10 Easy Food Swaps for Better Nutrition 

Healthy Living

February 12, 2018

Though 2018 may be the year you plan to eat healthier or lose weight, it can be hard to give up the taste of the foods you love. When you want to make some healthy changes but aren’t ready to commit to a full diet change, nutritious food swaps can be a great place to start. You don’t have to give up the foods you love to make healthy changes, a few small substitutions can help you kick off 2018 feeling great. Below we’ve put together a list of simple substitutions to make you feel like your best and healthiest self this year.

  1. Beans can be used as a replacement for red meats in a variety of dishes. For example, instead of meat in quesadillas or fajitas, bean burgers found in the vegetarian aisle in the grocery store or a can of black beans mixed with taco seasoning can be used as a healthy alternative. Why consider this swap? Red meats are high in saturated fats which raise cholesterol and can contribute to heart disease while beans are high in protein, very filling, high in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins.
  2. Replace white and refined grains with whole wheat. Whole grains tend to be higher in fiber and nutrients and lower in sugar and processed ingredients compared to bleached grains such as white bread. Through processing, white breads are stripped of almost all nutrition making them “empty calories”. Whole grains contain all the natural fiber and nutrients making them a worthwhile swap. Whole grain pasta, bread and flour can be used as healthy replacements for white grains with little to no difference in taste.
  3. Use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. In recipes such as cakes or cookies, a large amount of the calories can come from the portion of oil required. Substituting applesauce for oil can cut the calories and fat significantly while having little effect on the overall taste and consistency. Not ready to go full applesauce? Swap out half of the oil with applesauce to notice even less of a difference in taste.
  4. Use all natural plain greek yogurt with a hint of lemon juice instead of sour cream. Sour cream, while not entirely terrible for you, is high in fat. For those looking to swap out sour cream with a lower fat alternative, greek yogurt is high in protein and probiotics. These attributes serve to help you feel fuller longer as well as improve your digestive health. This swap can be made to reduce fat as a baked potato topping, a soup topping, an ingredient in baked goods or even a dipping sauce.
  5. Replace hummus or avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise. Though mayonnaise may be a delicious spread, it’s relatively high in calories and fat while providing little to no nutritional value. Avocados are high in heart healthy fats while hummus is high in protein. Both these spreads maintain the delicious creamy texture while providing extra nutrients.
  6. Substitute unsweetened almond milk instead for regular milk. Almond milk is full of vitamins, low in calories, and doesn’t contain lactose which many people cannot properly digest. Cow milk is also high in cholesterol and has been linked to causing acne breakouts in some individuals. Almond, soy, and other plant-based milks can be used to replace cream in coffee and milk in baking and cooking. Can’t ditch dairy altogether? Opt for skim milk instead of whole or 2 percent to cut down on calories.
  7. Swap out potato chips for popcorn or kale chips. Potato chips provide very low nutritional value. Popcorn and kale chips are low calorie yet crunchy and delicious snacks that fulfill your salty craving- plus kale or other vegetable chips can provide extra nutrition you wouldn’t receive from potato chips.
  8. Replace pasta for spaghetti squash. A spaghetti squash can be prepared by cutting it open, baking it in the oven around 400 degrees until tender (usually about 45 minutes), then digging the insides out with a fork. It can be served the same way as traditional pasta. Additionally, a spiralizer tool can be used to turn almost any vegetable into noodles- another delicious way to ditch the carbohydrates.
  9. Swap out croutons for nuts or seeds on a salad. Croutons, though delicious, can be high in calories without providing any real nutrition. Nuts and seeds provide a crunchy alternative while simultaneously providing protein and fiber. For your healthiest salad, sprinkle on almonds, pistachios or cashews. Pumpkin seeds, quinoa, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds are nutritious nut alternatives.
  10. Substitute cauliflower in a variety of dishes. Cauliflower has a relatively inoffensive taste making it a great substitution for various ingredients such as potatoes or dough. Mashed cauliflower can be used to make a dish similar to mashed potatoes, or it can be used to create a crust for pizza eliminating the nutritionless dough in pizza crust. Cauliflower provides potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C.