Healthy food face-off
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Every single day, we are faced with a flood of messages about what foods and vitamins are healthy for our bodies. Some claim to be the next big thing, while others have a finger pointed at them as the root of unhealthy diets.
Guess what? Choosing healthy foods doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact, I decided to wage a little war between various foods that are a part of many people’s everyday diets and fill you in on which choices are the best for your health. What you will discover is that while some of the battles had obvious victors, others were not quite as cut and dry.
Whether you’re looking for a healthier version of a not-so-stellar food or a suggestion for something new to try, the options below will help you suss out the details of what should be making its way onto your plate.
Instead of: A turkey burger
Try: A veggie burger
Why: The turkey burger’s friendly veggie friend delivers a heftier dose of fiber, calcium, iron and even vitamin C than its poultry counterpart. Sandwich your veggie burger on a whole grain bun for a well-rounded nosh.
Instead of: White rice
Why: A 1-cup serving of quinoa packs more nutrients, vitamins and minerals than the same serving of white rice, including iron, potassium, zinc, fiber and folate. Prepare quinoa the same way you do rice, enjoying it as a side or mixed into a veggie-packed stir-fry.
Instead of: French fries
Try: Baked sweet potato fries
Why: Sweet potatoes crush white potatoes when it comes to beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that contributes to healthy hair, glowing skin and strong nails. Choosing to slice up sweet potatoes and bake them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil is also a more heart-healthy option, as opposed to the fried version.
Instead of: Kale
Why: Kale is a nutrient powerhouse, but it’s so last year, right? Try subbing cauliflower for potatoes the next time you have a craving for mashed potatoes. Simply swap 1/2 the amount of potatoes for an equal amount of steamed cauliflower, giving the recipe a boost of B vitamins and fiber.
Instead of: A flour tortilla
Try: Corn tortillas
Why: A taco wouldn’t be complete without a tortilla to wrap around all of the ingredients, but a corn tortilla is your better option in this spicy showdown. Corn tortillas are lower in sugar, calories, fat and sodium than flour tortillas. They also pack a healthy dose of fiber and magnesium, a mineral that helps support healthy muscle function.
Instead of: Regular pasta
Try: Buckwheat noodles
Why: Ditch processed pasta for this healthy gluten-free alternative (don’t let the “wheat” in the name fool you – this pasta is wheat-free). One cup of buckwheat pasta contains almost 6 grams of plant-based protein, making it a stellar choice for vegetarians.
Instead of: Ranch-dip mix
Why: Ditch the packaged mix for a scoop of hummus the next time you are looking for a friend for your veggies and crackers. Hummus, made from chickpeas, oil, tahini and other spices, comes in a number of varieties including spicy and herb blends, and provides a fiber boost that will keep you feeling full.
Instead of: Milk chocolate
Try: Dark chocolate
Why: Looking for something sweet? Let dark chocolate be your hero. Not only does milk chocolate have more calories and fat – including saturated fat – than dark chocolate, but it completely lacks the antioxidant boost that a bit of the dark stuff can provide. Dark chocolate has twice the amount of potassium as milk chocolate and theobromine, an alkaloid found in the cacao plant that helps heart health, including lowering high blood pressure. It is also rich in zinc, iron, phosphorous and magnesium, and packs monounsaturated fatty acids –– the healthy kind of fat!
Instead of: Sugar-laden yogurt blends
Try: Plain Greek yogurt drizzled with honey
Why: Nix the sugar and preservatives in regular flavored yogurts and reach for Greek yogurt instead. An 8-ounce serving of Greek yogurt provides almost double the protein in the same serving size of regular yogurt, keeping you full longer and helping to build lean muscle. Top it with honey, fresh fruit and even a sprinkle of chocolate chips for a healthy snack.
So, how about that? Do you feel more prepared to make even healthier decisions for you and your family? Trust me, I get it – the mountains of products and information that is out there can be intimidating. But sometimes all it takes is breaking down the details like we just did in order to better understand which options will work best for you.
Do you have a question about making healthy food choices? Send me a message at the email address below!
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach who specializes in digestive health. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.