It seems we’ve never been so obsessed with healthy eating. But never has it had so many interpretations. In the old days, there was a doctor in a white coat pointing at a poster of a triangle-shaped pyramid, and that was about it. These days, the ‘one size fits all’ approach has completely gone out the window.
There is a dizzying array of schools of ‘healthy eating’ philosophies. Take your pick from low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein, high-fat, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, paleo, keto, fasting, plant-based, raw foods, whole foods, organic foods, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, pescatarian, or even eating for your blood group. Not to mention the raft of detoxes and belief-based diets, if they’re what floats your boat.
I’m no dietician or nutritionist, but having been on a health kick over the last two years that has resulted in losing nearly 40 kilos, I’ve formed an opinion or two along the way. The first opinion I formed is that for most people, going ‘cold turkey’ and trying to radically change your lifestyle hardly ever works, because it’s really hard.
I’m a big fan of the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach. As part of that, instead of giving up something I love altogether, I swap it out with a healthier or more natural version. When it comes to eating, I found that my body is happiest when I avoid grains, carbs / sugars, starchy foods and processed food / chemicals.
The second opinion I formed upon doing more research is that we are not all created equal. So one size really doesn’t fit all when it comes to your ideal diet. It’s a bit annoying, but you really need to try a few approaches and learn to listen to your body. Believe me, it will tell you loud and clear once you tune in.
Below is a list of some of my favourite substitutes, a couple of which go beyond food and into creating a healthier environment for myself.
- Rice/noodles in a stir fry for veg
- Grain fed beef for grass fed
- Margarine for butter
- Soft drink for soda water + citrus
- Fruit juice for 100ml of juice + soda water
- Flour burrito for a burrito bowl
- Mashed potato for cauliflower puree
- 90% dark chocolate instead of regular chocolate (but I recommend starting at 70% and working your way up – 90% is pretty hard core straight up). Note: this choice for me is purely about reducing my sugar and chemical intake, and less about all the antioxidant/brain/heart health claims.
- Vegetable cooking oil for coconut oil
- Wheat pasta for zucchini pasta
- Rice for cauliflower rice
- Peanut butter for whole or organic nut butter
- Crackers for crudités
- Net fished tuna for line caught tuna, or even better, smaller fish that are less likely to contain mercury
- Not-so-free-range eggs for actual free range eggs
- Your plastic water bottle for glass
- Regular meetings for walking and talking meetings
- Chemical cleaning products for vinegar
- Regular house paint for no/low VOC paint
If you’re going to embark on a new ‘healthy eating’ plan, I strongly encourage you to keep an accurate diary of everything you eat and drink, and how you’re feeling: energy, mental clarity, mood, gut happiness and weight. And give it a good go for a month to really let everything that you’re doing have an impact.
Good luck, and please comment below with any other suggestions for substitutions.
Sam Micich, Group Operations & Marketing Manager.