When one of my cousins went on a diet, she picked up this book entitled “Eat This, Not That.” The curious tome pretty much listed some of the most popular fast food and restaurant menu items in the US, along with their calorie count and lower-calorie alternatives that you could order instead if you were watching your weight. Interesting stuff.
Personally, I’m not big on diets myself (I’d rather run miles than give up my carbs, thank you very much), but I think we all want to eat healthier whenever we can. Not all of us eat out often, but most adults probably shop for their home-cooked meals every week, so making some adjustments to our grocery list is probably a good place to start:
1. Buy This: Rolled Oats
Not That: Instant Oatmeal
You know those instant oatmeal packets that come in different flavors like apple cinnamon, chocolate, or even, ah, arroz caldo (I sh*t you not)? Delicious and convenient as they can be, they’re full of added sugars, preservatives, and a chock-full of artificial flavorings that completely cancel out the benefits of oatmeal’s high-fiber content.
If you really want to lower your cholesterol or shrink your waistline, go for a bag of rolled oats instead. Not only are they cheaper, but you also get to control how much salt and sugar (and other things besides) go into each serving.
As bonus, rolled oats give you more room to be creative with your oatmeal toppings and flavorings. Check out these delicious overnight oats recipes for ideas.
2. Buy This: Fresh Oranges
Not That: Orange Juice
In the Philippines, orange juice is what we call water that’s been mixed with orange-flavored sugar (e.g., Tang, Eight O’ Clock, etc). However, even if you buy your “freshly-squeezed” orange juice with pulp in one of those fancy cartons, you’re better off eating an actual orange instead.
One glass of orange juice has twice the sugar of one orange, and the latter will give you an additional three grams of fiber to boot.
3. Buy This: Mustard
Not That: Mayonnaise
Ah, creamy, tangy mayonnaise: it’s great for sandwich spreads, salads, and even for an incredibly moist chocolate cake. Alas, what it’s not good for are your cholesterol levels.
Mustard is somewhat pricier than mayo, but it’s often naturally fat-free and is quite a tasty alternative, once you get used to its slightly acrid tang.
Pro-tip: Spread a bit of mustard on some whole wheat bread before you add a slice of low-fat cheese for a healthier yet nonetheless tasty grilled cheese sandwich.
4. Buy This: Chicken Breasts
Not That: Pork Chops
Poultry products like chicken meat give you a protein boost without the added fat, and they’re incredibly versatile too. While we’re at it, you may also want to consider swapping turkey ham for regular ham.
5. Buy This: Brown Rice
Not That: White Rice
A lot of diet plans often demonize carbohydrates, but complex carbs are a different story as they take longer to digest, keep you feeling full longer, and can also make you feel energized. Brown rice is a great example of such, and is a lot healthier than white rice. The latter might look more appetizing because it’s been processed and polished, but it’s also been stripped of so many essential nutrients.
6. Buy This: Fresh Grapes
Not That: Popsicles
How can grapes possibly substitute for popsicles?? Wait, hear me out.
You take some fresh grapes, rinse them really quickly, and then pop them in the freezer. Boom! Instant mini popsicles. Go ahead, try it. These bite-sized frozen delights are both delicious and lower in sugar too.
Not keen on grapes? This hack works well for other fruits like strawberries and mangoes too. Just don’t forget to slice the latter up into chunks first.
Pro-tip: Frozen grapes are great for chilling wine because unlike ice cubes, they won’t water down your booze.
7. Buy This: Maple Syrup
Not That: Maple-Flavored Syrup
Aren’t they the same thing? Not quite, my friend.
Maple-flavored syrup is basically just sugar or corn syrup that’s been mixed with artificial maple flavoring and color. Pure, high-grade maple syrup has far less added sugar, is imbued with minerals like iron, and also provide a naturally lower glycemic index that deters blood sugar spikes.
True, real maple syrup is more expensive, so it’s a question of how often you use the stuff. If you like having pancakes for breakfast on the weekends and like to make baby back ribs for dinner every so often (maple syrup is a great addition to the marinade), a bottle of the genuine article would probably be a good investment. Otherwise, you can do without either of these grocery items.
I once read that small, sustained changes often prevail over big, sweeping ones in the long run. The former are a lot easier to keep up, after all, and they’re also more likely to fit in more seamlessly to our daily routines.
Now, go forth and shop/eat healthier!