8 Tiny Dietary Changes That Can Make A Difference

This week's challenge is coming straight from one of the blog posts of one of my favorite nutrition writers Monica Reinagel. One of the reasons I love Monica’s tips as “Nutrition Diva” is that she is actually a credentialed dietician. In fact my daughter (the dietician) was excited to run into Monica this month at the National Dietetics Meeting in Atlanta.

This particular topic from Monica features easy ways to upgrade the nutritional quality of your diet. She says “I'm not talking about curing your own wild gameor grinding your own sprouted flour.”Instead she shares 8 simple tweaks to regular foods and meals that, when practiced consistently, can really make a difference in your overall nutrition.

Let’s look at Monica’s suggestions and see how many of these we can incorporate into our regular routine? Don’t think “weekly challenge” but instead consider “permanent life changes." Personally I actually follow 6 of these all of the time and one often. Guess which one I don’t participate in!

Easy Upgrade #1: Spread Your Bread with Protein
I don't usually eat bread for breakfast but if I do decide to have toast or a bagel, I try to spread it with nut butter instead of butter or cream cheese. That way, at least I'm getting some extra fiber, protein, and healthy fats for the same number of calories.

Easy Upgrade #2: Go Greek
Choose plain Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt and get twice the protein, which usually translates into more time before you get hungry again.
I know Greek yogurt is more expensive than regular yogurt, but because it saves me from needing a mid-morning snack, I figure it all comes out in the wash. 

Easy Upgrade #3: Grate Your Way to Greatness

I don't make muffins or pancakes as often as I used to on the weekends because I'm trying to regulate the amount of sugar in my diet. But when I do haul out the griddle or muffin pan, I also get out the vegetable grater and grate a raw carrot or zucchini or two into the batter for added moistness and a little extra vegetable nutrition. 

 Easy Upgrade #4: Milk it for All It's Worth
If you're making oatmeal or any other hot cereal, use milk or soymilk (personally I prefer hemp or coconut milk) instead of water. Alternatively, you can also stir a scoop of powdered milk or whey protein(and I prefer Pea, hemp or cranberry protein) powder into water. Not only does it make the cereal extra creamy but you also up the ante in terms of protein and calcium. 
 Easy Upgrade #5: Look for Greener Pastures

When choosing salad greens, zero in on the darker varieties. In addition to being more flavorful, they are more nutritious.
I often buy hearts of romaine lettuce - I'm sure you've seen them in the grocery - because they seem to keep so well in the fridge. But if you look at a few packages, you'll see that the lettuce ranges from almost white to dark green. Go for the darkest ones you can find. Likewise, at the salad bar, skip the pale, flavorless lettuce and go for the spring mix, mesclun, and baby spinach. 

Easy Upgrade #6: Roll in the Green
Ordering from an Asian restaurant? Instead of the deep-fried egg rolls, choose lettuce rolls instead. You can also use large leaves of lettuce instead of torillas to make sandwich roll-ups or to stand in for the top slice of bread on a sandwich.

Easy Upgrade #7: Sideline the Fries
Casual restaurant meals often come with a huge pile of fries on the side, because fries are cheap and filling and most people enjoy them. But most restaurants will, if you ask, substitute the vegetable of the day for the fries. Now, I'm not going to lie to you and say I never eat French fries. I do eat them occasionally. But about 80% of the time, I sub in a vegetable for those deep fried ...and that adds up to a lot fewer French fries in my life. 
Easy Upgrade #8: Eat Chocolate (Yes, That's Right)
If you're going to have some chocolate, choose the darkest chocolate you can enjoy. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains and the more healthy flavanols. If you're someone who enjoys super dark chocolate, such as those with 70% or higher cacao, that's great. If your tastes run more to milk chocolate, you can still upgrade by choosing a slightly darker chocolate than usual. Try one with 40% cacao. Over time, you might even find that you start to enjoy darker chocolates (and your waistline will thank you).

Our challenge for this week is to incorporate at least one of these healthy living tips into your life every day this week. For every day you do so you can earn 5 bonus points.  I had the questions "Does that mean we can eat chocolate even when it's not our sugar day?" I guess for this week the answer is yes. If you can fit it in your daily calorie allowance you can have a small piece of dark chocolate daily. But please don't have that be the only change you make.  Let's step up many of our daily habits for healthier eating!  

And note: I offer 5 additional bonus points for a total of 40 available this week if you determine a healthy living habit you have either adopted or want to adopt and share it in the comments section below! 

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