Without a doubt, one of the most difficult parts of making positive lifestyle changes is backing away from unhealthy foods—and our favorite things always seem to be on that list, don’t they? All too often, our quest for better health results in bland, joyless meals. Sooner or later, our desperate taste buds give in to temptation—and our eating habits end up right back where they started.
So what, if anything, can be done to break this cycle?
The key to successfully changing your long-term eating habits is to make them sustainable—and that means finding options you like and can stick with. As you navigate this process, you’ll find that healthy substitutions can be a game changer.
I understand if the previous statement elicited an eye-roll. For years, we Americans have been conditioned to believe that the healthier option is the less-tasty option; and when it comes to processed foods and drinks, that’s often true! But when you focus on natural options, it is possible to substitute great-tasting good-for-you food for great-tasting bad-for-you food.
At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I want to tell you a little about myself and my experience with fitness and nutrition. I am a championship bodybuilder and have been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, I enjoy perfect health without any prescription medications. Here are five substitutions I know you’ll love.
Substitute Cauliflower for Potatoes
Substituting cauliflower for potatoes is a healthy alternative that’s gaining more and more popularity—and for good reason. When prepared correctly, cauliflower mimics the texture and taste of mashed potatoes, with fewer calories and carbs. Here is my favorite cauliflower-instead-of-spuds recipe.
Warren’s Twice-"Baked" Cauliflower
Directions: Put 24 to 32 ounces of frozen cauliflower in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until tender. Pour off the water and, either in the pan or a mixing bowl, beat the cauliflower with a mixer until smooth and creamy—as in the consistency of creamed potatoes.
Dip the creamed cauliflower into individual bowls. Top with fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheese, Butter Buds, and/or Molly McButter. Reheat each serving in the microwave for 2 minutes until piping hot. Add chives, bacon bits, salt, and pepper as desired, and serve.
“When prepared correctly, cauliflower mimics the texture and taste of mashed potatoes, with fewer calories and carbs.”
Substitute Spaghetti Squash for Spaghetti Noodles
Spaghetti squash isn’t nearly as carb-heavy as noodles, and it contains nutrients like vitamins A, B-6, and C, as well as omega-3 essential fatty acids. When baked or microwaved, it can be shredded into spaghetti-like strands with a fork.
Spaghetti squash has a mild flavor and tastes great with just about any pasta sauce, including tomato- and cream-based sauces. However, I think it’s delicious simply tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps a little Parmesan cheese.
Substitute Sweet Potatoes for White Potatoes
No doubt you’ve already encountered this popular substitution, but a reminder never hurts! Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A. They also contain more vitamin C and fiber than white potatoes—and fewer carbs and calories. That said, it’s still healthiest to eat sweet potatoes baked, and save sweet potato fries for occasions when you want to treat yourself.
Substitute High Protein, High Fiber for Highly Sugared Cereal
Cereal is such a popular staple that many of us eat it for breakfast every day (and sometimes for lunch and dinner, too!). Unfortunately, even when we think we’re making healthy choices, that isn’t always the case. Although many popular cereals are labeled "healthy," "natural," "reduced sugar," etc., they are loaded with sugar and contain little to no protein. I recommend getting away from the empty calories—my favorite is Nutritious Living Hi-Lo Cereal.
Nutritious Living Hi-Lo Cereal contains 12 grams of protein per serving and only 1 gram of sugar. I challenge you to compare that to your favorite cereal. You may even find that the numbers are nearly reversed! Get in the habit of reading labels instead of taking products’ claims at face value—not just for cereal, but for everything you buy. This can have a huge impact on weight control.
“Get in the habit of reading labels instead of taking products’ claims at face value—not just for cereal, but for everything you buy.”
Substitute High Protein Shake for Fast Food Shake
I’m not naming any names, but a medium strawberry cheesecake option from a popular chain contains 920 total calories, 25 grams of fat, 100 grams of carbohydrates, 82 grams of total sugars, and only 15 grams of protein.
Compare that to 235 total calories, 6 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs, 2 grams of total sugars, and 25 grams of protein when you prepare your own protein shake. Here’s how to make this much healthier substitute.
Warren’s High Protein Shake
Directions: Blend the following ingredients to desired consistency and enjoy!
* 8 oz. almond milk
* 1 scoop Optimum Nutrition casein protein powder
* 5 large fresh strawberries
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
* Stevia (sweeten to taste)
* 1.5 cups of ice
When you give these substitutions a try, you might just be surprised by how much you don’t miss your old favorites. And don’t discount the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re making choices to boost your health and possibly extend your life.
Warren Honeycutt is the author of "Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss." An expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications and a physique that is the envy of most 25-year-olds. Along with his partner, Soraya Bittencourt, Honeycutt is the cofounder of Get Honeycutt, Inc. This company supports Get Lean, a comprehensive weight loss and fitness program featuring personalized fitness routines, menus designed by registered dietitians, instructional videos, and motivational support. To learn more, please visit www.getlean.guru.