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Friday, 25 April 2014 12:12

Swap This For That

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Seasonal eating is not only good because buying in season is more economical but produce is at its peak in nutritional value and taste when enjoyed when seasonally available. The "Farm-to-Table" movement is not merely a fad but makes for wise choices in what we consume.

We are very blessed to have the abundance of choices in produce, meat, seafood and such from which to select for our daily sustenance. But, with those many choices come the temptations to grab something fast to munch on and not really think about the consequences down the road. This Spring consider swapping out something healthy for something less than that. And think about what is seasonally available right now.

1. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice

A glass of orange juice is not the same as eating a whole piece of fruit. Drinking a glass of juice contains very little of the pulp or skin from an orange, and none of the fiber. Next time you reach for a glass of juice, opt for eating a piece of fruit instead. It'll have fewer calories and more nutrients.

2. Swap your latte for green tea

Choosing to drink that morning latte could be costing you up to 300 calories and a ton of sugar. Rather than set yourself up for a sugar crash later in the morning, try drinking green tea instead. It contains zero calories and still has caffeine. It also has the ability to rev up your metabolism. Green tea has a thermogenic effect on your metabolism, meaning that it will speed up after you drink a cup.

3. Use oil and balsamic rather than processed dressings

Salad dressings have a ton of ingredients in them, meaning they're not good for you. Less is more when it comes to the number of ingredients in your food. Try ditching the ranch and putting a small amount of olive oil or balsamic vinegar on your salad instead.

4. Pick spinach over lettuce

There are almost zero nutrients in Iceberg lettuce. Spinach, however, is packed with folic acid, iron and great flavor. Remember, usually the darker the vegetable, the more nutrients you're going to get. Spinach leaves work great on a salad or in a soup or even a smoothie.

5. Drink sparkling water instead of soda

Try a fun flavor like dropping a little extract in your water like lemon-lime or even vanilla if you don't like straight soda water.

6. Pick air-popped popcorn over chips

We all enjoy salty snacks every now and then. Instead of reaching for the chips, air-pop some popcorn and add a dash of salt. You can have three cups worth, and it'll only cost you 100 calories. In fact, when it's prepared right, popcorn is low in calories, heart-smart, and filled with healthy nutrients. Popcorn has polyphenols, which have been linked to a reduction in heart disease and certain cancers. Just be sure to avoid dousing your popcorn with butter and oil.

7. Eat more

Don't skip meals – this one's super important. If you don't make the time to eat, you'll feel tired and run-down later. It also slows down your metabolism and could cause you to overeat later.

8. Swap out video games

Okay, so this is not really a food swap, but a healthy one. Instead of opting for a sit-down game to play on the Wii, replace Super Mario Brothers with Wii Sports or Just Dance. It won't seem like exercise, and you'll be burning calories while having fun.

9. Swap a snack for a piece of fruit

This is a small change, but one that makes a big difference overtime. We all enjoy our daily snacks. So the next time you reach for your afternoon treat, eat an apple, orange or even grapes instead. Over time you'll see yourself lose weight due to the snack swap. Meanwhile, you're increasing your daily intake of key nutrients.

10. Cook, rather than eat out

You can try as hard as you want to eat healthy at a restaurant, but there always seem to be more calories packed into restaurant meals. That salad you ordered? It most likely has way more calories than any salad you'd make at home. And, if you're looking for even more incentive, it's guaranteed to be great for your budget too. Over time, you can save a lot of money and calories by forgoing restaurant meals.

11. Don't forget these Spring Vegies

Seasonal eating isn't just trendy. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when they are first picked and can lose, in some cases, up to 75 percent of their vitamin content after just one week of storage. Produce picked and eaten at its peak generally has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they're ripe and then shipped long distances. But right now grocery stores and farmers markets are coming alive with seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few spring foods that you don't want to miss.

Dandelion Greens

These bitter-sweet spring greens are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Indeed, they contain 112 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 537 percent of your daily intake of vitamin K (which helps build strong bones), plus 10 percent of your calcium and 32 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Can you say spring superfood?

A recent study found that steaming the greens increases their total antioxidant properties by 67 percent. And preliminary research is starting to pour in on this plant, with early studies finding it possibly protective against a host of ills, including depression, obesity and fatigue.

Asparagus

The consummate spring vegetable, asparagus is packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and health-promoting antioxidants, has anti-cancer properties as well. It's high in vitamin K, which helps allow blood to clot and works with vitamin D to keep your bones strong. It's also high in nutrients which give it its anti-inflammatory properties, help decrease blood pressure and control cholesterol levels.

Asparagus is a spring vegetable and does not store well, so get it now and eat it right away, or sit the bottoms in some water until you are ready to cook it.

Rhubarb

This plant might look like celery, but if you've ever been adventurous enough to cook with it, you know that this tart vegetable loves to partner with fruit and sugar substitutes to become a sweet treat. Just don't eat the leaves. Baking rhubarb for 20 minutes increases its cancer-fighting antioxidant content and also is what keeps the stalks that nice red color.

Artichokes

When USDA researchers conducted the largest, most comprehensive study of the antioxidant content of commonly eaten foods, artichokes ranked at the top among vegetables. I wasn't surprised to read that artichoke compounds have been found to kill cancer cells in lab studies.

These hearty vegetables are also rich in magnesium, which most Americans don't get enough of, despite its being an essential nutrient, and low levels linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and migraines.

Enjoy the bountifulness of this Spring.

Bon Apetit!

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