Imagine I just gave you a little tap with my magic wand and now, you can eat what you want and lose weight. Aside from hugging me like your best friend who surprises you with a birthday visit, what would you do next?
I do fully believe that knowing you are able to eat what you want is the secret to healthy, happy, sustainable weight loss.
However, this looks a lot different than the food-fest you may have imagined when I posed this question. Because when we connect to our true wants and embrace our freedom of choice, we’re in the best position ever to make decisions that we can be proud of.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FOODS?
When helping clients transition to healthier eats, I like to ask them about their favorite foods. Nutrition facts label aside, what food do you like to eat the most?
Common answers are pizza, tacos, pasta, and any variety of chocolate dessert. Or as I like to call them- awesome, delicious, and oh-so-yummy.
These are foods I don’t have to twist your arm to eat. You could swear them off for a bit but then you’d feel deprived and probably end up overeating them.
3 WAYS TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT
Contrary to what you may think, you can absolutely eat whatever you want and lose weight by using one of these 3 strategies:
1. EAT WHAT YOU WANT: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Your body, it’s sending you signals. Are you listening?
Living in our food-steeped society, it’s easy to overlook what your body is asking for. By turning back into your hunger and fullness signals, you encourage portion control. With practice, you can confidently eat what you want and stay healthy without the worry of having too much.
2. EAT WHAT YOU WANT: CHOOSE ONLY THE BEST
Think about your last week of eating. Of the treats and sweets you ate, how many were worthy of a social media post? And, how many were just so-so?
If you find that you’re indulging in foods that don’t deliver, consider upping the ante and choose only “sometimes” that rate a 7 and up.
3. EAT WHAT YOU WANT: MAKEOVER YOUR FAVORITE FOODS
If you’re looking to eat what you want, day in and day out, the solution is found at the intersection of taste and nourishment.
By making over your meals with ingredient upgrades, you turn them into delicious eats you can enjoy every. single. day.
Imagine you knew you were having burgers and fries for dinner. How much easier would it be to drive past that fast food restaurant?
Or let’s say one of your coworkers brings in leftover birthday cake (what are we, garbage disposals?). Wouldn’t it require less effort to say “no thanks” if you knew your everyday food was pretty darn amazing?
Here I will share my absolute favorite menu upgrades that allow me to eat what I want, rain or shine.
11 EASY MEAL SWAPS TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT
1. BURGER & FRIES MAKEOVER
- Make your own burgers, seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Use a whole grain bun (we love these), serve bunless, or wrap in a lettuce leaf.
- Alexia Smart Fries are tasty but we prefer baking our own.
- Try veggie fries with a variety of root vegetables.
2. CAKE MAKEOVER
3. CANDY MAKEOVER
- Try frozen grapes, mango or dark cherries.
- Top frozen banana slices with nut butter and dip into the homemade chocolate sauce.
- Make your own ooey-gooey gummy treats.
4. CHICKEN NUGGETS
- Try a baked version coated in whole grains or almond flour. You can make your own Chick-Fil-A sauce with low-fat or avocado mayo.
5. CHICKEN WING MAKEOVER
- Grill chicken wings rather than battering them and frying them. When you do, remember it’s all about the marinade.
6. FRENCH TOAST MAKEOVER
- Dip sprouted grain bread into an egg/milk mixture (1 egg: 1 TB milk) and cook on a hot griddle until browned on both sides. Top with fresh fruit or, my favorite, frozen berries heated in the microwave. A dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with a dap of honey will finish it off nicely.
7. ICE CREAM MAKEOVER
8. PANCAKE & WAFFLE MAKEOVER
9. PASTA MAKEOVER
- Use whole grain pasta or Barilla Protein Plus pasta if your family is not a fan of whole grain. Add in spaghetti squash or sautéed, spiralized zucchini to add more volume and some extra veggie content. Top with marinara sauce and a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese.
10. PIZZA MAKEOVER
- Make your own whole wheat dough or purchase pre-made whole wheat dough, if available. We buy ours at Whole Foods. Top with marinara sauce, low-fat mozzarella, and tons of veggies. Get creative! We have used grilled eggplant and zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and fresh spinach or basil. Cook in the oven or on the grill.
- For a quick and easy pizza, top a whole grain flatbread with your toppings and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 7 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
11. TACO MAKEOVER
- Sauté lean ground beef or turkey or grill chicken with taco seasoning. Serve with whole grain tortillas, black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, lettuce, tomato, salsa, low-fat cheddar cheese, and guacamole. A taco bar is always a big hit with the family and gives the option for a taco salad alternative.
A WARNING FOR “MAKEOVERS”
I was a teenager, trying to eat “healthy,” but.. my efforts were getting me nowhere. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing wrong. After all, it was the 90’s, fat was bad, and I was avoiding it like the plague.
Meanwhile, I was guzzling grape juice and eating raisins by the canister.
Even healthy foods can be overeaten. Often not in spite of their health but because of it. Did you catch that?
A “healthy food halo” is a real thing and if you’re eating healthy but not losing weight, consider how you may be overshooting your portions in the name of “it’s good for me.”
WHAT TO DO
With so many options to upgrade your meals, I bet you’re wondering where to start.
Here’s a simple 4-step process to get you going. Feel free to skip, add-on, or make up your own steps. This is your journey, own it.
1. Makeover one of your top 3 meals. Simply use the tips above or do a quick Google search of that food preceded by “healthy.”
2. When dining out, pay special attention to your fullness signal. Try to eat slowly and notice when your food stops tasting fabulous. Pack up the rest and head home.
3. The next time you’re faced with an unexpected treat, rate it on a scale of 1-10. If it’s not a 7 or up, skip it and opt for something you’ll enjoy much more.
4. If you’re looking to make changes but you get overwhelmed because you don’t know where to start, check out The Healthy Habit Goal Setting Planner.
This planner will help you connect with your “want to” so that you only commit to changes you’ll be motivated to achieve. Then, it will walk you through the process of setting goals that you can successfully grow in confidence and getting results each step of the way.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.