For many people, losing weight and improving their health are one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. When you embark on a new health journey, you will be facing the dilemma of wanting to eat all your favorite foods, which aren’t always the healthiest choices.
One thing you can do to get over this hurdle to a certain extent is a healthy food swap. This is when you take something that is unhealthy and swap it out for a similar food which is healthier. Just try to eat fewer foods that are high in calories, fat, salt and sugar and swap them for something healthier, including more fruits and vegetables. Swapping for healthier foods is easier than you think. By making small changes to your eating habits, you can make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
Tips For Making Food Swaps
One of the essential steps in many diet and health plans is to make a switch from one food to another. In recent years, swapping out bad foods for good ones with a similar flavor has become increasingly popular. Before you start down this path, however, there are a few things you should consider.
Make sure the food swap is for the better
All too often people intend to make the swap for a better food, or what they think is a better food, only to find out that it isn’t as healthy as they thought. When you first start to make a food swap, consider if the swap is better. You can be sure that you are getting a better swap if you stick to natural options and stay away from processed foods. For example, swapping from sugar to artificial sweetener is not always the healthier option. Instead choose honey or agave, which is a natural source of sugar.
Swap across the board
If you are making a swap for your breakfast, lunch and dinner, then make it across the board as far as things like sugar, salt or preservatives are concerned. For example, if you have milk and sugar with your coffee and want to make a swap, then you may consider swapping for a nut based milk instead of dairy, and honey or agave instead of sugar.
Decide what is important
For some people, the swap has to focus on calories. For others, the focus is on fats, sugars, carbs and preservatives. As everyone has a different health goal, the key to making the right food swap is to focus on what is important to you. For example, if you need to lower your sugar intake, then focus on reducing the sugar content in the foods you eat. If you want to lower your calories while increasing your workouts, then you may want to look for options with more protein but lower calories.
Breakfast Food Swaps
You may not think of breakfast as a time when food swaps are necessary. However, for most people breakfast is when the most sugary foods are consumed such as French toast, waffles or even the grease in things like bacon and sausage. If breakfast is your biggest meal of the day, then this is the ideal place to start.
Whole fruits instead of fruit juice
One of the best swaps you can make for your breakfast food is to move away from drinking processed juices in favor of eating whole fruits. Now you may be thinking that you would have to eat far too many fruits to get an comparable amount of juice. If you are concerned about the amount of fruits you would have to eat, then do the juicing yourself. Processed juices contain a lot of preservatives, sugar and sodium that whole fruits do not. By eating fresh, whole fruits, you can decrease your sugar intake and avoid preservatives found in processed juices.
Cinnamon instead of sugar
Cinnamon has many benefits and can easily be substituted for some of your sugar content in the morning. Instead of using a heavy syrup on your pancakes or waffles, consider mixing cinnamon in with the batter. Cinnamon will give you a sweetened flavor that you are looking for. It will also help regulate your blood sugar level throughout the day.
Oatmeal instead of cereals, pancakes or waffles
One swap that can make a huge difference in your diet is to eat oatmeal instead of cereals, pancakes or waffles. Your may think that oatmeal is mushy and has no flavor. This is just a misconception based on the traditional oatmeal that is served at breakfast. You can go with a steel cut oatmeal which is whole oats that have been chopped into two or three pinhead-sized pieces and has more texture with a nutty flavor. Adding some cinnamon, honey and fruit to you oatmeal can help boost the flavor and still provide you with a healthy choice.
More Food Swaps for Breakfast
- Light or semi-skimmed milk or even skimmed milk instead of whole milk.
- Wholegrain wheat cereal with no added sugar instead of sugar-coated cereal. If you like a sprinkle of sugar on your breakfast cereal in the morning, swap it for a topping of fresh or dried fruit.
- Protein-rich egg whites and skim milk mozzarella instead of regular eggs and cheddar in your omelet to cut down on fat and cholesterol.
- Low-fat Greek yogurt with sliced fruits instead of high-fat flavored Greek yogurt.
- Scrambled egg with chopped up chives instead of cheesy scrambled egg.
Lunch Food Swaps
Lunch can be a time when you may easily go off of your diet plan. This can be due to a number of factors, including lunch dates with co-workers or just being in a rush and grabbing the easiest option available to you. Unfortunately, the quickest and easiest options are often not the best for our health. If you are eating out, consider checking out the menus in the area beforehand and have something in mind that is healthy instead of junk food.
Avocado instead of mayonnaise
If you are a sandwich eater at lunch or use a lot of mayonnaise or mayonnaise containing foods like a potato salad, then consider swapping mayonnaise for avocado. Avocado is a great source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent substitute for high-calorie mayonnaise. You can easily mash the avocado and get a traditional spread feel for sandwiches and salads. All you need is a ripe avocado and a blender or potato masher. Just cut the avocados and mash them up until they are smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge and use as needed. If you are out for lunch, consider ordering sandwiches with this option.
Whole wheat instead of bleached pasta
Making a switch from white wheat to whole wheat can make a big difference in your carb count for the day. It can also provide the whole grains that you need and the fiber in your diet that you may be missing. Bleached or white pasta which metabolizes quickly and breaks down into sugar causing blood sugar spikes. Bleached pasta also has more carbs and less of the whole grains that you need. This is an easy switch since most lunchtime menus at restaurants do offer a whole wheat pasta or brown rice options on their menus.
