HEALTH: Making the Right Choices

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Over time, we tend to create habits and patterns in our eating.   And like any other habits or behaviors, they can be very difficult to break.  One of the most common and frequently used techniques for improving nutrition and aiding weight loss is to substitute on a food-by-food basis.   This simply means that you take a particular food which you eat on a regular basis that may be calorie-dense and/or unhealthy, and find a healthier and leaner alternative.  For instance, if you like alcoholic beverages, try a glass of dry red wine, which has much less carbohydrates than mixed drinks.  If you love that crunch in your soup or salad and have been using croutons, you can swap out this high-calorie, high fat, fried food for  walnuts or almonds, which are full of mono-unsaturated fats and  can help bring down your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol.   For your main course, instead of beef dishes, choose lean chicken or turkey breast, grilled.  And if you still using high-fat dressings on a perfectly healthy vegetable salad,  try changing to lemon juice with just a bit of olive oil instead.

And how about those snacks?  Some of the snacks that we tend to think of as being healthy just might have a better alternative.  Let’s look at some common snacks and see what we can be doing better. 

Snack Bars
Snack Bars are also know as breakfast bars, granola bars, low-carb bars etc. Frequently made from refined flours, most brands are also riddled with fat (hydrogenated oils) and sugar (in its many forms). For a real energy boost, look for snack bars made from complex carbohydrates such as oats, and minimal or no fat and sugar.

Bagels
Refined white carbs are not OK, despite what you might have been told about their fat-free properties. One bagel is roughly equal to six slices of white bread. Go for whole grain products and consume only half of what you’re used to. Save the other half for tomorrow.

Muffins
Surely a muffin is innocent, right? Only if you want to consume 600 to 900 calories every time you eat one! Margarine – lots of it – is what makes muffins moist. Reap the benefits of healthy fats by eating an avocado or a handful of walnuts, both of which are rich in omega-3 oils.

Rice Cakes
Yes, they’re low in calories. That’s because they’re puffed rice – no vitamins or minerals, mostly air! Try some whole grain crackers instead (make sure they don’t contain trans fats!) where for the same calories, you get some good nutrition.

Popcorn
It is almost always doused in unhealthy, hydrogenated oils.  Try some protein-packed seeds and nuts or at least use the hot-air variety.

Fruit
Of course, fruit is good for you, but watch out for the calories.  Have three or four servings a day – tops,  and try to include some berries as well – they are very high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. 

Learning to make the right choices is definitely a challenge.   But these small changes can make a big difference in both your nutrition and your weight loss.  Start with one or two substitutions and build from there.  Making healthier food choices can “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.” 

Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a LIFESTYLE FITNESS COACH with over 12 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M.Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at [email protected]

(YWN Desk – NYC)