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Eleven Easy Food Swaps from The Biggest Loser

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Every week on The Biggest Loser, contestants work their butts off (literally) trying to get healthy. Yet the toughest challenge can come after they leave the show and have to lose weight like the rest of us—alone, without gyms that come with top fitness trainers and kitchens that are filled with fresh, healthy meals. “It’s a reality show, but it’s not realistic. A contestant’s full time job is to lose weight at the ranch,” explains Cheryl Forberg, R.D., the resident nutritionist for The Biggest Loser. “People at home don’t have that luxury.”

On the show, Forberg prepares eating plans, teaches contestants how to keep a food journal and makes sure everyone is staying on track and getting the nutrients they need. But perhaps the most important role she has is in giving the participants support after they get home Forberg’s newest book, The Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps: 100 Easy Changes to Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle (Rodale), features straightforward advice from the contestants and Forberg herself.

“There are so many people who are inspired by the show and want to get started on a healthier lifestyle but are overwhelmed,” says Forberg, a James Beard Award-winning chef. “You can start today by making small, simple swaps. A few things here and there add up. The next week, you can add a couple more.” Here are some of Forberg’s best swap tips:

1) Portobello Instead of Pizza Dough
I love to put marinara sauce, cooked turkey sausage, and cheese on a Portobello mushroom cap instead of a crust. These Portobello pizzas are about 90 calories each. If you go out and buy mini pizzas that are the same size, they are 300 or 400 calories.

2) Whole Grains Instead of Refined
An easy-to-remember swap that makes a massive difference is cutting out the white stuff-white flour, sugar, rice, pasta. All that has plenty of calories and few nutrients. It wreaks havoc with your blood sugar and increases your appetite. When you adjust to having whole grains—brown rice, whole wheat pasta—you get more nutrients and antioxidants. It’s more filling because there is more fiber. You don’t need to eat as much, and your energy stays level. 


3) Avocado Instead of Mayonnaise
With all the fat-free products that we have on the market, people have it stuck in their heads that you can’t eat fat when you’re trying to lose weight. But we need good fats. They contain Vitamin E and they also provide a fullness that can prevent bingeing. Having avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise is a wonderful surprise. It has that rich, creamy texture and flavor and it’s not an empty calorie. 




4) Low-Fat Instead of Fat-Free
When you take the fat out of certain products, you’re not necessarily saving calories. In order to make a palatable replacement, many manufacturers will put in sugar or salt that will kick up the calorie count. 

5) Breadsticks Instead of Dinner Rolls
I encourage [people to say] please don’t put the breadbasket on the table. But if you do have bread, be sure to ask for whole grain rolls or breadsticks. Restaurants want to please us. [Waiters are] not going to know if you don’t ask for it. The same thing for brown rice [instead of white] if you’re going for sushi or Chinese food.

6) Greek Yogurt Instead of American-Style
The Greek style of yogurt is strained longer than the American style. The residual yogurt is lower in carbs, higher in protein and is thicker and creamier. It’s great in dips. It’s also good to add to your smoothies.

7) Fresh Food Instead of Processed
The quality of the calories is just as important as the quantity. Processed food has empty calories, while fresh food has antioxidants, nutrients and fiber.

8) Organic Instead of Non-Organic
It’s a no-brainer to say organic is better for you—why not avoid chemicals and prservatives if you can? But we can’t all afford to buy everything organic. So buy the best quality ingredients you can afford.

9) Water Instead of Soda and Other Sugary Drinks
I have contestants on the show who were meeting their calorie needs with beverages alone.

10) “Skinny” Coffee Drinks Instead of Frappuccinos

A fat-free, small latte contains a cup of milk and 20 or 30 percent of our daily calcium needs.

11) Squash Instead of Spaghetti
You can replace regular spaghetti with a spaghetti squash (cooked and prepared in a pasta-like, stringy style). You serve it with marina sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan. 


By Amy Levin-Epstein for BettyConfidential

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