Dieting truly doesn't have to be miserable — and slimming down shouldn't limit your dinner options to one dish (aka grilled chicken and a side of veggies). In hopes of helping you achieve a trimmer waistline in time for summer, First for Women spoke to Natalie Menza-Crowe, RD, MS, the director of health and wellness at ShopRite, regarding how to eat well without getting bored and indulge in foods you love without getting off track. Here are a few of her top tips.
1. Try a blended burger.
"Mixing and matching textures, flavors, and cooking techniques is essential to prevent yourself from getting bored and keep yourself, and your family, interested in meal time," Menza-Crowe says. "A great way to balance texture and flavor while cutting back on costs is to try a blended burger. Mix lean ground meat or poultry with chopped and sautéed mushrooms for a savory burger that helps to balance the plate by adding in a serving of veggies in the burger."
2. Snacking isn't off limits.
"Snacks are a great option for between meals when you need a little pick-me-up. Just as meals should include several food groups, aim for two-three food groups for snacks too," she says. "Consider pairing an apple with peanut butter to get a source of healthy carbohydrates with a protein punch. Or, if you’re on the go, enjoy a serving of trail mix that includes nuts and seeds to keep you full until the next meal."
3. Moderation is key.
"Food tends to be a part of any gathering. Luckily, remembering balance is a perfect way to navigate those nice weather celebrations," Menza-Crowe says. "If the party is buffet style, choose the items you want the most, but don’t forget to fill your plate with lots of veggie and lean protein-filled dishes. Of course, it’s also okay to take bite-sized portions of more indulgent courses and desserts – (mostly) everything is okay in moderation. Balance is truly the perfect way to have your cake and eat it, too!"
4. It's all about balance.
"Balancing your plate is a way to stay on a healthy track without getting bogged down in having to focus on consuming certain nutrients or worrying about counting calories or carbs. Plus, when you balance your plate you don’t have to exclude 'forbidden' foods from your diet, because everything in moderation is allowable. One day your plate could be filled with broccoli and cauliflower with a Parmesan-crusted chicken over chickpea pasta; the next day, you could be enjoying fish tacos topped with fruit salsa, with brown rice and a cabbage slaw," she says. "The options become endless when you are mindful of your portion sizes, and you can take advantage of all the choices you have."
5. Be selective about sweets.
"When indulging in a treat, it’s important to practice portion control to prevent overindulging. If you are still hungry after one serving, rather than reaching for another, try snacking on a nutritious piece of fruit or raw vegetables," Menza-Crowe says.
6. Make smart substitutions.
"Swapping ingredients such as Greek yogurt and applesauce in baked goods cuts back on fat without sacrificing taste or texture," she says. "Choosing a whole-wheat pasta provides added nutrient benefits, and whole-wheat flour yields more fiber and naturally occurring nutrients. whole wheat crust in homemade pizza with a cauliflower crust for added fiber content."
7. Protein equals flavor.
"Lean proteins that are full of flavor give meals a more satisfying flavor profile. Small amounts of turkey bacon can be a great way to add extra flavor to your favorite dishes," she says. "Try adding crumbled leftover turkey bacon to a side dish of green beans or Brussels sprouts. Chicken sausage is another great option. Low in saturated fat, but full of flavor, you don’t need to add many ingredients to prepare a quick, healthy and tasty meal."