March is National Nutrition Month® and it is a perfect time of the year to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It is a great time to remember that it is ok to keep it simple. Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated or fixated on counting calories, carbs or protein; what does count is developing and sustaining healthy habits.
Here are 3 Smart Nutrition Swaps that go hand in hand to fuel your fitness:
1. Create Balance with Berries
Instead of automatically dousing your pancakes, waffles or French toast with syrup, add color and flavor with fresh berries. You will add flavor and sweetness without needing to look at a label to know that you are getting fiber and a significant amount of antioxidants. If you are looking for a savory topping, go with a simple fruit compote made with fresh or frozen berries. Feel free to add cherries, a splash of juice from a fresh orange and a hint of cinnamon or fresh ginger to create a delicious toping. This topping maintains great flavor and can be refrigerated or frozen for easy future use. Even if you do add a teaspoon or so of sugar (or agave nectar) it beats out the 13 teaspoons of sugar found in a ¼ cup serving of syrup! This simple swap is a win-win: You dramatically lower the added sugar in your meal and you provide a whole foods source of anti-oxidants that help your body recover from physical activity.
2. Add Volume with Veggies
Fresh and frozen vegetables are rich in fiber and have a higher water content so they can add volume to meals, as well as, deliver essential vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. At Hilton Head Health, Executive Chef Karla Williams specializes in incorporating fresh vegetables into meals to ensure they are satisfying and filling and keep the overall calories in check. For example, she incorporates spiralized zucchini with whole wheat pasta to provide volume and texture while helping to reduce the calories and carbohydrate found in a typical pasta dish.
In addition to adding volume, vegetables are one of nature’s greatest sources of the electrolyte, potassium. Electrolytes give your muscles the ability to function properly and if you have an imbalance of these, you are more likely to experience cramping, stay sore and have twitchy muscles. Beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, tomatoes, spinach, and butternut squash are lower calorie veggies that are great sources of potassium. Once again, make this simple nutrition swap to naturally help fuel your fitness.
Note: Those with kidney disease may need to limit potassium intake and should consult with a physician regarding specific potassium needs.
3. Make Hydration a Habit
Back away from high sugar beverages that can derail your weight loss efforts by providing excess empty calories and spike blood sugar. Water is best for general hydration, but it's ok to liven it up. Infusing your water with fruits and vegetables like strawberries, citrus, cucumber and mint are all refreshing swaps for a sugary drink. Maintaining proper hydration is important for feeling your best and influences your physical performance. Going into physical activity slightly dehydrated will make it feel harder to complete, lowers endurance and increases stress on your body. Failing to adequately hydrate after activity delays physical recovery. The bottom line is to keep the right fluids handy and plan hydration into your daily routine by pairing it with another activity that you already do. For example, pair it with waking in the morning, leaving the house, taking a break or heading home from work. If you will not be taking fluid with you, no problem, just make a point to drink before you head out.