After my second daughter was born, I vowed to eat better. I’d made my way through the previous nine months eating large quantities of high-fat meat – a weird craving for me, since I’m not a big meat eater – and uncomfortably felt the extra bulk in my maternity pants I wore for six months after giving birth.
It took me a while, but I changed my eating habits drastically when I couldn’t shake the weight off my butt no matter how much I exercised. And it wasn’t just weight loss I was after – I wanted to feel better. Less sluggish, less fuzzy-headed.
So, I made big modifications. I cut out sugar, dairy, white flour and all processed foods. These major restrictions aren’t for everyone, yet I grew to not think about them as punishments, but rather a modified way of eating that I stick to even now, six years later.
All it took – I use that phrase too lightly – was food substitutions that made big differences in my energy level and yes, weight loss too.
Here are some of my most major and effective food substitutions:
Whole wheat pasta instead of white.
Yes, it tastes different, but I love the nuttier, more substantial flavor, especially when covered with an all-natural marinara and roasted garlic. I could never shake the idea that white pasta was full of nothing good other than enriched vitamins that were added by a machine and not nature. Whole wheat boasts way more nutritional benefits, and is full of vitamins E and B, plus protein and fiber, which makes me feel fuller faster -and longer. Not to mention, whole grains are shown to reduce the risk of scary conditions like type II diabetesand heart disease.
If you’re allergic to gluten and can’t quite give up the pasta, there are some not horrible varieties of quinoa pasta and brown rice pasta that are worth experimenting with.
Quinoa instead of white rice.
Can you tell I like my carbs or what? Quinoa is a high-fiber, lower-calorie, higher-protein substitute for white rice. I’m not going to lie to you and say it tastes like white rice, because it doesn’t, but quinoa can be the base to a lot of fantastic side dishes (cook in veggie broth, add roasted garlic and tomatoes on top and a bit of olive oil and rosemary for a kick). Quinoa can also be prepared in my rice cooker, so I always have some handy. On days when I need an extra between-meal snack, I put some garbanzo beans and onions on top and sprinkle with balsamic.
Quinoa’s high protein content and stellar amino acid line-up are just more reasons to make the switch from white rice.
Almond milk instead of skim milk.
Compared to skim milk, almond milk has only 7 grams of sugars to the 12 grams in the dairy option. If you’re watching your sugar intake, this is key. I also found that one cup of almond milk has less calories, less carbs, and more fiber than skim milk.
The main reason I chose to drink almond milk was because I’d given up dairy, and although soy is a dairy substitute, I was wary of its high phytoestrogen levels and didn’t want to add more hormones into my already hormone-addled body. Plus, almond milk is vegan and gluten-free.
I use unsweetened almond milk for cereal, protein shakes, and smoothies. I even add it to coffee (I warm it first, then foam it up with a coffee aerator and add the coffee on top so the milk doesn’t clump).
Oatmeal instead of cereal.
I was addicted to cereal. I’d let myself believe that because I ate the “high-protein” or “whole grain” versions that it was healthier, but I never felt full or energetic after my daily bowl. Truth is, many cereals are processed and have man-made vitamins and minerals added.
After some research, I chose oatmeal, which is a whole and unprocessed food that is 100% natural. Not to mention, oatmeal reduces high cholesterol, which runs in my family.
I eat oatmeal in a variety of ways, including cooked in almond milk with blueberries and almonds or flax seed on top, or as a bircher muesli, which is oats soaked overnight with a bunch of delicious ingredients. I use almond yogurt instead of regular.
Frozen banana, almond butter (or natural peanut butter) and unsweetened cocoa instead of ice cream.
This one will blow your mind because I promise it tastes like ice cream. Put a slightly thawed frozen banana in an immersion or regular blender, add a scoop of whatever nut butter you choose, and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa and whip that stuff up into a creamy blend. I like mine extra almond buttery, but experiment with ingredient quantities and come up with your own concoction.
I made many more substitutions – mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, roasted garbanzo beans rather than corn nuts (my once favorite), and coconut oil instead of cooking spray, but the above were my most major modifications.
Have you changed the way you eat lately? What works for you?
Debbie Anderson is a 44-year-old freelance writer and editor who blogs at her slice-of-life site, www.sandiegomomma.com.