10 Simple Healthy Food Swaps
Although it would be easy if you could simply train yourself to eat better overnight, that is not necessarily a realistic option. For most, creating a healthy diet and lifestyle is a process that takes time and involves ups and downs, and twists and turns. My personal journey was not unlike any others, it occurred over the course of many years, and is still occurring, as the more I learn, the more I know and the more I can do better. To me, eating better is about creating small changes you can maintain, and creating a transition plan that will have lasting effects. So if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of throwing out all of the food in your pantry, and taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach, start with smaller steps. Here are 10 simple healthy food swaps that will get you on the path to a richer, more nourishing and well-balanced diet.
10 Simple Healthy Food Swaps
1. Swap Ketchup for Salsa
Ketchup is the beloved sauce of North America, we put it on everything! Eggs, potatoes, chicken, burgers, sausages, omelettes, quiches, vegetables, pot pies, grilled cheese, and I’ve even seen people add it to salad dressings. Most people are aware that ketchup is not an ideal choice, however it is a surprise that so many people are still using this classic sauce. In theory, what ketchup is intended to be is rather innocent, it’s just a spiced tomato sauce. However the store-bought stuff is loaded with high fructose corn syrup which is known to be a factor in many health concerns including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and much more. Swapping ketchup for salsa is a simple and efficient way to add instant flavour to the same dishes. Salsa, especially fresh made ones, is easy to find in grocery-store but just made sure you look for options with no added sugars, or make make my fresh salsa recipe for a simple healthy food swap.
2. Swap Mayo for Mustard
Much like ketchup, the actual ingredients for homemade mayonnaise are not harmful at all. A quick google of mayonnaise recipes and you will see that traditional mayo is made of a combination of egg yolks, mustard, oil, vinegar and sea salt. However, the primary concern with store-bought mayonnaise is the type of oil that is used, as it is commonly made with canola oil with added preservatives much like this one. And don’t be fooled by the ‘Olive Oil’ mayonnaise versions, as they often contains a mixture of oils with more canola oil than olive oil. A better store-bought swap would be to buy mustard as a sandwich spread over mayo. Even the most inexpensive of mustards don’t contain the junky ingredients that mayo does, or try my quick and simple homemade mayo recipe. (I promise, it is not as “foodie” as it sounds.)
3. Swap Margarine for Butter
You heard me right. In fact, this swap is a no contest, and a hands down win for butter Every, Single, Time. If I simply asked you to make butter or margarine, which one do you think you could whip up in your kitchen quicker? Butter is made by churning fresh cream. Margarine is made of vegetable oils that are heated, also known as hydrogenating, in order to make them solid at room temperature and emulsifiers, colorants and various artificial ingredients are added to keep it stable and prolong shelf life. Margarine is not real food, it is a man-made chemical that is being disguised as food. If you still don’t believe, read my full blog post about Why Butter is Better, and then go throw out your margarine.
4. Swap Granola for Oatmeal
Although granola is often considered a healthy option, it isn’t always as healthy as it might seem. I mean, compared to Fruit Loops it might be ‘healthy’ but compared to whole grains it most certainly isn’t. Next to rolled oats, the second, third and fourth most common ingredients in granola are forms of sugar, be them natural or not. In fact, for a mere 3/4 of a cup of granola often has up to 13 grams, 14 grams, and even 19 grams of sugar. Homemade granola might be a better option than store-bought but remember that most recipes still call for lots of added sweeteners. Swapping your breakfast granola for a bowl of oatmeal is a much healthier option as it does not contain any of the added sugar, not to mentioned refined oils and preservatives granola might have. And if it is convenience you are after, buy quick cooking oats that will be ready in 5 minutes on the stove-top, or if you must, use instant oatmeal, but opt for plain and add your own flavours with cinnamon, fruit and nuts.
