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Have you ever wanted to eat better, but didn’t know where to start? Or, you know where you should start, but you don’t want to give up your favorite foods? Even for the sake of health, because they just taste that good. Well, good news for you!! You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to be healthy!!!
The way to eat healthy and eat your favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods is by making them healthy! Who knows, you may even find an alternative, that’s healthy, that you like more! And don’t go exiting this page because I said that. I know if you’re like my husband then you may be disgusted when someone tells you that there’s something ‘healthy’ in your food. But, that’s no way to live! (He’s even warmed up to some of the ‘healthy’ food I make, and was the one who suggested we get a juicer last year!)
And, I promise you, it’s not all that bad! Some healthy food is actually really delicious and after awhile of eating better your taste buds adapt. You will start tasting the true flavors of fruits and veggies. And, if you didn’t think they were good before, you will be kicking yourself for not doing this sooner. If you have kids, I would absolutely recommend swapping out any unhealthy food they are eating now with healthy alternatives.
The younger they are when they start eating healthy food, the better!
If you start them eating healthy when they first try baby food, awesome!!
Now, the trick is for you to start eating better and making healthy swaps before they start eating what you eat.
Believe me, it is extremely difficult to eat something unhealthy and not give any to your kids when they are staring at you begging for it. They want to eat what you eat, especially when they are little and you’re their only teacher when it comes to what they eat. They think everything you do is right. If you’re children are older, it’s still not too late to change your eating habits to influence theirs. If they’re old enough you could even turn this into a challenge; see who can eat better or swap out the most unhealthy foods for healthy ones!
(Or, maybe I’m the only one who thinks that sounds like fun…I would’ve been quite competitive with that challenge as a teenager. And, my diet back then was not what it is today...)
Ready to make a few swaps?
So, now you’re in, right?
You want to start eating better?
Maybe you’re even a little more motivated to start now; especially since I’m telling you that you can keep eating those foods you love and crave! You may just need to tweak what’s in your food, just a little.
Or, if you eat heavily processed food you may need to spend a little extra time in the kitchen each week; to make a healthier version of your favorites. (This is where meal prepping comes into play!)
If you’re not looking forward to making your own home made food; have you ever considered how rewarding it is to know that you’re capable of making such delicious food?
Whether it’s a recipe in a cookbook, found online, passed down from your mom, or one you made up yourself; It’s so satisfying to know that you can actually make something great out of simple ingredients.
Let’s Start Swapping
Like I said before, you probably have some unhealthy favorite foods that you just can’t give up; even for the sake of becoming healthy. So, we need to swap out some of the possible unhealthy ingredients to make it healthy while keeping it delicious. This can be quite a challenge sometimes. But, it can be done! (Check out some of my posts from the A to Z healthy snack series for proof that you don’t need to buy unhealthy processed snacks, if you don’t believe me- try the fudge made with avocado that I found the recipe for while creating the series!!)
That’s why I’m going to help you out with providing you with some basic healthy food swaps you could make.
Oh, but you already found lists of food swaps and weren’t impressed? I’ll let you in on the little secrets as to why you should swap each ingredient for another one, as well. So you don’t have to blindly follow my advice. I’m all about customizing ingredients to make them right for you!
And, I’m all about lists and am quite a fan of being of organized; so, the swaps and reasons why to swap are categorized. If you’re looking for a certain swap, this will make it easier for you to find (this post is quite long- you may want to pin it to refer back to later). For example, if you love pasta but know white pasta doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value; look for “dinner swaps”. Let’s begin your journey to swapping ingredients for better healthy!
Print out this handy list for Healthy Food Swaps!
If you have ever looked up a recipe and put the word “healthy” in the search engine, you were bound to find one of these swaps in the recipe. But, what makes each one healthier than the food they are being swapped out for? Some may be obvious, like swaps for oil, others, not so much. Here are some of the common, and not so common swaps.
White sugar, corn syrup → applesauce, maple syrup (honey if not vegan)
I hope you already know that white sugar and corn syrup are bad for you. If you don’t know why they’re bad for you, that’s understandable; I don’t think many people know why certain foods are bad for them, just that they are. We tend to simply follow the crowd. If we’re told something is bad then we believe it; without giving it much more thought. This doesn’t mean we stop eating it, though.
Some reasons you should kick white sugar and corn syrup out of your diet are:
- the fact that they’re ’empty calorie’ foods
- they promote cavities and tooth decay
- can lead to type 2 diabetes
- lead to obesity in adults and children
- and are extremely addictive
I hope you knew at least a few, if not all, of those reasons now that you’re reading this!
So, what makes maple syrup and applesauce any better? The applesauce should be obvious; it’s made from a fruit, just be sure to read the ingredient list if you’re buying it instead of making it. You don’t want to have added sugars in your applesauce, buy unsweetened.
For maple syrup, although it contains a decent amount of sugar, it is natural sugar and it also contains a decent amount of minerals and antioxidants. Therefore, maple syrup is not an empty calorie food; you’re at least getting some nutrients out of this sugar substitute. Plus, it’s been used for a long time and isn’t all that processed, at least not as much as white sugar. Just make sure you grab pure maple syrup; it shouldn’t have any other ingredient in it.
Vegetable oil is horrible for you! It is extremely processed, and contains trans fats. If you’re thinking that there’s no way it can contain trans fat because food now a days isn’t supposed to have trans fats in it; I’m sorry to say this, but you’re wrong. Trans fats are in a lot of foods; have you ever seen ‘partially hydrogenated’ oils in the ingredient list of a food? Well, that’s trans fats. A company doesn’t legally need to put trans fats on a nutrition label unless there is more than half a gram per serving in the food. So be watchful of the ingredient list and serving size. Trans fats are even considered unsafe by the FDA because of increased risk to heart disease. Now, that’s saying something.
