30 Days to Better Health: Part II

8. Switch out a glass of fruit juice for a piece of fruit. Even if your fruit juice of choice is made of 100% fruit juice and doesn’t contain added sweeteners, whole fruit is still a better choice. Compare an apple and apple juice: one apple has 77 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of sugar; one cup of apple juice has 114 calories, 0 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar. The juice has been stripped of all its hunger-quashing fiber found in the pith, skin, and flesh, and it’s also packed with more sugar. And in terms of the apple, the peel contains the bulk of antioxidants, like muscle-building ursolic acid, that you would otherwise miss out on.

9. Instead of bottled salad dressings, try salsa and a splash of olive oil. Bottled salad dressings often contain preservatives, unnecessary sugars, and chemical additives. In a condiment that should really contain two or three real, whole-food ingredients, additives like calcium disodium EDTA (currently being investigated for mutagenic and reproductive effects), sodium benzoate (linked to hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children), and MSG (a possible cause of chronic headaches) are all too common. Bottled dressings span a huge caloric range; some are ridiculously hypercaloric, while other fat-free varieties have five calories per serving. These low-calorie and low-fat varieties aren’t necessarily a healthier choice though. Fat-soluble vitamins in many greens and vegetables require fats to be absorbed by the body; by eating them without fats, their nutritional value drops significantly. For a healthy and flavorful dressing, add a couple dollops of salsa, along with a couple drops of olive oil, to your salad. Not only will you add another serving of vegetables to your meal, you’ll avoid dangerous and sugary fillers.

10. Order an appetizer instead of an entree. Dining out can be dangerous because of the huge serving sizes restaurants are churning out. Many chefs admit to making entrees that are two to four times as big as a normal portion; a 2002 study found that restaurant steaks are 144% bigger than the USDA’s recommended serving size and a muffin is an astonishing 233% bigger. Since appetizers are smaller than entrees, they’re generally safer picks simply because they have less calories. They’re also a good choice because they’re often not weighed down by hefty sides like mashed potatoes, fries, or macaroni and cheese. Beware appetizers like fried mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and nachos; these greasy, fried meals have little nutritional value and often, lots of saturated and trans fats. Stick to fresh protein-based apps like shrimp cocktail and chicken kebabs, and get your vegetable fix with a side salad or soup. Bonus: research has shown that broth-based soups help diners to consume fewer calories later in the meal.

11. Eat like a kid. Because of their smaller size, kids naturally eat fewer calories than adults. So what’s usually a small meal for them can actually be a healthy snack for you: since their meals are based off of whole, nutritious foods, you can avoid typical snacks that offer only refined carbohydrates and sugar, like chips, cookies, and snack bars. The common elementary school lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be transformed into a satisfying and energizing midday snack; make it healthier by using whole grain bread and bananas instead of jelly. Some other snacks ideas to borrow: cheese cubes, celery sticks and almond butter, and turkey-and-lettuce roll-ups. Take another cue from the kids: eat only when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full!

12. Ask for the sauce on the side. If the sauce is cream, oil, cheese, or otherwise fat-based, ask for it on the side. This trick will work with pretty much any dish except pasta (pasta dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo depend on their sauce for flavor and texture, and asking for sauce on the side is essentially like asking for a clump of sticky noodles). But for other dishes – salads, chicken, steak, fish, burgers, tacos – the lack of a sauce or dressing doesn’t compromise the meal. For items like burgers and tacos, where the fatty sauce (mayonnaise, aioli, or crema) is usually spread on the bun or tortilla before it’s assembled, simply forgo it and use ketchup, mustard, salsa, and guacamole for flavoring. If it’s absolutely necessary, spread on a thin layer yourself. For salads, chicken, steak, and fish dishes, asking for sauce or dressing on the side allows you to control exactly how much of it you use. Salads are often too overdressed and oily anyway; chicken and steak are flavorful enough without a fatty sauce; and fish is too delicate in taste to be slathered in sauce to the point of unrecognizability.

13. Pick eggs over a bagel. Americans grow up eating cereal for breakfast; come adulthood, we usually switch to grab-and-go options like bagels, pastries, or bars that are equally carb-ridden. And that’s if we even eat breakfast at all! A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared men who ate a breakfast of two eggs and men who ate equally-caloric breakfast of a bagel. Researchers observed that the egg-eaters consumed 112 fewer calories at a lunch buffet three hours after breakfast and 400 fewer calories in the 24 hours following breakfast. Moreover, men who ate the bagel breakfast showed significantly elevated levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. If you’re not a fan of eggs, try eating your cereal with Greek protein, which has double the protein of plain varieties, or make a breakfast sandwich with smoked salmon and cream cheese or lean meat and cheese. Nuts and seeds also add a significant protein source.

14. Use a food scale to see how much you’re really eating. Because of our fast food culture of supersizing, many Americans don’t know what an actual portion should look like. Even the food depictions in the painting Last Supper suffer from portion distortion: a researcher found that renditions of the painting showed 23% bigger bread loaves and 65% larger plates. To get reacquainted with correct portion sizes, measure out all the food you eat for a day. This will give you an idea of what you’re currently eating as well as show you what portions you should be eating. As a simple guide, meat and fish portions should be about the size of the palm of your hand; one serving of cheese is the size of three dominoes; a serving of vegetables is the size of a baseball; a piece of bread or bagel should resemble the size of a hockey puck; and cooked rice or pasta should be the size of a scoop of ice cream. By editing your current conceptions of portion sizes, you’ll get a better understanding of which foods you should be eating more of – and which foods you should be eating less of.

Keep reading for week three!


One response to “30 Days to Better Health: Part II

  1. Good stuff!

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