In today's world, junk food is everywhere. Doughy, gooey sweet breads and desserts, hot salty fries, juicy burgers, they're everywhere. One reason we always seem to be pouring, slathering, and dipping our foods with tasty extras is because our taste buds have become accustomed to the intense flavors of highly processed foods, from salty to sweet, spicy to creamy.
Most dips and condiments available at the grocery store are loaded with sodium, fat and refined sugars. And the more fake food we eat, the more our taste buds crave outrageous, manufactured flavors that can overwhelm the more subtle, natural flavors of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins.
Many of the BL contestants (as well as my private clients) are reluctant to part with their highly processed favorites because they don't think their cravings can be satisfied with "healthy food." But it's a misconception that simple, nutritious foods can't be absolutely bursting with flavor. Here are a few tips to help you CUT THE JUNK!
1. Find Swaps That You Really Love
Swap popped corn instead of chips. Even baked tortilla chips have 110 calories in a one-ounce bag, which is less than two cups. An ounce of air-popped corn has the same calories, except that it's four full cups (and five grams of fiber), so it'll be much more filling.
2. Start Slow
Chances are that you have been making bad choices for a while. Don't try to change years of bad habits overnight. Try one new swap a week and build up.
3. Simple Condiment Swaps
Salad dressings, ranch dip, and ketchup and mayo can quickly add up to hundreds of excess calories per day. Experiment with different mustards, salsa, low-sugar ketchup, and barbecue sauces and flavorful balsamic vinegars to find your own new favorites. You'll be amazed at the calorie and fat savings.
4. Remove Temptation and Plan Healthy Snacks
Being prepared when hunger strikes is half the battle. Clear the fridge and pantry of those unhealthy foods and snacks with a little nutritional value. Just because the package says "100 calories" doesn't mean it's a good choice. Many calorie-counted snack packs on the market are simply smaller servings of junk food. Prepare healthy snacks, such as vegetables and hummus, ahead of time. Keep a few nonperishable snacks in your purse or car for those times when you're running late or stuck in traffic.
5. Get a Face Lift - For Your Kitchen
The contents of your fridge and cupboards mirror your health. If your shelves are loaded with sugar and white stuff - chips, crackers, microwave popcorn packets (with oil and "flavorings") - and your freezer is filled with ice cream treats, it's time to take out the garbage. Remember, the prize for eating white stuff, processed foods and soft drinks is a ticket on the Wrinkle Express. Toss the junk and make room for your new best friends. The prize for eating "positively ageless" foods is a slow ride to healthy longevity.
6. Load Up on Antioxidants
When you shop with a health-minded list in hand, you can more easily restock your arsenal with wholesome foods and ingredients, and you'll be less likely to buy the junk you used to eat. What you put in that shopping cart now predicts your health and longevity later. Once you know where to find all you need in the supermarket and local health food stores, you'll be set. You won't have to go scouting again.
7. Skip the Junk Food En Route
Just because you're on vacation or a business trip doesn't make a chain restaurant's extra-large muffins or greasy burgers any better for you. Instead, pack snacks for the flight or the road - a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, a piece of fruit - and save your splurges for the unique fare you'll encounter at your destination. If you're on a road trip, make room in the trunk for a cooler, fill it with double-bagged ice to prevent soaking the food, and then layer in fruits and veggies and sandwich fixings.
Chef Cheryl R.D. is a James Beard award-winning chef and the nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser. For more information and recipes, you can always find nutrition and cooking tips at her website or on Twitter or Facebook.