important for a few reasons:
- As busy professionals, it simply isn’t realistic to believe that we will always be able to prepare food ahead of time.
- Probably nothing else brings on bad cravings as strongly as when we’re going through a stressful time. Ever forgot that something was due until the actual deadline??
- Our careers inherently involve dinner meetings and fundraisers, out of town conferences, happy hours etc. Not exactly the type settings where you would want to bring your food scale and Tupperware!
Before getting into these healthier alternatives, I have to stress the importance of understanding portion sizes. You can’t appreciate the appropriate food portions for yourself unless you start tracking/logging your food.
My suggestion is for you to use the MyFitnessPal app to do this. It’s free, generally accurate, and has a broad database with the nutritional content of foods from practically every restaurant you’d eat from or food that you prepare. I’ve been using it for 4 years and haven’t come across anything better.
Now, I’ll admit, it is a little annoying to track everything you eat, especially when you’re busy. For me, the hassle to track something I’m thinking about eating just leads to me not eating it at all. (Not a bad problem, right?) Basically, my mantra is-if I cant track it, I can’t eat it!
However, one thing I like about MyFitnessPal pal is that it adapts to your eating patterns so foods that you eat and track often become saved and immediately accessible in a separate category. This helps to make tracking quicker and easier. It also tracks your activity and adds credit to your daily calorie goals based on how active you are.
I think of MyFitnessPal like a bank account, where my calorie allocation for the day is my cash to spend for the day. When that cash becomes depleted, I can’t spend (eat) anymore, unless I make adeposit (exercise)!
Now here’s something to look forward to. If you stick to tracking for a while, you’ll find that you can eventually wean yourself off it. In other words, you will more than less be able to eyeball your portion sizes and mentally keep track of your nutritional content each day without overeating.
Ideally, this is where you want to first strive to be. Eyeballing is not as perfect as measuring, but it is probably better than what you were doing before- nothing at all- if you have not been conscious about portion sizes.
For me, I revert to measuring and tracking everything when I have a specific weight goal to meet, but on an everyday basis, I do the eyeball method. As discussed above, the eyeball method is also a major key when you’re too busy to measure your food or when you’re eating out.
So here goes my favorite healthier alternative tips and ideas, organized based on what I might be feeling for:
Chocolate. I make these protein balls with Vegan Smart plant protein, raw oats, nutiva coconut butter, raw nuts, white or dark chocolate chips and chia seeds. The coconut butter holds it all together very nicely and the VeganSmart protein comes in several flavors. My favorites are the chocolate and vanilla. I also make a delicious coffee drink with the chocolate flavor by blending it up together with ice and coffee almond milk. If you love Starbucks frappes you must try this.
Salty/cheesy flavor. My favorite fix for these flavors are Shawnee’s Greenthumb spirulina popcorn and Sieste chips. Spirulina is a superfood that you should include in your diet and I will blog more about it in the future. As for the Sieste chips, I love that it is grain free and has a nice cheesy flavor without actually being made with cheese, because they make it with nutritional yeast. The Sieste chips also come in a Lemon Lime and Sea Salt flavor that you might like. These are always in my desk at work.
Ice Cream. Vegan Smart plant protein for the win again! 2 scoops in my Nutribullet with lots of ice and frozen fruit does the trick.
Tangy/sweet flavor. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon and Gala apples. Remember that some fruits carry a lot of sugar, even though it is not processed sugar. After referring to a GI index chart, I concluded these fruits are some of the lowest in sugar that I can enjoy the most. I will blog more about the GI food index in the future as well.
Pizza. I very rarely indulge, but when I do, Daiya does it for me. The flour in regular pizza leaves me feeling inflamed and bloated for days and I find that these Daiya pizzas don’t do that to me.
Burgers and Meatballs. Beyond Meat has me beyond amazed! I add some Daiya cheese shreds when I want to go cheeseburger style. All I can say is that you should at least give it a try. I also love Gardein Meatless Meatballs. They taste so much like the real thing that I can’t believe it is not actually meat. I sear them in olive oil, simmer in tomato sauce, then spread over a garden salad.
Alcohol. General rule- no sugary alcoholic drinks. You can refer to the chart below for some basic guidance. For me, I keep it simple and limit myself to 1 glass of red wine or a glass of scotch. To avoid sugar I add ice or water instead of chasers like cranberry juice, sodas etc.
Hold the complex carbs, and the dessert. Or at least cut the portion in half. That is my general rule of thumb when I eat out or am not going to do enough exercise to burn through a lot of complex carbs. Restaurants are usually willing to make substitutions so I’ll swap the complex carb options for steamed veggies or a salad. I also always ask questions about how the food is prepared. What kind of oil ? Are the veggies steamed with salt and butter? Almost always the restaurant will accommodate reasonable requests. Another general rule, all sauces and dressings to the side. Dressings and sauces are usually sweet and fatty so you want to control how much of this is being added to your food yourself.
I hope that some of these thoughts and ideas will continue leading you in the right direction to a healthier lifestyle. As mentioned in my previous posts, this is all about doing better, not being perfect. I’m sure there might also be some questions about why I conclude that certain food options are “healthier” versus others. Well, that’s exactly what I plan to get into in the weeks to come. For now, I close by saying that it’s my genuine belief and experience that you will see great physical and mental benefits once you combine focusing on proper portion sizes with finding healthier food alternatives.