The world of food is confusing. There are conflicting messages everywhere when it comes to what and how much you should eat. I read research and listen to experts talk on podcasts every day and there are still times where I come across contradictory information within a 24-hour period!
So what do I do? I just try to stick with real food whenever possible. To me, this means something that is unprocessed. If it’s been in a factory for any reason or comes in a box or package with a label, I try not to eat it.
I wanted to take this opportunity to list a few common foods that people eat and show you what I swap out in their place. You have probably heard of some of these or even tried them yourself. Hopefully there will be a few that you haven’t. I encourage you to give them a try and if you like it, share it with friends and family.
Pasta -> Spaghetti Squash
Due to the squash’s low calorie content, substituting spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti pasta dramatically reduces the calorie content of your meal. It’s easy to fix and looks just like angel hair pasta. Just bake the squash in the oven for 45 minutes at 400F. Take it out, cut it in half and then gently scoop the seeds out with a fork. Once they are out, take the fork and just start scraping along the walls of the inside of the squash. You will get stringy goodness. We like to eat ours with meatballs and spaghetti sauce. This squash contains vitamin A, several B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, E and K. In addition, spaghetti squash provides a source of the essential minerals calcium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
Gatorade/ Powerade -> Coconut Water
I tried this swap while training for Ironman Louisville in 2015 and found it to be an even better option. I’ve even heard coconut water called “nature’s Gatorade”. It is a natural isotonic drink that provides many of the same benefits as formulated sports drinks, including the electrolytes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium, but in their natural form. As a bonus, you don't ingest all of this artificial junk:
Sugar -> Cinnamon
I won’t waste your time going into the harmful effects of sugar, but if you still like to have it in your coffee or tea, or even on certain foods, try substituting cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is the “true” cinnamon and the one you want to look for when shopping. Cinnamon contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants. In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking “superfoods” like garlic and oregano. It contains anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to lower the risk of illness and disease. Cinnamon has been shown to significantly increase sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Cinnamon has been shown to both reduce fasting blood sugar levels, having a potent anti-diabetic effect at 1 to 6 grams per day (or roughly about 1/4 teaspoon to 1 and 1/4 teaspoons).
Rice -> Cauliflower Rice
This cruciferous veggie has been linked to cancer prevention due to its nutrient support to three body systems closely related to cancer – detox system; antioxidant system; and inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Imbalances in any of these systems can increase the risk for cancer, but this awesome veggie supports them all! To make cauliflower rice, start with a box grater that has medium-sized holes (or a food processor with the grater attachment). Grate the cauliflower into the size of rice. Take the grated cauliflower and sauté it in a large skillet over medium heat in 1 Tbsp of oil. Cover with a lid so the cauliflower steams and becomes more tender. Cook for a total of 5-8 minutes, then season as desired (such as with soy sauce or salt and pepper).
Milk Chocolate -> Dark Chocolate
Milk chocolate is just sugar milk. Dark chocolate (anything over 70% cacao), on the other hand, is actually good for you! The really good dark chocolate contains fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and other minerals. It’s full of antioxidants, which protect you from free radicals. It’s definitely a different taste than milk chocolate, but do yourself a favor and try the dark stuff next time you have a craving.
Milk Shake -> Smoothie
I used to like milkshakes. If I was to slurp one down now, I would likely experience sever stomach issues within 30 minutes. So what I do now is make a smoothie. But I have a tip for getting it to the consistency and texture of a milkshake – add an avocado! Here’s my recipe. Start with plain coconut or almond milk. Add in either a half or whole avocado. Add in your favorite flavor (banana, strawberry, some chocolate or vanilla protein powder, a few drops of orange, mint or lemon essential oils, etc.) and voila! I usually mix it up and then add in some more coconut or almond milk a little at a time to get the consistency right. You can add in some ice cubes as well if you like it cold.
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,