Super Substitutes!

Let’s face it: the phrase ‘healthy food’ doesn’t conjure up the most tempting images. But the fact is that eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of tasty food; just a few simple replacements in your daily diet can make a significant impact on your overall health and lower your daily calorie count. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to get used to these substitutes, especially since they can be quite delicious.

Packaged foods make quick eats and save so much time. Most of us start our day by pouring a glass of juice from a carton and a bowl of cereal from a box. The label might scream ‘healthy’, but often they added preservatives for a longer shelf life. Instead, squeeze some juice fresh, whip up some eggs and pick up a few slices of whole wheat or multigrain bread. It might take a few minutes longer than breakfast from a pack, but it is much healthier and will keep you full for longer.

Egg yolk is a source of cholesterol; so substitute egg whites for whole eggs. If you prefer to start your day with a bowl of cereal, opt for something without sugar, and definitely not chocolate-coated! Cut down more on those unwanted calories and fat by dropping the whole milk in favour of skimmed milk. You don’t have to go without your cuppa in the morning, but go green (tea) instead of the regular one with milk and sugar. That one cup is loaded with health benefits, and is less likely to make you wince when you step on the weighing scale.

Now on to the rest of the day. For your midday meal, consider a salad, and make your own dressing instead of shaking one from a bottle. Olive oil, lemon juice and herbs can be absolutely delicious. For your protein, choose lean white meats such as chicken or fish. White meats have less fat and cholesterol than lamb, beef and pork (red meats). Fish provides essential fatty acids which are not only heart-friendly but also good brain food – Bertie Wooster used to attribute Jeeves’s remarkable intelligence to eating lots of fish!

Reach for breads made from whole-wheat or multi-grain flour instead of maida or refined flour. Flour made from whole-wheat packs in proteins, vitamins and fibre. So whether you are opting for a sandwich or roti, keep that in mind.  If rice is what you prefer, then try some red rice instead of white. It’s packed with far more nutritional benefits, and is a healthier alternative. The refining process of the whiter rice strips it of all the fibre. It might not be what you’re used to, but all you need is a little bit of time and you won’t even miss sticky white rice.  

Cut down on your salt intake and supplement your meals with herbs and spices instead. Overdoing the salt can lead to blood pressure woes. If you are adventurous in the kitchen, you can spruce up your meal with garlic, a pinch of oregano, freshly ground pepper, cayenne... the list is endless. Spice up your meal and go easy on the salt. Not only will your meal smell and taste better, but it’s a healthier way to go.  

Snack time is often when your willpower is challenged the most, with lots of calorie-rich food choices. But there are some healthier alternatives for the nibble-time too. A bag of chips isn’t the healthiest snack available, but if you want to indulge yourself once in a while, keep the quantity small and cut out the fatty dips. Skip the creamy dips and go for some salsa instead. After all, tomatoes, cilantro and onions make a healthier and tastier option. And a good alternative to a tiny bag of chips loaded with calories is a bowl of popcorn! A small bowl of air-popped popcorn has about 30 calories – far less than a bowl of tortilla or potato chips.  

If you’re craving something sweet, you don’t have to wallow in misery and deprive yourself. Instead of a tempting dessert full of calories, try a piece or two of dark chocolate. It has plenty of antioxidants which fight the free radicals associated with heart diseases, so it makes a healthier alternative. Just don’t polish off the whole bar in one go!  

Getting rid of some unhealthy food habits is a big step, but one that you can take slowly. Once you make up your mind to do it, it’s surprisingly easy to get used to these healthier options. With a few simple substitutions, you’ll be well on your way to healthier, satisfying eating!     

- Pallavi