10 Easy Food Substitutions for a Healthier Lifestyle

2 Jan 2019 Blog

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel:

Today’s entry is about a healthy eating lifestyle—as opposed to a diet—that works for me and I promise will help you improve your body shape and shed excess pounds. I want to emphasize that this is not a fad diet, but a style of eating that can be easily incorporated to replace the typical calorie-rich, nutrient-poor Western diet that is overloaded with highly processed and refined foods, junk and fast foods, contributing to avoidable chronic health problems. As opposed to many weight loss programs that are gimmicky, unbalanced, unhealthy, and unsustainable, this approach is a no-nonsense, intelligent one—clean, lean, with plenty of green—that will stave off your hunger and hold caloric intake in balance with expenditure, making it effective and durable.

Bialy Diet

First I will introduce the bialy diet. It is sensible and nutritious eating, substituting less caloric and healthier foods for more caloric and unhealthier alternatives. For example, eating bialys instead of bagels. A bialy diet does not imply eating a bialy at every meal, but is simply code for substituting healthier choices for unhealthier ones!

A Few Words on Bialys

bialy | bēˈälē | noun (plural bialys) US a flat bread roll topped with chopped onions

Who doesn’t love a fresh, warm NY bagel with a smear of cream cheese? Sadly, the answer is our bodies and our health. The 360-calorie bagel with two tablespoons of cream cheese (100 calories) is 460 calories of mostly refined carbs and fat. A great alternative is a bialy (“bialystoker kuchen” from Poland where it originated), a delicious flat bread roll that contains no hole, is not over-stuffed and bulging like an overinflated tire and has a depressed middle that is flavored with cooked onions and poppy seeds. The 180-calorie toasted bialy with a teaspoon of light butter with canola oil (20 calories) is only 200 calories and smells and tastes delicious. It is crisp and chewy at the same time, totally satisfying and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated. This with a mug of strong black coffee and half a grapefruit with a few strawberries or blueberries thrown on top is my typical breakfast. Sometimes on the weekends I will have an egg white omelet on a bialy with a slices of NJ tomato and avocado, a heavenly treat.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean style eating emphasizes less meat and more fish, an abundance of vegetables and fruits (rich in biologically active compounds including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber), whole (unrefined) grains, legumes and healthy vegetable fats from olives, avocados, nuts and seeds. Herbs and spices are used to flavor food, rather than salt. Dairy products are eaten in moderation.

80/20 Strategy

Another element of a healthy eating lifestyle is the 80/20 strategy. This means that 80% of the time you adhere to a healthy eating style, but 20% of the time you give yourself a break, jump off the wagon and indulge in limited amounts of whatever temptation indulgence you would like. This avoids deprivation and, in my opinion, is “an inoculation to prevent the disease.” On the limited list are sweets including cookies, cakes, donuts, candy and liquid carbohydrates such as sugary drinks including soda, ice tea, lemonade, sports drinks and fruit juices. The only liquid carbohydrate I consume is alcohol in moderation, wine being a component of the Mediterranean style eating.

Here are 10 easy substitutions that incorporate the above mentioned healthy-eating lifestyles:

  1. Bialys instead of bagels
  2. Seafood and lean poultry instead of red meat (if you do eat red meat, consume only the leanest cuts and opt for grass-fed instead of corn-fed)
  3. Vegetable protein (legumes such as peas, soybeans and lentils) instead of animal protein
  4. Olive oil instead of butter
  5. Real fruit instead of dried fruit or fruit juice
  6. Whole grains (wheat, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, barley) instead of refined grain products
  7. Flavored seltzers or sparkling water instead of soda
  8. Plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
  9. Soy, rice, almond or other nut-based milks instead of dairy
  10. Low-fat or non-fat dairy products instead of whole milk products

Other Nuggets of Advice:

  • The pathway to a healthy weight is slow and steady, demanding patience and time
  • Eat slowly, deliberately and mindfully
  • Get enough good quality sleep to help keep the pounds off
  • Avoid late night meals and excessive snacking
  • Stay well hydrated as it is easy to confuse hunger with thirst
  • Do not skip meals
  • Keep healthy foods accessible
  • Avoid foods that contain unfamiliar, unpronounceable, or numerous ingredients
  • Organic does not imply healthy or low-calorie
  • Let the last thing you eat before sleep be healthy, natural and wholesome (e.g., a piece of fruit)—you will feel good about yourself when you get into bed and even better in the morning

A lifestyle of healthy eating can improve your overall wellness, both physical and mental. Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

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