The Easiest Healthy Living Swaps Ever
Almond milk versus soy? Vodka soda or agave margarita? The girls from Sakara Life break it all down.
If you've so much as entered a grocery store, cafe, wine bar or farmers market in our post-Goop, gluten-obsessive world, we're willing to bet you often ponder your options with more questions than answers. Non-fat or soy milk? Wait... isn't almond the new soy? Or is it hemp that's the new almond? Vodka tonic or agave margarita? Wait, what about merlot? That magazine in my doctors office said I should drink a glass every night, right?
With the struggle being, well, real, we enlisted the Sakara Life founders to debunk and break down our top head-scratchers. They're the experts, so we'll let them take it from here...
"Let’s face it. New York City comes rocking a pretty sexy selection of healthy options. Juice bars on every other corner, gluten-free alternatives at cafes, vegan bakeries and about that array of boutique fitness studios designed to satisfy every single one of our deepest cravings? Yes, thank you NYC for having our back(side)s.
But somehow you still find yourself sitting at brunch staring at a robust menu boasting locally sourced, organic fare, not sure whether to get the omelet with full eggs or egg whites, wheat or multigrain toast, bloody mary or mimosa. And, trust us, you aren’t the only one. With so much conflicting information being thrown around carelessly and hot new trends everywhere you look, what to eat to best nourish your beautiful body can get confusing quickly. Now, this list isn’t your typical this or that because, in this case, both this and that are great options and we are damn lucky to have them at our fingertips. But because we deserve to be picky and because we can, let’s dig a little deeper into our healthy options to see when and where we really are choosing the crème de la (dairy-free) crème."
Vodka Soda vs. Red wine
"Red wine contains reservatrol, which has amazing antioxidant properties that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by raising levels of HDL or 'good' cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. If you are looking for hard alcohol, vodka soda is definitely the lesser of many, many evils, but wine should be your go-to for both work and play."
Omelet vs. Tofu Scramble
"Eggs are the best hangover cure, so if brunch is involved, eggs are front and center. One little egg has 7 grams of high-quality, complete, lean-body-building protein, five grams of fat and a diverse team of iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids (antioxidants) that keep your insides disease-free and your outsides glowing. That tofu scramble on the menu comes packing a whole lot of controversial soy, which is one of the highest genetically modified crops in the country, plus its phytoestrogens have been linked to breast cancer. If you follow a strict vegan diet and eggs are off the table, opt for a hearty bowl of oats with hydrating fruits and cleansing cinnamon. Bonus points for shaved coconut on top."
Soup vs. Salad
"We believe in chewing, and, when done right, salads come packing an array of fresh whole foods filled with natural life energy. This means more complete nutrients for your body to soak up. Best part of all? A salad means getting in our #1 body-loving, beautifying, supercharging ingredient: greens. We eat 4-8 cups of greens a day, so, most days, we’re going with the salad. Although soups are also a great option, they can be tricky if you don’t know exactly what’s in them. They are often based in creams, come packed with unhealthy amounts of sodium, are paired with processed crackers/bread and leave us feeling…well…hungry. Makes those donuts sitting on your co-worker’s desk a little harder to resist when 3 PM rolls around."
Coke vs. Diet Coke
Do we have to?
"Um… are we allowed to plead the fifth? We’re not fans of Coke or Diet Coke and while we can talk about high fructose corn syrup (Coke) versus aspartame (Diet Coke), when it comes down to it, they're both causing some serious shock and harm to your body. If we’re going to drink a Coke (which most likely means whiskey is involved), we pick whichever tastes better to us at the time and call it what it is: a splurge. Amount is key when it comes to soda (a dab will do ya!). And make sure to follow up your indulgence with some seriously balancing body-love: alkalizing greens, hydrating fruits and blood-stabilizing fats."
Almond Milk vs. Soy Milk vs. Non-Fat Milk
"If we’re going the route of dairy milk, fatty milks help keep blood sugar stable, which can come in handy depending on what you are pairing your milk with. The key here is to make sure it’s organic and not non-fat! Danielle’s body doesn’t digest dairy well, so she always opts for dairy-free alternatives. Organic almond or hemp milk are our favorites, as long as it they’re carrageenan free—they’re rich in essential vitamins and minerals and easiest on the digestive system."
