If you’re like most guys, your grocery list is crammed with such indispensable goodies as cookies, beer, chips, salami, and Pop Tarts. But if you want to a healthy, well-balanced diet, all those things have to go, right? Wrong.
If you make a few wise healthy food substitutions at the market, all your favorite vices can remain on the list. Swap that snack mix for a low-calorie version. Grab a bag of all-natural cookies instead of those sugary, fatty ones. You’ll still get all the flavor and satisfaction you’re used to, but without the ill health effects.
However, remember that the key is moderation, even with low-calorie substitutes. Goodies are goodies and they shouldn’t be considered a core part of your diet.
A jumbo bag of Double Stuff Oreos can really make your day. Of course, it’ll also make your body soft, sluggish and sick. Processed cookies are loaded with sugar — or, even worse, high fructose corn syrup — and fat. Cutting cookies cold turkey, however, can lead to binge eating.
Substitute: Fig bars
Swap those high-fat, high-calorie morsels for something more sensible like fig bars. They’re still cookies, but they actually contain some fruit that’s good for you. Plus, fig bars are sweet and satisfying. Just one cookie will hit the spot.
Beer has plenty of calories, so if you guzzle three a day, you’ll be adding as much as 500 calories to your daily diet. And hey, who wants a beer gut? Alcohol also interrupts your normal glucose cycles, which can make you hungrier. If you drink a beer before dinner, you’ll probably end up eating more.
Substitute: Dark beer
You might have thought that I was going to tell you to reach for a light beer. While it is lower in calories, it just doesn’t taste good. Instead, have something dark and flavorful. Dark beers like porters and stouts often have fewer calories than pale ales, and they’re chock-full of antioxidants and other nutrients that do a body good. Plus, just one dark beer is probably enough to satisfy your cravings.
Deep-fried potato chips are delicious, whether they’re covered in sour cream-and-onion powder or not. And it’s this tastiness that makes them the opposite of a healthy food choice: If you open a bag, you’ll likely devour half. Chips contain tons of fat and calories — about 150 calories an ounce — so watch out.
Substitute: Air-popped popcorn
Popcorn is crunchy, salty and completely satisfying. Another huge plus: One cup of the stuff only contains about 30 calories and almost no fat. If you crunch popcorn instead of chips, you’ll cut back on a lot of calories. Baked tortilla chips with a mild flavoring also make for a tasty, low-cal substitute.
If you always have a Snickers at 2 p.m. to carry you through the rest of the day, by the time you hit 45, your blood pressure will be through the roof and your cholesterol levels will make your blood look like the dregs at the bottom of a deep-fat fryer. After all, one Snickers contains 273 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Substitute: Low-fat chocolate milk
A glass of low-fat chocolate milk can really squelch your chocolate cravings, and it only contains about 150 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Plus, as we all know, milk is a good source of calcium. If you can’t stomach milk, try chocolate soymilk. It contains even fewer calories — about 120 — but more fat, about 5 grams.
Even longtime vegetarians will salivate at the smell of cooking bacon; it’s probably the most delectable meat in the Western food lexicon. Unfortunately, it’s also a pure fat delivery system: 100 grams of bacon contain about 370 calories and 35 grams of fat.
Substitute: Turkey bacon
Turkey is a lean meat. It’s high in protein, low in fat and just plain good for you. Make it into bacon and you end up with savory slices that contain about half as many calories and far less fat than pork bacon. In fact, a more reasonable 60-gram serving of turkey bacon only has about 150 calories and 10 grams of fat. Not bad at all in comparison.
It’s too easy to throw a frozen pizza in the oven after a long day at work. The bad news is that it contains tons of carbs, fat and calories. For example, one serving of Tony’s D’Primo Deep Dish Sausage Pizza packs 391 calories and 20 grams of fat. Delicious, but dangerous.
Substitute: Homemade crispbread pizza
Make your own pizza with Ryvita Crispbread instead of traditional crust. The crackers are crunchy and tasty, and they only contain about 30 calories each. Load the pie up with tasty veggies like bell peppers and olives, as well as low-fat cheese, and you’ll have a satisfying, filling meal with less than half the fat of a frozen pie.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to grab processed foods over fresh veggies and all-natural products at the supermarket. Spend a few extra minutes paying close attention to what you buy, cook more often and eat fresh foods. You’ll see results in your appearance and overall health in no time.