What is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions? If you guessed taking up knitting—no, that's not it. Instead, according to Nielsen polls, 37 percent of us wanted to get fit and enjoy better health in 2016, and 32 percent of us wanted to lose weight. Unfortunately, every year these goals are also two of the most commonly broken resolutions. "New Year's resolutions are fun to make but can be difficult to maintain, especially health-related ones," says Katherine Beals, an Associate Professor with University of Utah Health Care's Division of Nutrition. "Research shows just a week into the new year, 23 percent of health-related resolutions are already off track."
With incidences of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease affecting millions of Americans each year, better health and weight loss is worth the effort. So how can we increase our chances of success? "Making drastic diet changes can be difficult to stick with long term," says Jamie Saunders, MS, a registered dietician with University of Utah Healthcare. "So start with some simple switches you know you can maintain." Small changes in food choices can have a big impact on overall health.
Five Healthy Food Swaps That Can Cut Calories & Increase Weight Loss.
1. Eat an apple a day.
Instead of feasting on crackers, trail mix, or "low-calorie" munchies that can add up and jeopardize weight loss efforts when we're not looking, place a bowl of sliced apples by your computer and munch on those. You will still satisfy the crunch craving yet save big on sodium and calories. Plus, you get your daily serving of fruit.
2. Add fish to your weekly meal plan.
Reserve the steak dinner for special occasions. For a healthy protein alternative, fish should have a regular spot at your dinner table. For example a four-ounce filet of halibut can save you about 70 calories and 11 grams of fat compared to a similar cut of beef.
3. Soup is good food.
Soup is the epitome of comfort foods and a mainstay for dieters, but many cream-based kinds of soups can drown you in fat. By changing to a broth-based soup, such as a chicken vegetable instead of a cream of broccoli, you can save 105 calories and savor just 4 grams of fat per serving. "Make this change once a week and cut out 5,460 calories a year, or roughly one and a half pounds," says the health staff at Reader's Digest.
4. Dump the diet soda.
Despite reports that diet soda consumption is on the decline, the editors at Fitday.com say that soda consumption still accounts for more than a quarter of all drinks consumed within the United States. "Drinking calories, especially in the form of sweetened beverages, is displacing otherwise nutrient-dense foods," says registered dietitian Staci Nix McIntosh, an assistant professor at the University of Utah. "The amount of sugar Americans consume, in general, is still excessively high," she notes.
Even though they have no sugar or calories diet sodas are not a good alternative. Some studies have found the artificial sweetners can trigger insulin in the same way as sugar, leading to weight gain. There are also concerns about the long term health effects of these sweeteners.
An effective and delicious alternative to "chemicals in a can" is a glass of seltzer water flavored with lemon, fresh berries, cucumbers, or mint.
5. Explore evaporated fat-free milk.
Often viewed as little more than the main ingredient in pumpkin pie and homemade fudge, evaporated fat-free milk can add a creamy texture to your favorite sauce and soup recipes without loading up on calories. And it is also a great source of vitamin D.
If this is the year to achieve your weight loss goals, these five healthy food swaps can help you make this new year happy and healthy.