Quinoa vs. Couscous
"Quinoa is a whole food, high in complete protein and fiber. It's a staple that should be in your kitchen right this very second. Couscous is a kind of pasta made from semolina flour (gluten). We’re whole-food kinda girls, so if we’re enjoying some couscous, you can safely guess it’s made out of cauliflower, not flour."
Kale Chips vs. Taro Chips
"We’re usually not fans of chips in any form as they tend to be dehydrating, difficult to digest, and… dead. But sometimes you need that crunch, and that’s okay. But if we’ve got to choose, you know we’re going for the kale. The combination of olive oil, kale and whatever other superfoods are going in there (spirulina? Nutritional yeast?), make it a great option. However, if it’s really and truly up to us… sit us down with some Tarot cards and a fresh kale salad instead and we are two happy ladies."
Juices vs. Smoothies
Different strokes for different folks.
"Both are pretty darn great when it comes to getting in an array of nutrients in a form that is easy for your body to digest and assimilate—but don’t forget to chew! Most people don’t know that you’re supposed to chew your juice and smoothies and this step is essential for breaking down sugars as it stimulates enzyme production in the saliva glands. Juice is best on an empty stomach, smoothies are best for some serious satiation. While a smoothie can serve as a full meal, juice is a supplement—great for a snack or to boost your vitamin intake throughout the day. Stay clear of super sweet juices that are based on sweet fruits and veggies (ie: apple, carrot, beet) and opt for something green."
Kale vs. Arugula
Please don’t make us choose…
"This one hurts. Whit is so into arugula right now, but kale is kale and there is no denying the nutrient powerhouse that she is! In 1 cup of kale,you’re getting hefty amounts of protein and fiber, in addition to folate, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants galore. On the other hand, arugula is super hydrating, boosts detoxification and is rich in chlorophyll, which helps prevent liver and DNA damage. So we’re calling it a tie. Not only is variety the spice of life, but it’s also key in ensuring you are getting in the vast array of nutrients your body needs. So mix it up baby!"
Whole wheat bread vs. gluten-free bread
"Find freshly baked bread and ditch the preservatives! If something is designed to last for weeks on the shelf, it is not designed for your body. Most of the time this will mean going with whole wheat bread (unless you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity in which case you want to find bread with whole food ingredients!), or go old school and get a baguette baked fresh that morning! Preservatives cause more harm than simple carbs. If you're only eating bread every now and then, keep a loaf of Ezekiel bread in the freezer—cinnamon raison flavor is da bomb with a little coconut oil and Himalayan sea salt."
Kombucha vs. Coconut water
Whatever is local
"If we’re on the beach in Rio, we’ll take fresh coconut water any day and enjoy each potassium-rich sip of pure hydration. But back here in what is about to be an icy tundric NYC, most of the coconut waters you find on the shelf have been processed, concentrated and HPP'd. So we’re opting for the Brooklyn Kombucha and the awesome Urban Fermentory from Portland, Maine. Kombucha is filled with probiotics (happy gut = sexy body) and amino acids that help your body digest sugars."
Vegan vs. Gluten free
"Arguably the two most popular health diets right now, you’ll see these labels everywhere you go. We get it—you want to love your body, fuel it, heal it and keep it rocking all its natural goddess power, so just which do you choose? Kind of a trick question. These two diets are rooted in food allergies and intolerances that a good percentage of the human population has developed to dairy and gluten respectively. The spectrum of intolerances you see to these ingredients is pretty astounding—everything from a complete inability to absorb nutrients (which translates to your body needing to, ahem, purge) to acne, bloat and/or fatigue (the things you don’t really notice on a daily basis). Long story short: don’t slap a label onto your meal until you know your body and what ingredients (if any) it has issues with. Many people find themselves feeling lighter, brighter and leaner by omitting ingredients that are difficult for their bodies to process, but what those ingredients are vary body to body and you are doing your body no help by eliminating them just for kicks. Assuming you don’t have a serious allergy to either dairy or gluten, what it really comes down to is choosing the foods that are, first and foremost, not processed. Regular muffins over gluten-free muffins. Real cheese over fake cheese. Whole foods over any and every other food."
Photography courtesy Caitlin Mitchell.