If improving your diet has ever been a personal goal for you-or perhaps a New Year's resolution - I have good news. There are some very practical and simple steps you can take to reach this goal-and you don't have to make radical changes that are next to impossible to sustain.

Several years ago, a patient named Eugene asked me how he could improve his eating habits. As I told Eugene, the key is substituting a few healthful foods for some of the less nutritious items that most people eat. My advice…

  • Use plain, low-fat yogurt instead of milk, ice cream or sour cream. Yogurt offers all of the nutrition of milk plus the addition of beneficial bacteria that help improve digestion and nutrient absorption and fight overgrowth of yeast. Yogurt is an excellent choice for breakfast or a snack. It can be used on vegetables, in soup or as a healthful dessert. If you don't like the taste of plain yogurt, add your own honey, maple syrup, fresh fruit and/or nuts.
  • Replace iceberg lettuce with chopped red chard leaves. Iceberg lettuce provides few nutrients. By replacing it with red chard, you can add vitamin A, iron and fiber to your salads.
  • Try romaine lettuce leaves in place of bread. Romaine lettuce is firm enough to be filled with spreads or something more substantial, such as tuna or turkey. Simply roll up the leaf as you would a sandwich wrap. Romaine "sandwiches will help you reduce calories, contribute to your daily fiber intake and improve your digestion.
  • Use sesame butter instead of peanut butter. Sesame butter is a richer source of calcium and healthful omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Substitute ground flaxseed for flour. Ground flaxseed is more nutritious than wheat flour and is a great source of fiber and a form of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s. Add ground flaxseed to oatmeal or cereal or substitute ground flaxseed for one-third of the flour in recipes for muffins and breads.
  • Add a few bok choy leaves to soup. Like chard, bok choy is high in folic acid (needed for red blood cell formation) and iron--and the compounds that give the leafy, green vegetable its bitter quality aid digestion. To improve the nutritional value of even canned soup, sprinkle several coarsely chopped bok choy leaves on top when it's steaming hot and almost ready to eat. Cover and let simmer for four minutes.
  • Eat parsley regularly. It's rich in vitamin C, helps freshen your breath and reduces intestinal gas. Chop it up raw and add it to green salads or tuna. Or make a batch of parsley pesto (substitute parsley for some or all of the basil in a pesto recipe).
  • Go vegetarian one day a week. Use crumbled tempeh (fermented soy) instead of ground beef in chili or soups. Also, scramble tofu, instead of eggs, with onions and veggies for breakfast. Avoiding meat for just one day a week will help reduce your cholesterol levels.

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in