by The FIRM nutrition expert Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N.
Let’s start 2010 with a clean nutrition slate by giving up some of the most unhealthy and addictive foods on the market. Below you will find a list of eight foods that are, in my opinion, the biggest roadblocks to you and your nutrition goals. After each offending food you’ll find a delicious, healthier substitute. So never fear, your new improved 2010 menu will be delectable, satisfying and slimming!
The List of Offending Foods and Delicious Substitutes!
1. Soda, juice and other sweetened beverages
High calorie beverages are “empty calories.” In other words, they provide lots of (weight gain inducing) calories without any feelings of fullness or satiety. For example, if you were to add one glass of fruit juice and one 12-ounce soda each day, you would gain about 20 pounds in the course of one year. Conversely, if you give up a few high calorie drinks each day, you’ll be thrilled to see how easy it is to shed a few pounds.
So what should you drink instead? Plain water is the king of all beverages, and you should strive to drink 64 ounces per day. If you just can’t stomach all that plain water, try squeezing lemon or lime into your water. It is also alright to have one “diet” drink per day. In order to get the vitamins and minerals that you will miss by giving up your high calorie fruit juice, opt for fresh whole fruit—it is super healthy and will give you an extra dose of fiber.
2. Granola and other high-sugar breakfast cereals
Many breakfast cereals may appear to be “healthy,” but buyer-beware! These so-called “healthy” breakfast cereals are chock full of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and fat. A medium size bowl of granola can offer as much as 500 calories, and that’s before you add milk and fruit! When choosing a breakfast cereal, be sure to avoid cereals that contain more than 10-15 grams of sugar per serving.
So what cereal to chose? Look for a cereal that has 90-140 calories per cup with less than 12 grams of sugar. Ideally your breakfast cereal would have a minimum of three grams of fiber and at least three grams of protein.
3. Fried Food
Let me first admit that fried chicken is one of my favorite comfort foods, but it just isn’t worth it! By frying your food, you are more than doubling the calories in that given food. For example, a baked piece of chicken has anywhere from 220-270 calories while a piece of fried chicken will soar well over 450 calories—and those extra calories most often come from refined white carbs and artery clogging fats.
The good news is that you can make “oven-fried” dishes that taste just as good as the real thing! Oven baked chicken and fish are both wonderful—you simply coat the fish/chicken with egg and then dip it into breadcrumbs and bake on a baking sheet. There are many other recipes out there that make the dishes even more delicious, such as marinating the fish/ chicken in buttermilk or other tenderizing agents. Take a look on the internet and you’re sure to find some fabulous recipes for oven baked fish, chicken and French fries!
4. Cake-like muffins
Bran muffins look and sound like “health food,” but they are really just cake in disguise. And the same goes for all other muffins, even fruit muffins, like berry or banana. The name given to these pieces of “cake” sound healthy and nutritious, but in reality, they are glorified dessert with anywhere from 275-450 calories. Even “fat-free” muffins are loaded with calories and sugar, so beware.
The best alternative to these delicious breakfast treats is to bake your own bran muffins. There are great recipes offered from All-Bran cereal and other bran manufacturers. You can bake a dozen at once and then freeze them for up to 2 months. If you are not fond of baking, a good prepared alternative would be “Raisin-Bran bread”; it is sweet and has far fewer calories than muffins.
5. Pretzels and other “fat-free” high calorie snacks
Pretzels and rice cakes have long been a “healthy alternative” to snack food, but beware of these fat-free addictive munchies. These types of snacks, particularly pretzels, tend to be calorie dense and not very satisfying. These snacks are 100% carbohydrates—void of any protein or healthy fats. Many people eat much more than one serving size, and end up with a 300+ calorie snack that offers no nutritional value.
Healthier snack alternatives are foods that contain a bit of protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates. Good options include nuts (one-ounce portion), soy nuts, low-fat cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, soy chips and calorie controlled protein bars.
6. Movie popcorn
The smell of movie theater popcorn is enough to shatter even the most determined dieter’s willpower, but don’t let it get to you! A mere “small” order of movie theater popcorn, without butter, will total over 500 calories. Go for the medium, again with no butter, and you’re up to 850 calories! Let’s not even discuss the calorie and fat total if you do green-light the butter.
Since a movie and a snack compliment each other so well, plan your snack ahead of time and pack it away in your bag or coat. Good options include: homemade air popped popcorn, pirates’ booty, soy chips or you can be really virtuous and bring sliced apples or baby carrots!
7. Fast food “meals”
Chances are… you know that “fast food” is not good-for-you; however, there are particular menu items that will get you into trouble a lot faster. As a general rule, avoid the “deluxe meals” and “value meals.” This generally implies that you get an order of fries and a free soda. Don’t fall for it, even if it is a good deal for your wallet.
When fast food is a must, order a salad with grilled chicken if it is available. If not, go for the hamburger and remove the top bun—while not a nutritiously balanced meal, it will tide you over until you can get your hands on something more satisfying and healthy.
8. Premium ice cream
While all ice cream tends to be weight gain inducing, it is the premium ice creams, such as Ben and Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs that have soaring fat and calorie levels. These “premium” ice creams have somehow figured out how to squeeze 300-400 calories into a tiny ½ cup serving (about the size of a tennis ball). Since it’s almost impossible to eat only ½ cup, your sweet cold treat will probably leave you with an extra 500+ calories, coming from artery clogging fat and weight gain promoting sugar.
Since I could never ask you to say goodbye to all ice cream, I would encourage you to buy the “light” versions of your favorite ice cream. Turkey Hill, Breyers and Edy’s all have an extensive light line. Then just be sure to watch your portions—½ cup is still the recommended amount, but a little more won’t ruin your otherwise healthy day!