Q: What are some easy switches I can make to my diet to yield the greatest nutritional benefits?
A: Minimizing refined carbohydrates such as sugary snacks and candy, white breads, pastas, cookies, cereals and sodas will be beneficial, and there are some great whole grains you can add to your diet, such as oats, barley, quinoa, bulgur, brown and wild rice, faro and spelt. Search for whole grain varieties of pastas, cereals and breads—just make sure you read labels carefully, including the back of the packet ingredient list and not just the front, where marketers weave their magic. True whole-grain varieties will be dense, filling and create less havoc with blood sugar levels and insulin response. Legumes, including lentils, garbanzo beans and cannellini beans, are also good substitutes for refined grains and provide valuable nutrients, including protein and fiber. The key is to get creative and truly interested in your health and your food.
Try some of these tasty and simple swaps:
1. Choose steel cut or whole rolled oats for breakfast over sugary refined cereals.
2. Replace white bread with pumpernickel or whole grain bread (not to be confused with multigrain).
3. Use barley, wild or brown rice to make a risotto or pilaf instead of white rice.
4. Substitute quinoa instead of pasta to make a lunch or side salad.
5. Puree white cannellini or butter beans with a little garlic and a dash of olive oil in place of mashed potatoes or boiled pasta.
6. Use yogurt instead of sour cream as a topping or dip.
7. Always use sugar, not artificial sweeteners. These can play havoc with your metabolism as well as train your taste buds to constantly require sweetness. You are better off using real ingredients and simply reducing portion sizes.