healthy eating tips

As soon as you start to change your diet and try to eat healthier, junk food cravings cut in. Scientist advise that you should avoid situations and environments that will bring you into temptation. But how? Junk food is all around us and it’s almost impossible to avoid all temptations. I have made a list of healthy vs. bad food substitutes to get rid of your cravings . This way you can satisfy your cravings and still stay on track with your diet plan.

Chips and organic popcorn

chips and popcorn

Instead of chips, which is prepared by deep frying with added extra salt better opt for popcorn. Popcorn has half the calories and a lot less fat than chips. If you prepare it the right way popcorn is even considered a healthy snack for weightloss! A study led by Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D from the University of Scranton found that popcorn has more of the healthful antioxidant substances called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols are believed to lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Choose organic air-popped popcorn made in a hot air popper. Prepared this way popcorn is full of healthy fiber and polyphenols. Choosing organic popcorn is better since you’ll avoid health risks linked to GMO corn. If you don’t have an hot air popper try using a lunch bag to pop your popcorn in the microwave.

Mayo and greek yogurt

mayo vs greek yoghurt

The favorite spreading of many – mayonnaise practically has no nutritional value at all. Most of it’s calories come from low quality oils and sugar making it a high calorie food with empty calories. If you choose greek yogurt for a salad dressing or spread instead,  you’ll save seven times the calories (1 oz mayo has 111 kcal compared to 1 oz plain greek yogurt which only has 15 kcal) and boost your protein intake as well (1 oz mayo has 0.26g protein compared to 1 oz plain greek yogurt which  has 2,7g) .

It’s best to choose plain greek yoghurt instead of the many flavored varieties since plain yoghurt doesn’t have any added sugar.

Thick crust pizza and thin crust pizza

thin crust and thick crust pizza

If you choose a thin crust pizza over a thick crust pizza with the same toppings, you can lower your calorie intake significantly! If you additionally pay attention to the toppings you’re getting, pizza can become a healthy meal.
Try to eat a whole wheat thin crust pizza to add some more protein and fiber. As for the toppings choose real tomato sauce instead of ketchup, add some veggies on top (spinach, pepper, onion, mushrooms, …), try grilled chicken instead of salami and choose fresh mozzarella cheese or skimmed ricotta. This way your pizza becomes a healthy meal to lose weight.

If you’re feeling adventurous check out this pizza crust idea to add more nutritional value to your meal.

French fries and oven baked potatoes

french fries baked potatoes

Although french fries are an inevitable side dish in many restaurants, you’ll easily switch to baked potatoes if you know that baked potatoes have three times less calories and fat. As potatoes are a popular side dish found almost daily in many homes the switch from fried to baked potatoes can be the greatest calorie saving in the long run.

Additionally if you leave the skin on your potatoes you’ll increase the intake of healthy fibers in your diet.

Ice cream and pure banana ice cream

ice crean frozen banana

Most brands  add artificial flavors, coloring and a lot of sugar to their ice cream. To get a healthy treat with no added sugar try making your own ice cream out of frozen bananas. You can make this dessert with frozen bananas only or you can add some nuts, dark chocolate, vanilla or peanut butter to make different flavors. Before judging this to be a silly idea, try it out since pure banana ice cream is incredibly creamy and similar to conventional ice cream in texture.
One cup of traditional ice cream  has about 290 kcal compared to 1 cup of banana ice cream which has 133 kcal. This ice cream makes a great healthy dessert for you and your kids as well and it’s simple to make.

Soda and sparkling water with lemon

soda mineral water

Everybody knows by now that soda is not good for you because of it’s high sugar content. Soft drink consumption is one of the main culprits for child obesity. Although the consumption of soft drinks is declining from the year 2000 the average consumption in the US is still very high with 42.2 gallons (159 liters) per capita. That’s about 2 glasses of soft drinks per person every day!

These drinks are basically only empty calories that mess with your bodies insulin resistance contributing to obesity and diabetes. They can be easily substituted with sparkling water, if you don’t want to lose the fizz from your drinks. Add some squeezed lemon, orange or lime and you have a healthy drink that will hydrate your body and energize you.

