As a weight-loss blogger, I am often asked many questions, both by people who discover me through my blog and by those who knew me in real life first. They want to know “how.” How did I lose 60 pounds? How have I kept them off (relatively) successfully over the past year and a half? In answering while I do go through how I counted calories, switched my diet to include more whole foods, and upped my exercise, I’ve come to realize that there’s a second, unspoken part of their question: What’s the easiest way for me to achieve similar results?
I am of the mindset that everyone who has ever wanted to lose weight probably already knows the basic tenets of how to do so. The facts and figures and formulas have been drilled into our heads for a long time, but translating that knowledge into action is always the hardest thing. I completely understand the desire to look for an easier way to do it, a less life-intrusive way than constantly keeping track of what you eat and what you’re doing. My favorite tip to those who are looking to get healthier and lose weight, at least as a starting point, is to make healthy food swaps.
For example, plain Greek yogurt has a remarkably similar taste and consistency to sour cream. You can top your tacos with it, stir it into salsa or spaghetti sauce, and make dips with it, and I bet you’d hardly be able to tell the difference. This simple substitution will cut down on your fat and calories dramatically (especially if you’re using nonfat yogurt), and add a nice punch of protein to your dish at the same time. Win-win!
Another great swap is to use roasted garlic in place of butter. When garlic is roasted, it takes on a sweet, soft and buttery consistency. You can either roast full heads in the oven or individual cloves in a simmering pan of olive oil. Spread a clove on a piece of bread, or mash some up and add them to a pot of mashed potatoes. You’d be surprised at how decadent and creamy your dish will taste without using any butter or cream at all! In the case of the mashed potatoes, if they’re not quite smooth enough for you, you can always add just a little bit of olive oil for some healthy fat. Bonus: Garlic has all sorts of additional health benefits!
You may have already heard about this particular trick, but you’d be amazed at the flavor and moistness that a little banana can add to a baking recipe. I like to take a banana and pop it into the microwave for about 30 seconds so that it gets soft and gooey. Then I mash it up with a fork and add it directly into the mix for whatever baked good I’m cooking up. It can be used as a substitute for the oil or butter that a recipe calls for, and the swap also allows you to cut down on added sugar since bananas are already sweet! Applesauce can be used in similar ways. The general ratio to bear in mind for substituting with baking should be about three-quarters as much fruit as oil, and about half as much fruit as butter.
By taking advantage of some of these simple swaps, you are increasing the healthfulness of your food while simultaneously cutting down on calories and fat. No calorie-counting or extravagant ingredients required. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit honeyishrunkthegretchen.com.