This week’s GetHawt topic is about making substitutions work for you. A good part of my live-it plan is a result of substitutions that I have made in my diet over the last year. The result: a 30-pound weight loss and normal cholesterol levels and other normal indicators in my blood for the first time in years. Clearly, I must be doing something right. And, honestly, I don’t feel deprived one bit.

My Favorite Substitutions

Almond Milk

English: Bowl of almonds

Image via Wikipedia

The  milk industry says, “milk does a body good.” But it doesn’t. (I’ll save the details for another post on another day.) They just want to sell you milk. I switched to almond milk, although I dabble in soy milk from time to time. I don’t drink it straight, but before I made the substitution I wasn’t in the habit of regularly gulping down a glass of milk either. For the most part, I use it with cereal. I also use it from time to time when making smoothies if I need more liquid in the concoction du jour.

A confluence of events inspired me to try making my own almond milk, and the result was quite satisfying. In preparation for my move to Alaska later this year, I decided that I needed to learn how to make some things that are easy to buy when you have unhindered access to a grocery store. Meanwhile, through a cooking class, I learned how to cook with tofu using recipes that actually tasted good! That led me to research how to make tofu, which is very simple if you have soy milk and a coagulant. The machine that I bought to make soy milk, the SoyaPower Plus, also makes other types of milks from grains, seeds, and nuts. As I experimented, I discovered that I really liked the almond-rice combination. Later, I bought a VitaMix (for other reasons) and learned that it also makes soy milk, although you have to cook the soy beans first, which you don’t have to do with the SoyaPower Plus.

No matter which ingredient you use to produce the milk, it’s done in about 20 minutes (using the SoyaPower Plus), although it’s hot at that point. One batch produces about 4 cups using a small amount of ingredient – about 1/4 cup. Although the investment in the kitchen gadget is a big one, over the long run, I can manufacture my own milk substitute very inexpensively as compared to paying $2.00-$3.00 a carton for almond milk at the store. And where I’m going in Alaska, the price of buying almond milk in cartons is even higher because everything has to be flown in. Therein lies my motivation to learn how to make things for myself!

You don’t have to go to the same extreme that I did and make almond milk yourself. But it is something to consider using as a good substitute for cow milk. A cup of whole milk has 146 calories, a cup of a 1% milk has 102 calories, but almond milk (unsweetened) has only 40 calories. Almond milk has less protein (but then again, the protein in milk isn’t necessarily good for you as I’ll explain in another post), but it has 1 gram of fiber and 15% of your daily Vitamin A requirement.

Stevia

Dry leaves of Stevia rebaudiana

Sugar is an insidious substance, lurking in all kinds of processed foods in all kinds of forms that are really not good for you. For a long time, I switched off to Splenda as it is supposed to be molecularly similar to sugar, and unlike my family, I wasn’t bothered by the taste. As I have become more enlightened about healthy eating, I’ve decided that Splenda is probably not good for me either. When it comes to splurging, I’m more likely to favor something salty than sweet, but that doesn’t mean that I completely avoid sweets either. Still, sugar adds calories and pounds.

When I heard about stevia, I decided to give it a try. Stevia is a natural plant-based sweetener. Some people find it bitter (not me!), but there are a variety of brands to try before you decide if it’s for you or not. I use it in my smoothies and in my tea. I sprinkle it on my oatmeal. I haven’t tried cooking with it yet, but there’s a whole website dedicated to cooking with stevia that is worth exploring.

Real Food

It seems crazy to have to say it, but substituting real food for processed food is a must. Take a stroll through the typical American grocery store and consider how much food space is dedicated to processed food versus unprocessed (i.e. real) food. And let’s not even talk about fast food joints. I can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s or its competitors, but after reading about pink slime, I’m definitely not remotely tempted to ever eat there again. But fast food isn’t just about take-out food. The reason so many processed foods are available in the grocery store is to satisfy the demand that exists for foods that are quick to prepare, and tasty too! Personally, I find that real food is much tastier. A nice tangerine is oh so sweet, and satisfies my cravings much better than a candy bar. (Unfortunately, I can’t grow those in Alaska, but there are 20 different kinds of berries in the area that I can enjoy instead!) A lot of vegetables can be prepared quickly by steaming or blanching, and salads can be prepared in countless ways. When I can’t eat veggies fast enough, I make soup!

It seems logical to me that the closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is likely to be for my body. The raw food movement would certainly say so, but I don’t feel the need to be that extreme at this point. I just want food without chemicals, food that I can pronounce, and food that does this body good. On the other hand, I don’t want to eat bland food. My quest is to discover new ways to prepare real food in delicious ways. So delicious that even my picky husband will demand more, and and we’ll both get healthy in the process!

Progress Report

This is the first week since I’ve begun posting my progress that I actually feel good about the results. The trend is more noticeably downward. And even though I’m not tracking to the line that says where I “should” be, I have lost a net of 3 pounds since the beginning of the year. Considering my crazy life, that’s not bad. Not earth-shattering, but not bad.

So now that I see some more consistency in the trend, I must contemplate why I had a good week. It’s the first week in a couple of months when I was home the entire week and not traveling (which definitely seems to be my undoing in spite of my efforts to “be good”). When I’m home, I have better control over what foods I eat, when I eat and when I exercise.

Also this week, I decided that exercising for the sake of exercising – even with a weight loss goal in mind – was not inspiring. So I resolved to train for a 5K race through a Runkeeper fitness class. So far the training has been pretty easy, but I also have been doing brisk walking of 1.5 miles 3 times a week for several months, so I have some stamina built up already. It’s definitely time to push myself a bit farther. The real challenge will come when I hit the road again. Hopefully, I can maintain my training plans, even when my travels take me overseas…in the opposite direction of my last few trips!