My new-found love of mustard... yum.

For me, the hardest thing to do was giving up some of my favorite vices. I loved mayo. Looooved fruit punch. Loooooooved ice cream floats. I’m just not someone who likes the idea of giving up what I’d considered staples in my diet – yes, mayo was a staple… I even enjoyed a little turkey with my mayo sandwich – for any reason, until… I found something better.

I think that’s a key aspect of giving up bad habits – finding something delicious to replace it with, that has the added bonus of being good for us, as well. Granted, not everyone will face the task of full on giving something up… but I know my strengths, and I pay attention to my weaknesses. I know that some things compel me to ignore the concept of “moderation” either out of habit or simply because it may be what my tongue wants at that time. Sometimes, I’d rather skip them altogether than risk overdoing it in the name of “learning moderation.”

So having said that, here are a few of my swaps that make life that much easier for me, and prevent me from running back to my own bad habits:

Mayonnaise/”Salad Dressing”: Depending on your brand, it might be that sweet stuff that is something like a billion calories of nothing but oil and egg and cream and high fructose corn syrup. I gave up my mayo, and replaced it with different variations of mustard. Yes, mustard! Honey mustard, dijon mustard, regular mustard… you name it, I’ve got it. I use it on salads, on sandwiches, even in my marinades. The average tablespoon of mustard is about 10 calories anyhow and with such a kick to it, a little goes a long way.

Croutons: I always laugh a little bit when I look at the serving sizes for croutons, because they’re so impractical. The serving size is always something awkward like, “2 tablespoons or 3 grams.” Who measures croutons in tablespoons? And what’s more, croutons peek out from above the top of the tablespoon.. so does the calorie count only include the parts of the croutons that’s actually within the spoon or does it also include the bread that’s peeking out of the top? I don’t like things that are difficult to measure – that makes it more difficult to understand and gauge what it’s doing to my body – so I gave up the croutons, and replaced them with panko bread crumbs. Their size allows for you to measure them properly, a half of a cup is 100 calories (so two tablespoons is closer to 25 calories), and they’re crunchy enough to provide nice texture to your salads. Win.

Fruit juice: I can admit it. Three years of dorm life left me with a sad love of, um, “fruit punch.” It’s not “fruit juice,” because it’s not the “juice of a fruit.” It’s “fruit punch” because… well, no one knows why. There’s no nutritional value to this stuff because it’s little more than chemical flavorings, sugar and water. But how can you make your own fruit punch? Grab some tea bags, squeeze in some orange juice, throw in some raspberries and peaches and mangoes (I sometimes use frozen when I need to be cheap), and then drop in your orange and lemon halves! Ta-da – not only is it beautiful to look at, but once you get the flavor perfect for your tongue, you will be much happier with your choice.

Root beer floats: I didn’t even like root beer like that, but paired up with ice cream? Aw, snap. What I do now is actually pretty extensive, but ice cream is not a regularity at all for me – maybe once every few months – so I treat it like it’s special. I dice up a few apples, toss ’em in a pot. Pour in some cranberries, a tablespoon of sugar, and about a half cup of red wine (I always keep a cheap bottle of wine handy to use while cooking, anyhow.) Let it cook on moderate heat (maybe a 7 out of ten), and then mash it up with a potato masher (or chop it up with a knife, same point). It doesn’t have to look like mashed potatoes, but it shouldn’t look like fresh apples, either. Once I’ve finished dinner, I’ll pour my ice cream in a glass, top it with my apples and cranberries and maybe pour a little sparkling water over the top. Yes, I treat it like real dessert – I cook it while I cook dinner.

I know, I know… no one wants to go through all of that work. Cooking fruits, squeezing oranges, but the point of all this is two-fold: 1) become so excited by the good stuff (that you can make for cheap), that you no longer want the cheap and unhealthy stuff as much, and 2) know that because it’s so much work, you can’t eat it as much, therefore you don’t eat it as much. Besides, even if you don’t need to give up these things, you’ll at least see how to flip something into an opportunity to experiment and create something new. See how that works?

What swaps have you made to live healthier and happier? What swaps would you like to make? Who knows? Maybe we can make a new “day” – “Friday Swap?” Let’s hear ’em!