It’s that time of year. You know the one—the time of year when the holiday parties have come to an end, you’re headed back to the daily grind and somehow, you have to muster the courage to take down your Christmas tree. The ball has dropped and you swear this year is the year you’ll follow through on those resolutions. You’re also likely feeling the aftermath of back-to-back holidays, office potlucks, cookie exchanges and one too many glasses of (insert alcohol of choice here).
Have you already sworn off dessert for the next month or decided to hop on the Dry January bandwagon? Whether your goal is to eat better, lose the holiday weight gain or to finally start using your gym membership, starting with a a few small changes can be less overwhelming than re-inventing a brand-new, fit-and-healthy you.
If kale and carrots aren’t your jam, or you can’t bear the thought of subjecting yourself to miles on the treadmill, start with these small-but-significant substitutions for some of your regular cooking ingredients.
Swap In Raisins for Chocolate Chips
Raisins, though small, are mighty when it comes to nutrients as they are filled with fiber, vitamins and energy. However, they are still high in sugar and should still be used in moderation. If you can’t say no to chocolate chips, use dark chocolate!
Swap In Sweet Potatoes for White Potatoes
It’s no secret that sweet potatoes are the superfood that everyone’s buzzing about these days. But there’s also widespread debate that regular potatoes are just as healthy as sweet potatoes. Both are loaded with fiber and protein, but sweet potatoes are less calories. Also, because we tend to load our white potatoes with butter, salt, sour cream, cheese and bacon, sweet potatoes can be a healthier alternative since they offer more flavor.
Swap In Whole-Grain Bread for White Bread
Whole-grain bread is less refined than white bread. The refining process takes some of the essential nutrients out of white bread, making whole-grain the better choice.
Use Brown Rice Over White Rice
Similar to the whole-grain bread vs. white bread, brown rice is a whole grain, containing the nutritious parts of the grain. Alternatively, white rice has gone through a refining process that removes the bran and germ, the most nutritious parts of the grain.
Eat Field Greens Instead of Iceberg
Iceberg lettuce offers little to no nutritional value. And if you’re going to eat a salad, would you even bother if it wasn’t doing you much good? Field greens offer a variety of lettuce types and the rule of thumb is, the darker the green, the healthier it is.
Swap In Nuts and Seeds for Croutons
Can’t resist having that crunch in your salad? Skip the croutons and opt for nuts like pecans, almond and walnuts or seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin. Croutons are white bread (again, remember, white bread is refined so the nutritious parts are removed), and typically, they are crisped in butter or oil, adding unnecessary saturated fat.
Use Honey Instead of Sugar
Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you’ll likely use less of it than you would if you were adding sugar to something. It’s also lower on the glycemic index than sugar, meaning it won’t cause your blood sugar levels as quickly.
Substitute Butter with Citrus
This is one of those swap-in hacks that you have to try before you’ll become a believer. A squeeze of lemon or lime adds flavor and moisture, similar to butter, but for way less calories. Finish your pasta with a drizzle of lemon juice instead of a dollop of butter.
Use Greek Yogurt Rather Than Sour Cream or Mayo
Greek yogurt is no newcomer to the cooking and baking scene, but take this as a reminder that it’s a no-brainer substitute for sour cream and mayo. The texture is almost identical and the flavor is so similar, it’s doubtful you’ll even notice the substitution. As for health benefits? It has less sugar and more protein, to name a few.
Add Spices Instead of Salt
If you’re trying to cut back on the amounts of sodium you consume in a day (studies show that most people are far exceeding the recommended amounts of sodium), use spices like cumin, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric to season your food instead of straight-up salt.