Simple Swaps Add Up to Healthier Eating — and Drinking

We all want to live a healthier lifestyle, whether that means losing a few pounds, eating better, sleeping more, or spending less time in front of a screen. Yet in the rush of our hectic lifestyles, making healthy changes can feel impossible. How can your family prioritize health?

The best way to begin is with small, simple steps. Read on for ideas to help you get started, and go easy on yourselves if and when you fall out of line.

Make a simple swap.   

This simple step can bring about big results. Take a look at the items in your pantry and kitchen, and see what you can swap for a healthier alternative. Consider, for instance, using sweet-tasting herbs like cinnamon and nutmeg instead of sugar, and stock your shelves with nuts or seeds instead of cookies. Roast nuts or seeds for a few minutes in your oven, sprinkle with cinnamon (or a little salt), and enjoy a tasty, protein-packed snack.

Add avocado to a sandwich instead of mayo for a creamy texture, and use apple sauce in baked goods instead of oil, typically at a rate of one part apple sauce to one part oil. Eat oatmeal topped with fresh fruit or chopped nuts instead of sugary cold cereal.

You’ll be amazed that many healthy swaps taste just as good as — or better than — their sugar- and fat-laden counterparts. Experiment and ask your whole family to come up with ideas.

Start with your morning cup of Joe.Homemade Latte

For the healthiest coffee, stay away from coffee drinks laden with flavored syrups and whipped cream. These drinks can have almost 500 calories and 12 grams of fat — more than a milkshake. Instead, stick with a simple latte with skim milk, which averages about 120 calories and only .4 grams of fat. Order the smallest size available, and go easy on the sugar.

Choose baked over fried.

Frying adds not only calories but also saturated fats. If you love the crispy taste of fried foods, try breading foods lightly in panko bread crumbs before baking them. Panko bread crumbs are cut specifically to produce crispier results than regular bread crumbs, and they work well and taste great in everything from meatballs to eggplant parmesan.

Make healthier versions of your favorite takeout. Homemade Meatballs

Restaurant food is notorious for added fat, sugar, and sodium. Make it at home, and you usually end up with a much healthier version. Pare down sauces, cheese, and salt. Sauté or bake foods instead of frying, and use a fraction of the sugar found in many restaurant-prepared desserts. For ideas on making your own takeout, try these recipes from Eating Well.

Drink more water.

Turns out many of us mistake thirst for hunger. And even mild dehydration can sap your energy and make you feel tired. Next time you get a pang in your belly, instead of guzzling a caffeinated beverage or grabbing a snack, drink a glass of water first. Our bodies are about 60 percent water, and water is necessary for all your important bodily functions — from flushing toxins out of vital organs to carrying nutrients to your cells. Add a squirt of lemon for a hint of flavor.

Remember: you don’t have to give up great taste for better health. Just a few small changes can add up over time and bring big dividends.

What healthy habits does your household follow? Let us know on Facebook!