Chocolate bar and dark chocolate with fruit

chocolate fruit

An occasional chocolate bar will not harm your health or figure. The trouble is that most of us don’t stop at one small chocolate bar once in a while. A tasty and healthy substitute is fruit dipped into dark chocolate. This way your getting vitamins and fibers added to your chocolate treat. Also fruit will make you fell much fuller and more satisfied than chocolate itself. If you choose dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa) you’ll protect your cardiovascular system as well since the cocoa bean is full of flavonoids and antioxidants.

Try out strawberries, mandarins, kiwi, oranges, ananas, … with 75% cocoa dark chocolate.

Cereals and oatmeal

cornflakes oatmeal

Ready to eat breakfast cereals convince consumers with various health claims on their packages. They are supposed to be low-cal, whole grain, high fiber, low sugar, … The truth is that most brands are heavily coated with sugar and processed to a degree where the food loses lot’s of nutrients. That’s why vitamins and minerals are added artificially afterwards.

To skip the whole “which brand of cereal is healthy” debate, simply choose oats as a food that is minimally processed. Steel cut oats or rolled oats are a rich natural source of fiber which aids your digestion and lowers blood cholesterol. They are full of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins and manganese. They will also stabilize your blood sugar since they are slowly digested. They will make you feel full which makes them a perfect breakfast for everybody who wants to lose weight. They have no added sugars and are among the healthiest whole foods.

Besides oats you can try different varieties like barley oats, and flavor them with fruits, honey and spices.

Cookies and dried fruit

cookies and dried fruit

Cookies make your blood sugar spike and are often full of unhealthy fats. The trouble is that they are very caloric and most people can not stop at a serving size- usually one cookie. When looking at the nutrition facts on a box of cookies the amount of calories, carbs (most from sugar and refined flour) and fat doesn’t seem to be that bad. But these numbers are per serving size! Multiply with the number of cookies you’re eating and you’ll reach several hundred calories quickly.

You can substitute cookies with a tasty, healthier option – dried fruit. Dried fruit has the same composition as the fresh version and is a good source of fiber,vitamins and antioxidants. Their taste is more intensive than that of fresh fruit since it is concentrated without the water. It usually contains less vitamin C because of the drying process it goes through. You have to take care of the amount you’ll eat though. The dried version is 1/4 of the fresh version, since 3/4 are lost to water during the drying process. That means one cup of fresh grapes would be the equivalent of 1/4 cup of raisins. Take care not to overeat on dried fruits. One handful is enough fora snack.

Try to eat dried fruits without added sugar, because most producers sprinkle the fruits with sugar before drying them. Sweetened dried fruits are still healthier than cookies but can add up the calories quite fast.

Here are the facts for some popular choices when it comes to dried fruits:

  • Apricot halves, 1/4 cup:
    78 kcal, 17 g sugar, 2.4 g fiber
  • Raisins, 1/4 cup:
    120 kcal, 24 g sugar, 1 g fiber
  • Cranberries, 1/4 cup:
    85 kcal, 18 sugar, 1.6 g fiber
  • Fig, 1 piece:
    47 kcal, 9.1 g sugar, 1.9 g fiber

Salad dressing and yogurt with seasoning

salad dressing and yoghurt

The wrong salad dressing can ruin the health benefits of a salad and your efforts to lose weight. If you’re using commercial salad dressings it’s a good bet that they are full of rancid fats, sugar and preservatives. These dressings are also very caloric making up for all those calories you think you’re saving when eating a salad. It is best to make your own dressing. To get a creamy texture use yogurt as a base for your dressing, add one tablespoon of olive oil to help your body absorb the vitamins from the veggies, season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

Dips and avocado sauce

dips guacamole

Dips you use with veggies are a similar story to salad dressings. They are usually full of fat, sugar and added chemicals for taste and longer shelf life. It is best to make your own dips. One of the healthiest options is avocado sauce. Avocado is full of heart healthy fats and can be made into a tasty guacamole sauce. One portion of guacamole would be about twice the size of your thumb.

As you can see on the above examples simple healthy choices on an everyday basis can help you stay on track with a healthy lifestyle and substitute those “bad” cravings when they kick in.

Photo credit: rolls royce mayonnaise by jules, Obstjoghurt01″ by Schwäbin, Potatoes to be roasted in oven by Clemens v. Vogelsang, chocolate-9 by jules, Banana Ice Cream by jamieanne, Chocolate-Coated Strawberries by Garry Knight, Kraft Salad Dressing, Ranch dressing by Whitney, Moms Ultimate Guacamole by Meal Makeover Moms