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”?
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!