There’s no end of complicated diets, juice fasts and other plans promising to help you feel your best. But sometimes the simplest approach is the recipe for success.
Two ways that you can feel better today—inexpensively and simply—are to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, and cut back on sugar. Adding vegetables gets you more nutrients and fiber, to keep your energy up and your digestion humming along. Cutting sugar not only helps you fight heart disease and cancer, but also boosts energy and focus.
Taking these two steps seems easy enough, and this is straightforward advice your mom gave you… but how can you actually make it happen? Here are some practical ways you can start today.
1. Reduce sugar
- Gradually add less to coffee or tea. Instead of just leaving out sugar, which may be a shock if you’re used to sweet beverages, cut back a bit at a time. If you normally use a teaspoon, try ¾ teaspoon at first. Do it for a few days, then cut back a little more. Keep going as far as you can while still enjoying your drink. Half of a teaspoon may not seem like much, but every bit counts, especially if you drink more than one cup per day. (Cutting just ½ tsp. sugar from your diet each day adds up to 1½ pounds in a year.)
- Use lower-sugar condiments. Sugar doesn’t only lurk in sweet foods. Ketchup, hot sauce, and barbecue sauces are often loaded with sugar in its many forms. Did you know three spoonfuls of ketchup can have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut? And sugar is the second ingredient in some brands of sriracha? That’s why we love True Made Foods condiments; the company’s ketchup, barbecue sauce and sriracha taste like conventional brands, but the ketchup and barbecue sauce use half the sugar of other brands, and their sriracha (called “Veracha”) has no added sugar. Bonus: True Made condiments get their sweetness from vegetables such as butternut squash and carrots, so you get less sugar and more vegetables, win-win.
- Spice things up. Some spices add natural sweetness, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Citrus zest, coconut cream, and vanilla also impart sweetness without sugar or any of its cousins. Use these when making baked goods, dressings or other dishes.
2. Add vegetables
- Start in the a.m. The easiest way to up your vegetable intake is to begin eating them in the morning. Instead of toast with your eggs, have some sliced cucumbers or carrots on the side, or half of an avocado. Have leftover vegetables from dinner? Warm them up and have a fried egg on top. If you prefer a sweet breakfast, toss a few handfuls of frozen spinach into your smoothie. Over the weekend, whip up a batch of carrot or zucchini muffins to grab and go all week.
- Veg out at snack time. Instead of reaching for the typical chips, crackers or popcorn between meals, have some cut-up vegetables with dip. One of our faves: Jicama with guac and/or salsa, which satisfies the desire for crunch and packs in the vegetables. Olives are also great when you’re craving something salty.
- Add extras everywhere. Double the vegetables in any recipe you’re making, especially soups and casseroles. Fold grated carrots into mac and cheese or zucchini into meatball mix. Make a sandwich open-faced and pile on sliced cucumbers, avocado and sprouts instead of that second bread slice. Top pizza with sauteed peppers and onions.