Spinach instead of lettuce
Lettuce is a traditional ingredient for salads and sandwiches. It is incredibly popular on lunch menus and as part of lunch recipes. However, it doesn’t offer much in the way of vitamins or minerals. One simple switch is to swap lettuce for spinach. Spinach offers a high amount of vitamins and iron, and can be an ideal substitute if you are pregnant or want to increase the intensity of your workouts. Spinach is available at most restaurants during lunchtime on salad bars, and you can even have it on sandwiches at most chain delis and sandwich shops.
More Food Swaps for Lunch
- Whole grain varieties instead of white breads, bagels and muffins.
- Plain butter instead of margarine or spreadable butter which contain vegetable oils that accumulate in the fat cells of the body.
- Water instead of fruit juice Even freshly squeezed fruit juice with no added sugar is a very concentrated source of sugar and is not good for body’s immune system.
- Wholemeal sandwich instead of hamburger. A wholemeal sandwich made with vegetables and feta cheese or chicken has less saturated fat, sodium and sugar and will help you feel fuller for longer.
- Tuna salad sandwich on wholemeal bread without mayonnaise instead of a tuna melt panini sandwich.
Dinner Food Swaps
Dinner time is a moment during the day where you either totally indulge and have a lavish meal, or you have a quick meal loaded with carbs and fats. You may be thinking that of all the meals during the day, dinner is not one where you could make a lot of swaps. The truth is that there are several common dinner swaps that can be made easily.
Vegetable pasta instead of wheat pasta
One of the easiest swaps you can make for dinner is vegetable pasta. Instead of eating traditional wheat or flour based pasta, consider a vegetable pasta. You can take vegetables such as various squashes and zucchini and spiral cut them. This creates a pasta effect similar to spaghetti. You can choose to heat the vegetables or leave them at room temperature. This will cut down on the carbs and still give you the taste and flavor you are looking for. It will also boost your vegetable, mineral and vitamin intake over a traditional carb filled pasta meal.
Black bean instead of hamburger
Hamburger is a very popular and easy dinner option for most people. Instead of reaching for a traditional angus beef or ground beef hamburger, consider having a black bean option. You can make your own black bean patties that resemble a traditional beef burger in texture and can be stored in the fridge or freezer. You can even add more vegetables to the black bean patties and use other toppings as well. The black beans will provide you with folate, potassium and vitamin B6. You can also add spinach instead of lettuce as a topping for added iron.
Cauliflower instead of potato mash
Potatoes are a cheap and popular meal option for many people, but you also get a lot of starch and carbs that may not be what you are looking for. Instead of reaching for a traditional baked potato, twice baked potato or mash potato, consider a mashed cauliflower. The texture is the same and can have the same additions like butter and sour cream that a traditional potato can have. Cauliflower also provides fiber, vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin.
More Food Swaps for Dinner
- Lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef. It’s always healthier to go for leaner cuts of meat varieties.
- Plain non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Nonfat Greek yogurt contains less than half the calories with added hunger curbing protein content.
- Tomato and vegetable sauces on your pasta, meat or fish meals instead of creamy and cheesy sauces.
- Mashed potato made with low-fat spread and low-fat milk instead of mashed potato prepared with butter and whole milk.
- Thin crust pizza instead of thick crust pizza to cut down on calories.
Desserts are the number one area of food swaps in most diet plans. In fact, most people do feel that it is better to do away with desserts completely rather than just swap them with something healthier. The general thought is that dessert swaps won’t fill the void of sugar cravings. The truth is there are several dessert swaps that are as sweet tasting as their traditional counterparts.
Banana for traditional ice cream
Ice cream is a very popular dessert which is often offered as part of another dessert or as a topping. However, it can also add a lot of calories to your daily diet. One easy swap for ice cream is frozen and blended banana. All you need is a ripe banana that has been chilled or frozen. Place the banana in a blender and blend until it is smooth. Serve directly just as you would traditional ice cream. You can add vanilla beans, raw sugar or a little organic honey to sweeten it if it is not sweet enough for your taste.
Greek yogurt for vanilla ice cream
Vanilla ice cream is a topping normally used on pies and cakes. Instead of using it as a topping, consider Greek yogurt instead. Greek yogurt provides several vitamins and nutrients your body needs. You can also add honey, vanilla and fruit to help boost the flavor.
Yogurt fruit tart for fruit pie
Fruit pies are incredibly popular, but they are also extremely fattening. They may be made with fruits, but they are also loaded with sugar and starches. Instead of going with the traditional fruit pie, consider swapping it for a shortbread and yogurt fruit tart. All you need is vanilla Greek yogurt, shortbread and fruit. Crumble the shortbread and mix it with a little bit of natural butter. Place it in a pie plate and bake for a few minutes. Once ready, add the yogurt and put chopped pieces of fruit and nuts on top to sweeten it.
More Swaps for Deserts
- Apple crisp instead of apple pie
- Pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie
- Meringues instead of frosted sugar cookies
- Truffles instead of chocolate chip cookies
- Angel food cake instead of cheesecake
These are only a few of the food swaps that you can incorporate into your diet plan. There are hundreds of possible food swaps you can try. If you feel overwhelmed with the choices, you can always start slowly by choosing slightly healthier alternatives. Every small change you make to your diet will have a positive effect on your overall health.