11/19/09

Food Swap

With the holidays coming up, I can see why there is an abundance of commercials, magazine articles, newspaper articles, television spotlights and internet searches for
1) weight loss
2) nutrition
3) fitness
or
4) all of the above
Oh and how can I forget...the google search for "how to lose weight fast".

On a positive note, the holidays may be a great trigger for people to start a healthy and realistic weight loss program. Then again, they may trigger a need to begin a quick, unhealthy and do-anything at any cost, to lose weight fast. I find that athletes have a similar mentality for weight loss when racing season approaches. Come the spring or early summer, with an A-race in 8-12 weeks, there is a strong desire to lean-up or focus on a more balanced diet to support training. Then again, when a race approaches in 3-4 weeks, there is a strong desire to squeeze in as much training as possible, train for quantity in order to burn calories, decrease calories to create a large caloric deficit and hope that by race day that size "x" tri-suit will look sexy on a ripped or lean body.
I always use the saying "you can't train for a marathon overnight, so how you can you expect to change all nutrition habits overnight???"

As you can tell from my recipe blog posts, I love re-creating recipes and finding healthy alternatives to keep flavor and satisfaction when eating the meal.
There is a lot that goes into weight loss, especially when it comes to changing the way you eat. It is human nature to fear starvation and for Americans, and our rather-increasing rate of overweight and obesity, we are programmed to eat everything in sight...and then some more. I could easily say "stop eating that much" but no one likes to feel hungry..myself included!
If you are an athlete, you likely fear not having enough energy for workouts. If you are human, you just don't want to feel hungry for the rest of your life...especially if you think that they only way to weight loss is to feel hungry.
Well, I am not a believer in feeling starved. However, I do think it is important that a person focuses on the difference between boredom, starvation, hunger, an empty stomach, low blood sugar or an imbalance of macronutrients and meals and snacks. If you can identify why you are eating (or need to eat), then it will be a lot easier to understand what you need to eat and how much of it to eat.
If you have a long term goal weight (it must be realistic) I suggest learning how to swap out some of your heart-unhealthy foods for heart-healthy foods. If you can think of 2-3 times during the day when you are eating more food (calories) than you should, then this could be a great place to start. If you are eating a bowl of cereal at 8pm every evening, an hour after dinner, start by taking a walk or distracting yourself when 8pm comes around.
But what about during the day when you used to eat a heavy sandwich for lunch and now you just eat a salad. Or, you use to eat a cliff bar every afternoon and now you eat a 90-calorie special K bar. In these instances, you are once again cutting out a major amount of calories in your daily diet and you WILL lose weight.
Do you think that these strategies are really effective? Although these drastic measures may provide quick weight loss, they are likely leaving you with little variety in the diet and the tendency to feel deprived and well, hungry and bored.
Let's say you are a cereal eater...here comes a food swap. Rather than the 300 calorie bowl of cereal w/ milk, have an apple or a piece of cheese. This is just one example, but by swapping a high-calorie food/snack/meal for a lower calorie snack, you WILL lose weight and you are still enjoying your 8pm snack, but with lower calories.
If you are a heavy lunch or dinner eater, how about cutting back on your portions and swapping 1/2 your dish for nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and veggies. The key for weight loss (especially if you are an athlete) isn't necessarily about reducing your daily caloric intake by 500 calories in order to give yourself a healthy 1-2 lb weight loss/week. Competitive athlete or fitness enthusiast, you need to learn where to cut back on calories in order to give yourself a healthy caloric deficit, but at the same time, add in healthy nutrients in order to feel satisfied at your meal.
Here are a few of my favorite food swaps:
-1 slice whole grain bread with 1 tbsp Pb and 1 tbsp jelly and 1/2 ripe banana rather than 2 slices of bread. For the calories of the other slice of bread, you can add in more potassium (similar amount of fiber) in the diet w/ the same amount of calories with the banana. Even better, swap a high calorie piece of bread for a lower calorie whole-grain slice of bread. You have now saved yourself even more calories and you are still able to enjoy your PB and jelly sandwich! Also, eat the open face sandwich with a fork. By taking more chews you are likely fill up with more smaller bites (don't forget your water!) as you eat your banana.
-1/2 cup cereal w/ 4 ounces low fat yogurt rather than 1 cup cereal and 8 ounces skim milk. You can still enjoy your crunchy cereal but you are able to control your intake of cereal with yogurt rather than milk.
-1 granola bar (around 120-160 calories) w/ medium apple (sliced) and 4 almonds rather than a cliff bar (or any sports bar/protein bar). Sure, the cliff bar may be more filling (and tasty) than the granola bar. Sure, the granola bar and apple may come out to more calories than the cliff bar itself. However, hopefully you will find yourself enjoying snack time (and a longer snack time) due to more food options when you snack. More so, fruits and veggies provide fiber and water for filling (nutrient dense as opposed to energy dense). Although you may be able to cut calories by eating a 90-calorie granola bar rather than 200 calories worth of fruit, you will likely fill up on fruit (why not add a piece of cheese for a little fat and protein?) to keep you satisfied between meals.
-1 tbsp olive oil in your dinner meal rather than 2 tbsp olive oil or lemon juice instead of salad dressing. Although the olive oil is a healthy fat, you can drastically cut calories by reducing your intake of toppings, condiments and sauces.
-1 Hershey kiss after dinner rather than a piece of toast w/ PB, 10 minutes before bed. Sometimes it takes a little sweet treat to satisfy a craving. Plus, if you know where and when to swap foods (ex. reducing 1 tbsp olive oil from your dinner meal) you are allowing yourself much more freedom with your healthy choices in your weight loss journey.

Do you have any food swaps that have helped you lose weight? Was there a food that you were eating in high portions on a daily basis, but now you eat a different food (or a different version of that food) in order to feel satisfied? Are you now inspired to swap foods in your diet? If so, what is your swap?

My #1 piece of advice for this post..
If you are starting a weight loss journey (first time or for the 20th time) and want it to last, don't eliminate food...replace with a healthy food.
If you are consuming more calories than necessary in your daily diet, it is likely that you need to reduce your portions and snack sizes, in order to reduce total calories. However, if you feel that you are doing a lot of great things with your weight loss (or management) but you are still feeling hungry, without energy and/or deprived, focus on mixing and matching your foods so that you are including veggies, fruit, protein, complex carbs and healthy fats with your meals and snacks. Cutting back on calories doesn't ensure that you will be able to maintain your weight, even if at first, you were able to lose weight. You need to learn how to eat balanced and healthy meals and snacks to support your active and healthy lifestyle. Yes-this will take practice but since we all love to eat, why not spend the next few weeks finding what works for you and your workout routine.