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It’s a new year and welcoming the new year usually means that we are all looking to work on resolutions, goals and in many cases, losing weight.  For me, trying to lose the weight and improve my health are a never ending journey but I am always so thankful for the little tidbits and tips I learn along the way.  While losing weight is great, to me – it’s all about improving my nutrition and overall health and today I’m excited to share with you a few tips that help me keep my body and mind in check.

When you are reassessing your health and nutrition goals for the year, the biggest advice I can give you is to make smarter choices but don’t completely strip your body or mind of the things you love.  Here are a few tips to help you on your journey:

1.)  Replace your sodas with flavored sparkling waters if you simply can’t give up the carbonation and fizz.  I am a huge water drinker and love it, but I’ve been told time and time again that eliminating soda is one of the hardest things for a person because sometimes it’s not the flavor you crave, but the fizzy.  By replacing your favorite soda with a Zero Calorie drink, you’ll be making a big difference in how you feel.  On average a 20oz soda has 66 grams of sugar – wowzers! When I need the fizzy bubbly drinks I crave (I’m a Pepsi lover by the way), I turn to Cascade Ice Sparkling Water.  Cascase Ice has no sugar, sodium, calories, gluten or caffeine.  Cascade Ice drinks come in so many fun flavors (my family and I have probably tried them all) and they can be purchased at most stores.

“I love my Pepsi and I’ll admit that from time to time, I’ll have a small sip to not only wet my whistle but quench that craving, but when it comes down to it – it’s rare.  Again the key to success in improving your nutrition is not to deprive yourself of the things you love but substitute them for healthier versions or cut down how much of it you consume.”

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2.)  Replace your white rice with Quinoa to give your taste buds a little variety and to add more fiber in your diet.  I love Quinoa and it’s something I can eat daily.  Transitioning to an “all Quinoa” diet for my family is not something we are ready to commit to yet, but it’s something we slowly incorporate into our meals.  White rice is a huge part of who we are as locals of the Hawaiian Islands.  Everyone eats white rice here and most local restaurants have it on their menu consistently.  But, that’s what I love about changing up your meals – there’s no need to complete omit and discard your favorite foods.  If you’re not sure that you like Quinoa, instead of eating it on its own – try mixing it with your white rice.  Just like with brown rice mixed with white rice (we call it “hapa rice” here in Hawaii) you can easily incorporate both to make it more tolerable for you and your family.  Like I said before – I love Quinoa, so I use it to top my salads or as a side to my favorite veggies and protein.  I also enjoy mixing it with vegetables or in a stir fry.  The options are endless.  I’ll try to post some of my favorite Quinoa dishes this year so you have a little inspiration.

Why Quinoa?  Quinoa has over 21% of the recommended daily intake of fiber while white rice only has 14%.  Quinoa also offers 50% more protein which makes it ideal for those days where you need the extra fuel.  Studies have shown that white rice is linked to obesity when consumed on a daily basis, but while I can’t give up my rice just yet – supplementing and replacing my rice with Quinoa is definitely something I can do.

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3.)  Substitute your favorite snack foods for a healthier alternative.  Oh – this one is absolutely my favorite tip of all.  Thankfully, I’m not a huge snacker and not someone who craves chocolate or candy often.  But, when I do – I’ll pull at anything and everything in the house to fill that craving.  Whether it be chips, cookies, cake or candy bars… if it’s in the house and I don’t have an alternative – I’ll eat it if the need and craving arises.  My suggestion – try taking out your stock of junk food in the house.  If you like to keep a candy bar or two around or a small bag of chips – hey, sometimes we need it, but eliminate shopping for them in bulk if at all possible.  Small portions are okay in moderation but if you feel the need to pick up a large bag of potato chips or fries, try going for something like Kale Chips or unsalted no butter popcorn.  I find that instead of candy or chips, I love snacking on carrots and broccoli with hummus.  Fried foods like chips are high in saturated fat and salt which can make you vulnerable to diabetes, among other diseases.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s okay to have a few of your favorite foods from time to time – but again, all in moderation and only enough to satisfy that taste – don’t over indulge.

Here’s the deal – at the end of the day, you will only truly improve your nutrition or diet if you put in the effort.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the habits that you developed over the years.  I’m a believer that change never happens overnight, but making the effort to change – even if only a little at a time, makes a huge difference.  I  never believed in weight loss fads and diets (let’s just say I have been down that route and know how it worked or didn’t work for me), but I do believe in hard work, determination and one day at a time.  If your goal is to improve your nutrition, making little changes each day will make a huge different in the long run.

How about you?  Are you a healthy eater already?  If not, what steps can you take to change up your nutrition, diet and overall health?

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