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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Food Substitutions for Healthier Eating

Eat This, Not That is a popular book series by author David Zinczenko. I love the concept of making simple substitutions that allow you to enjoy meals while avoiding the negative impact on dietary health. Making easy changes multiple times a day compounds the health benefits over time.

The following is my attempt as a David Zinczenko want-to-be. Nothing I present is original; rather, it’s a return to basics as learned in any grade school health class.

  1. Replace salty canned and prepackaged soups with homemade options. While this may sound intimidating, simply bring a pot of water to a boil, add vegetables, beans, chicken or other meat, then simmer for a couple of hours. Blend if you prefer a smooth consistency. Soup is good for the body and the warmth is good for your soul.
  2. Remove the salt shaker from your table. I’ll admit that I grew up in a house where the salt shaker rarely left the spice cabinet, so this has never been a challenge for me. I understand that salt is incredibly addictive and overpowers the natural flavors of food. This may not be an easy transition, but you can go cold turkey, reduce the amount slowly, replace with many salt-free spice options like Mrs. Dash®, or use other spices. Remember that some items in your spice cabinet, like garlic salt, are still salt.
  3. Get the white out! Replace white bread with more whole grain options like wheat, rye, and multigrain. Beware of imposters like “white wheat;” they barely count, if at all. As a rule, the darker the bread and the coarser the grain, the better.
  4. Cut back on simple sugar. As a carbaholic, this is the toughest for me, but I like to think of my sugar options as a spectrum. Honey is a natural alternative. I’ve also tried agave syrup, which is not supposed to give you huge peaks and valleys in your blood glucose. In recipes, I use apple sauce or cooked and blended carrots for a bit of sweet and an excuse to infuse fruits and vegetables in my diet. Of course, staying out of the candy aisle is the first step to my rehabilitation.
  5. Lower the fat. Keep oils and butter to a minimum. Measuring what you add instead of the “dash of this” method gives you an accurate count of your fats. Sprays like Pam® or even putting olive oil in a pump bottle can give the flavor and the benefit for cooking with oil without all of the calories and fats. Of course there is a hierarchy to the health of oils as well, so stick to the olives and away from the palms.

Regardless of the substitutions you make, take the time to enjoy your food preparation and to savor the flavors. You won’t know what you’re missing!

Sandra Crasko, MPH
Vice President – Community Services

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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