Makeovers with Simple Swaps
When was the last time you said, "I could lose a few pounds" but then didn't do anything because you didn't know where to start? You're not alone. Millions of people ride the weight loss roller coaster every day. They perpetually jump on and off the wagon because they're too busy or too overwhelmed with scheduling, shopping, exercising and eating choices.
Whether you have 10 or 100 pounds to lose, it didn't appear overnight. Chances are you've been making some not-so-great choices over a period of time that added up to a little love handle here and there. The good news is that you don't have to change everything overnight. Integrating a few small changes, s-l-o-w-l-y, can be simple, while adding up to a big difference, in your weight and your health.
In this week's episode of The Biggest Loser, we talked about making over some of the contestant's favorite (unhealthy) dishes to a lighter, healthier version. It doesn't have to be hard or lacking in flavor. Swapping an unhealthy food, habit or lifestyle choice for a healthier option is easier than you think.
As nutritionist for The Biggest Loser for 12 seasons, I've learned a great deal about typical factors that play a key role in weight gain. These factors are what many of our contestants, as well as many Americans, have in common. They:
1. Prioritized other things - such as their families, friends and jobs - over their own health and wellbeing.
2. Had absolutely no idea how many calories their bodies really needed (or how many they consumed each day).
3. Frequently skipped breakfast and other meals.
4. Didn't eat enough fruits or vegetables.
5. Didn't eat enough lean protein.
6. Didn't eat enough whole grains.
7. Ate too much "white stuff," such as white flour, white pasta, white sugar, white rice and simple carbohydrates.
8. Didn't plan their meals in advance and often found themselves grabbing something on the go, which they ate standing up, in the car or at their desks.
9. Drank too many of their calories (some people consumed their daily calorie budgets in sugary drinks alone!) but didn't drink enough water or milk.
10. Didn't get enough exercise (if any).
If this list sounds familiar, you now have 10 great ways to start making small changes. The number one swap though, really needs to be number one on your list - changing your priorities.
1. Swap other people's needs for your own. This is one of the hardest changes for many Biggest Loser contestants to make and why their time at the ranch - away from colleagues, friends, relatives and others who place demands on their time - is so valuable. It's important to understand that putting your needs first is not selfish. Your health and happiness are more valuable than any PTA meeting or dinner party. Allow yourself to focus on you.
2. Low vegetable and fruit intake is probably the second most common problem I see. Kicking up your fruit and vegetable intake can be easy, and it has loads of priceless benefits. At the ranch, we aim for four cups (total) of fruits and vegetables per day, mostly vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables supply most of your daily nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals and fiber, though they contain relatively low numbers of calories. In other words, you get the most nutritional bang for your calorie buck from fruits and vegetables. The exception to this would be the starchier vegetables, such as pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes and yams. These veggies are higher in calories and carbs, so you want to limit your intake to a few servings a week.
Fresh produce should be your first choice, but if it isn't available or is too expensive, opt for frozen or canned versions of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Just make sure there's no added salt or sugar.
When it comes to dried fruit, though, be careful. When fruit is dried, it is dehydrated, meaning that all the water has been removed. So the calories in dried fruit are more concentrated. Dried fruits aren't as filling as raw fruits per serving size, but they are still a great option for portable, nonperishable snacks. When fresh fruit isn't available, dried fruits are great to sprinkle on yogurt or oatmeal or add to trail mix.
Here are some easy tips to help you meet your daily fruit and veggie requirement:
Swap white pasta for spaghetti squash.
- Eat a vegetable salad most days of the week.
- Keep a container of sliced or chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, jicama or red or green bell peppers, in your refrigerator for easy snacking.
- Choose whole fruits rather than fruit juice. Most fruit juice contains no fiber and therefore does little to help you control your appetite or make you feel full.
- Try a new fruit or vegetable every week to build some variety into your diet. Choose fruits and vegetables from the six color groups: red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green and purple. This is a great way to make sure you're getting a variety of nutrients in your diet.
- Try to eat at least one raw fruit and one raw vegetable each day.
- Mix up a fruit smoothie containing fresh or frozen fruit as a pre-workout snack.
Spaghetti squash has been a favorite on The Biggest Loser ranch, where contestants love to serve it with pasta sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Not only does a cup of cooked spaghetti squash have a mere 40 calories, plus 2 grams of fiber and loads of vitamins, but it's also satisfying and flavorful.
Swap potato chips for jicama chips.
Also known as the Mexican potato, jicama is a sweet edible root that makes a delicious impostor for your favorite dip. One cup of raw jicama slices contains 45 calories, 6 grams of fiber and nearly 40% of your daily vitamin C!
Swap pizza crust for mushroom caps.
Make a mini-pizza that satisfies your craving while cutting carbs and slashing calories. An average portobello mushroom has only 27 calories. Mushrooms have meaty texture and rich flavor, and they're loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. Top a grilled portobello cap with marinara sauce and low-fat cheese, and you have a no-guilt pizza treat.
Swap lasagna noodles for veggies.
Try making a healthier, lower-carb lasagna by replacing the pasta in your favorite lasagna recipe with thin slices of grilled or broiled zucchini or eggplant. Better yet, try the Veggie Lasagna recipe below from "The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps: 100 Easy Changes to Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle" by Cheryl Forberg, RD and Melissa Roberson (Rodale).
For more nutrition and cooking tips, visit Cheryl's website FlavorFirst.com
, and follow her on Twitter
(makes 8 servings)
You'll never miss the pasta in this scrumptious, cheesy Italian favorite. Wrap and freeze any extra servings individually to thaw and warm for lunch in a hurry. Eggplant can be substituted for the zucchini.
2 large zucchini (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 links (about 4 ounces each) lean turkey Italian sausage
1 red bell pepper or roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup low-fat marinara sauce
2 egg whites
1 (15-ounce) container fat-free ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Lightly coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with olive oil cooking spray. Set aside.
Lightly spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Spray them lightly with olive oil cooking spray. Broil (or grill) the zucchini for about 8 minutes, or until tender and very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
To prepare the meat sauce, cook the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to break up any clumps. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic, and cook for about 4 minutes longer, until the meat is no longer pink. The juices should be cooked dry. Stir in the marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will be very thick.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, ricotta, Italian seasoning and black pepper until well combined.
To assemble the lasagna, spread half of the meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Layer on half of the zucchini slices, followed by half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat with the remaining meat sauce, zucchini slices, ricotta mixture and mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutritional information (per serving)
Protein: 18 grams
Carbohydrates: 17 grams
Fat: 7 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Cholesterol: 45 milligrams
Fiber: 3 grams
Sodium: 340 milligrams