5. Swap Dip for Hummus
Oh my lanta, I used to love me some dip! Gimme the ranch dip, the dill dip, the french onion dip, the whatever kind of dip you can get your hands on. In reality, vegetable dips might be one of the worst items on this list. You could even think of them as the perfect storm between ketchup, mayo and margarine with a combination of all of their worst ingredients. Vegetable Oil? Check. Sugar? Check. MSG? Check. Corn Starch? Check. Artifical Colour? Check. Artificial Flavours? Check. Preservatives? Check. For heavens sake, some dips brands have over 35 ingredients! When was the last time you made something at home with 35 ingredients? C’mon now. Hummus is a much better alternative to any store-bought dip and just as tasty and creamy with only 1/4 of the ingredients. When looking for at hummus brands, opt for those without vegetable oils, or make your own at home for a simple healthy food swaps.
6. Swap Fancy Coffees for Teas
One of the biggest appeals for drinking a latte is it’s sweetness and the warming hug it gives you. What most people don’t realize is, that depending on the size and type, lattes have anywhere between 150 to 500 calories, which is up to a third of some women’s daily food intake. Once in a while (like actually once in a while, not every couple of days), a small latte can be a nice afternoon or weekend treat, but if you are consuming them daily you are likely overdoing it. A much better option would be to swap for a plain black coffee and add a little milk or cream, or if it is the sweetness and flavour you like try a flavoured herbal tea instead. There are so many different varieties and flavours of tea you are bound to find one you like. In fact, they are so tasty this is one of the most delicious healthy food swaps.
7. Swap Vegetable Oil for Olive Oil
The term ‘vegetable oil’ is actually a blanket term for oil derived from plants; be it canola, corn, or soy, so when you are buying vegetable oils, you truly never know what you are going to get. The primary concern which vegetable oil is their overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess are incredibly inflammatory in the body. Additionally, since vegetable oils are composed of poly-unsaturated fats they are more susceptible to going rancid as they are more easily be damaged by light, heat and air. A better option for vegetable oils like canola would be to opt for olive oil. Olive oil is made of monounsaturated fats and is therefore a better option for dressings or cooking at a low heat. For a complete guide to oils, check out my blog post on The Best Cooking Fats & Oils.
8. Swap Table Salt for Sea Salt
Real salt comes in the form of sodium chloride, two elements that have essential functions in the human body. However, there is a big difference between refined table salt and unrefined natural sea salt. In fact, a quick glance at a salt label might surprise you! Many table salts contain anti-caking agents and sometimes even added sugars like dextrose, while others have been heat processed and stripped of their natural trace minerals. A better alternative to table salt is unrefined sea salt such as Celtic Sea Salt or Redmon Real Salt. These forms of sea salt are hand harvested, unprocessed and important sources of trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. In fact, if you follow a good whole foods based diet, using a quality sea salt will actually add nutrition your body needs.
9. Swap Seasoning Mixes for Spices
When learning how to cook from scratch, one of the biggest lessons is realizing that flavour comes from ingredients, not packages. If you think of the very best meal you’ve ever had, whatever it was I can assure you that the flavour in that dish came from herbs, spices, and whole foods, coupled with low and slow cooking. Opening a seasoning packet off Mrs. Dash might be a quick trip to flavour country, but it is also a quick trip sugar and preservatives too. (Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) A simple swap of adding more dried herbs and spices to your pantry is an ideal way to add flavour to your meals. Sure, you might not know what the heck you are doing at first or how to put flavours together, but after a little trial and error you’ll realize how much better it tastes, and better is feels.
10. Swap Milk Chocolate for Dark Chocolate
Did you think I would say ‘Don’t eat it’? Never, I would never do such a thing. The arguments to keep chocolate in our diet are plenty, so there is no need to remove it, as long as you are eating the best quality stuff. The truth of the matter is that milk chocolate is not actually chocolate, it’s candy, and it says it right on the packaging. If you are going to eat chocolate, just make sure you eat the good kind. If you are making a swap, start out at a minimum of 70% dark chocolate and work your way up. The more your tastes buds shift, the more you will actually enjoy the taste of chocolate and not the added sugar. Aim for quality over quantity, and eventually you will be craving the 85% dark stuff and the milk chocolate will be history.