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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

25 Healthy Food Swaps For The New Year

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healthy food swaps

It’s no secret that I am a Picky Eater.

And as a Picky Eater, I am always on the lookout for healthy food alternatives. I never accept a meal or food product as is; I always ask myself if it’s healthy or if I can give it an increased nutritional punch by making a few substitutions.

What do I mean by “healthy food alternatives”?

These can be individual food products: using low fat cheese instead of full fat cheese in meals, or healthy recipes: like making mac n’cheese or pizza healthier & lower in calories.

It also involves “sneaking” extra veggies into a dish, like in this vegetarian lasagna

It doesn’t look like it’s super healthy, but it is!

In the spirit of getting healthy for the new year, I thought I would share 25 of my favorite Healthy Food Swaps. All of them are easy and take almost no effort: with just a little bit of mindfulness and the 25 swaps in this post, you’ll be on your way to eating healthy for the new year!

My Top 25 Healthy Food SWAPS

(If you’re looking for 25 recipes that use all of these food swaps – making them super easy to cook and kid-friendly, check out my new cookbook here!)

SWAP #1: Bread: Always substitute whole wheat bread for regular white/sourdough/ciabatta/anything that’s not whole wheat or whole grain. BONUS – If you really want to go the extra mile, get sprouted grain bread like the kind by Ezekiel

SWAP #2: Milk: Always use low fat (2% or 1%) or fat free milk instead of full fat (regular whole) milk

SWAP #3: Cheese: You can use low fat cheeses instead of full fat/regular cheese, or just use less of the full fat cheese (try for 3/4 or 1/2 the called amount) – that’s generally what I do!

SWAP #4: Chips: Eat baked potato or tortilla chips instead of regular/fried. BONUS – make your own baked fries or sweet potato fries at home!

SWAP #5: Cold Cereal: Buy whole wheat or whole grain cereal (like Kashi Heart to Heart) with at least 3-4g fiber per serving instead of … Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp – you get the idea :).

SWAP #6: Hot Cereal: Try steel cut oats or rolled oats instead of pre-sweetened/sugary instant oatmeal or cream of wheat (you can make your regular oatmeal flavorful on your own with cocoa powder, fruit, nuts, stevia, cinnamon, and honey)

SWAP #7: Sides: Ask for carrot sticks, fresh fruit or a salad instead of fries when ordering out

SWAP #8: Cream Cheese: Use 1/2 the amount of regular cream cheese, or if you want to cut calories further try Laughing Cow Cheese or low fat / whipped cream cheese (read the ingredients and watch out for too many stabilizers or preservatives in the list for the low-fat versions!)

SWAP #9: Burgers: Opt for veggie burgers or turkey burgers instead of regular full fat/beef burgers, and order them on a wheat bun or a lettuce wrap.

SWAP #10: Mexican Food: Opt for refried vegetarian/low fat black beans instead of regular refried beans (which are often cooked in lard)

SWAP #11: Sour Cream: Try 0% Greek Yogurt!

SWAP #12: Condiments: Try ketchup & mustard instead of mayo/dressings/oil on your sandwiches

SWAP #13: Condiments the Sequel: Try hummus as a spread in sandwiches instead of cream cheese, mayo, mixed creamy spreads, etc.

SWAP #14: Sugar: Try honey, agave, raw cane sugar instead of refined white sugar. If you’re trying to cut calories, try Stevia extract instead of Equal, Sweet N Low, Splenda, or any other sweetener.

SWAP #15: Soda: Try this easy swap: combine 1/4 cup 100% fruit juice with 3/4 cup sparkling naturally flavored water or just plain sparkling water. Tastes just like a soda without all of the chemicals!

SWAP #16: Dressing: Try fat free salad dressings (read the ingredients to make sure there is no added sugar) or a tiny bit (1-2 tsp) of olive oil/vinegar/salt/pepper instead of regular creamy salad dressing

SWAP #17: Soup: Opt for broth based soups (made with a tomato base or vegetable stock) instead of cream based soups. I usually ask if there’s cream in a soup before ordering it at a restaurant.

SWAP #18: Alcohol: Stick to 1 glass of red wine instead of hard alcohol/mixed drinks (1 glass of red has ~100 calories compared to 300-500 in one mixed drink)

SWAP #19: Meat: Choose white meat (chicken, turkey, fish) instead of red meat (beef, lamb, pork)

SWAP #20: Grains: Instead of white rice or regular couscous, try brown rice, whole wheat couscous or quinoa.

