We all know this time of year- a fresh beginning with untainted resolutions. If you are like most Americans, health is especially on your mind come the turn of the New Year and your resolutions are focused on your diets. This year, I challenge your to approach your diet makeover with a new mentality. Instead of fixating on what you are removing from your diet, focus on what you are adding in. A diet makeover is an opportunity to make nutritious, meaningful, and functional food and beverage changes that become well embedded into your diets by the end of the year.
When making diet changes, you are less likely to feel deprivation when you create a substitution rather than when you cut something out altogether. Try to focus on simple substitutes that you can make. Maybe this is replacing a cup of juice with tea, or foregoing your morning pastry for a bowl of high fiber cereal or oatmeal. If you put careful thought into these swaps so that they are functional alternatives, substitutions are quite effective. An example of this is replacing a bag of potato chips with carrot sticks and a dip at lunch. Both are crunchy, flavorful- but the latter is a much more nutritious choice.
Beverages are another area where substitutions are very effective. It is so easy to unknowingly drink hundreds of calories in juice, sodas, gourmet coffee drinks and sports drinks without thinking twice. Transitioning to sugar-free or diet versions of these drinks or trying calorie-free beverages (water, tea, or coffee) are such an easy way to cut hundreds of calories from your daily intake. If you know that you are bound to get bored of plain water, try adding flavor with lime and lemon wedges and a zero-calorie sweetener for essentially calorie-free lemonade.
Just as important as the foods we choose to eat are the behaviors that help us select these foods. If you do not know how to read a nutrition label, make this the year you learn. If you are an overeater, get out those measuring cups to see how supersized your portions really are- and begin to teach yourself what a real serving size looks like. Simple behavior modifications in the kitchen are crucial to maintaining your diet makeover and improving the food choices you make everyday. Take some time this January to establish what substitutions you will make this year. Have pride in your healthy substitutes, no matter how large or small, because with resolve and dedication, those substitutes will become your norm in no time.
- Adina Fradkin, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian with Greater Baltimore Medical Center.