SWAP #21: Smoothies: Use unsweetened soy milk (0g sugar) or low fat/fat free plain yogurt in smoothies instead of frozen yogurt or ice cream

SWAP #22: Yogurt: Try plain 0% / non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sweetened Yoplait or other sweetened yogurts (1 container of sweetned Yoplait can have up to 200 calories, 1 container of Fage sweetened with stevia or honey will have only 90-100 calories and TONS more protein)

SWAP #23: Potatoes: I will often make baked sweet potatoes or yams instead of regular russet potatoes for a higher fiber and antioxidant boost

SWAP #24: Oil: Use olive or organic canola oil instead of other cooking oils (and I try to stick to a small amount, no more than 1-2 Tbsp in most recipes)

SWAP #25: Chocolate: For me, it’s always dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. I try to find chocolate that’s 70% cacao – the calories are the same as milk chocolate, but there’s a bit less sugar and you get the antioxidant boost with dark chocolate. Dark chocolate covered almonds are an even better alternative, since you get some of the protein and fiber from the almonds.

Aren’t those delicious dark chocolate almonds a great excuse to make a healthy swap? 🙂

Remember, with just a little bit of creativity and mindfulness, you can come up with a lot of great, healthy substitutions that still give you all the flavor and deliciousness of foods you love. And the benefit is completely worth it: you get a much more nutritious meal that’s lower in calories and unhealthy ingredients!

Happy swapping everyone!

18 responses to “25 Healthy Food Swaps For The New Year”

  1. These are wonderful! I’ve been a picky eater ever since I was born and out of all the articles I’ve read, this one has been the most beneficial!

  2. I am still shocked every time I look at the sugar content in HEALTHY low fat yogurts. Yoplait was one of the highest- like 34 gr if I can remember correctly. I used to gobble that stuff up like there was no tomorrow! Nowadays- when it comes to making smoothies, I go for low fat cottage cheese and a little bit of pineapple and pineapple juice, a shot of vanilla soy milk, and then whatever else I’m putting in the smoothie. I don’t make them like they’re a dessert, with chocolate or ice cream. I always think of them as something healthy- a good way to get more fruit and maybe veggies in.

    I’m glad I checked out what I was writing before I submitted it, because I was wrong, the “Original Version” had 27 gr of sugar, but they reduced it by 25%, which is STILL high! Math was never my thing, but that would make it 19 or 20 gr of sugar.

    Anyway- I like your site and your recipes!

    • Thank you so much Brian for sharing your experience! And you’re totally right — the original Yoplait had as much sugar as a candy bar (and it still does to your point) – which is crazy, I agree! So glad you’ve been enjoying my recipes too!

  3. I love this list, but there are a few faux “healthy suggestions. First, going lower fat in just about anything will usually mean opting for more chemicals and processing. It’s not healthier, it’s just seemingly lower calories. Second, baked chips have WAY more chemicals in them than fried because of the way baked chips hold up in a bag, they have to do extra things to them. Yes, homemade is best but I think fried is next best.

    Here is my two cents worth at least! :). Overall I love these swaps!

    • Thanks Lauren! Regarding the low-fat stuff — honestly it depends on what you’re choosing low fat for. Low fat organic milk is not more processed than whole milk, especially if you get the non-homogenized kind. Low fat cheese can sometimes be more processed than the full fat versions – but not all cheeses are. (e.g. organic part-skim shredded mozzarella usually has the same ingredients as organic shredded whole mozzarella). But things like sour cream or cream cheese will be more processed if they are low fat — because the low fat versions have to add stabilizers to make up for the lack of fat. I always just use the full fat version of cheese and just use a smaller quantity of it! For chips – I totally agree with you that some baked varieties are heavily processed, but at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores, you can find great baked chips that only have 2-3 ingredients (e.g. potatoes, oil, salt). But yes, if you are choosing between a super processed baked chip and an all natural fried chip, the fried chip (just less of them) is probably better than a bunch of the baked chips. It’s all about reading the ingredients labels and making an informed decision! Hope that helps!

    • Aww thank you so much for your kind words!! I can’t wait to hear how you like my recipes when you try them!

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