Oil for cooking → water, nothing, or veggie broth
Whether you’re cooking vegetables, pancakes, or something else, you usually need some type of liquid to help avoid the food from sticking to the pot or pan. Water is the perfect alternative for whatever you cook; it’s flavorless and has no calories, plus it’s one of the cheapest liquids you can get. However, sometimes you don’t even need anything to prevent food from sticking. Such as, If you’re sauteing or cooking fresh onions or peppers, they contain enough liquid to not even need a non-stick alternative.
Sometimes you need something more than water to cook with though, and that is where the veggie broth comes in. You could use veggie broth to saute veggies or reheat food, like rice, pasta, or beans. It’s made of veggies so it has the added benefits from those. Plus, it’ll give your food a little extra flavoring!
Oil for baking → applesauce, pear puree, mashed banana
When it comes to baking you may see healthy alternatives for oil as applesauce. I have also personally used pear puree and mashed bananas. They are all fruits, therefore, no trans fats, and the consistency is just a little thicker than oil, making them obvious substitutes. They also contain plenty more nutrients, such as potassium. If you have ever considered becoming healthier; oil is one thing you should limit as much as you can (or completely avoid), while fruits are something you can pretty much eat all you want (within reason).
Eggs in baking → flax egg or chia egg
There are a lot of conflicting views on eggs on whether they are good or bad for you. They’re high in cholesterol, but also high in protein and other nutrients. I’m a vegan now, so no eggs for me. If you’re like me and vegan, or trying to be vegan, then you can substitute flax eggs or chia eggs for eggs from animals.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or are wondering where to buy these healthier vegan ‘eggs’; you can’t buy them pre made. At least, I have never seen them pre made before. To make them is pretty simple, though. Simply mix 1 tbsp flax seed meal (ground flax seed), or 1 tbsp chia seeds, with 2 and a half or 3 tbsp water and let sit at least 5 minutes. After the time is up it should have more of an egg like consistency, you may need to stir it again before adding it to your batter. But, flaxseeds and chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals. I add both of these to my green smoothies everyday for the health benefits! For baking, I prefer using flax eggs.
White flour → oat flour, rice flour, and more
White flour is highly processed and refined, and in the processing it loses it’s fiber. With the lack of fiber in white flour, it makes it a lot easier to eat more of this processed food, leading to weight gain and issues that go along with excess weight. The white flour we see in the store also has to be bleached to reach the bright white color we’re used to. And, like white sugar, it’s addictive. That’s why some people aren’t able to stop eating bread!
Luckily, there are healthy alternatives! You’ve probably heard that oatmeal is good for you, right? Some versions (old fashioned oats) have 8 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and only a gram of sugar. That’s pretty good. Did you know you can grind the oats into a flour? You could use a coffee grinder, milling blade with a nutribullet (or baby bullet if you ever had one to make baby food), or a food processor. And, it’s really just as simple as pouring the oats in and turning it on.
You can even do this with rice to make rice flour. Both are much more natural and healthier for you. So, next time you’re about to buy white flour at the store, think of this first. Some stores even sell oat flour, rice flour, almond flour, etc. Just take a look. I even saw quinoa flour available the last time I got groceries (and it was not at a natural or organic food store)!
If you want to know more ways you can eat healthy, or help your kids eat healthy, by using a nutribullet, read 10 Amazingly Healthy Things You Can Make with a Nutribullet
Butter → coconut oil, mashed banana, avocado, applesauce
Butter is high in saturated fat, but there is a lot of controversy right now on whether it’s good or bad for you, like other foods. Some butters are high in trace minerals. So, if you’re not vegan, it’s up to you whether you want to swap this out or not. But, if you tend to use crisco or margarine, both of which may contain trans fats, on a regular basis in place of butter; I would absolutely recommend swapping for one of the alternatives.
Coconut oil also has some conversation going on about it; some people believe it’s the best thing ever, whereas others believe it’s just another oil. One thing they can usually agree on is that it does a decent job at raising HDL (which is healthy cholesterol, yes, there is such thing as good cholesterol). Personally, I love coconut oil, it has so many different uses and it smells and tastes amazing.
I have already explained why applesauce and mashed bananas are better for you; and with avocados, it’s a similar reasoning. Avocado’s are considered a ‘good’ fat and it’s texture is somewhat similar to butter, which makes it a great substitute. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids and plenty of vitamins and minerals to live up to it’s stature of a ‘good’ fat.
It’s also possible to swap greek yogurt in for oil or sour cream, but, I don’t eat dairy so I can’t attest to this one. And, I know, I had a lot to say about baking ingredients, hopefully you’re not sick of hearing why some foods are ‘good’ and others are ‘bad’. The rest of the categories should be more like common sense with some light shining on it. So, I won’t need to explain as much. Keep on reading to find more healthy swaps for the food you eat through out the day.
Chips →Homemade potato (or other veggie) chips
Store bought chips, in general, are high in fat and sodium, and low in nutrients. The best alternative is to make chips at home in your own oven. You could make them out of potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, or even carrots or apples. I’ve even made my own cinnamon and sugar tortilla chips before, they were pretty awesome! Home made chips with real veggies are obviously better for you than store bought ones. But, if you don’t have time to bake your own chips, opt for baked or tortilla chips, they’re still not that great for you, though.
Microwave popcorn → Home Made Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is one food you should certainly swap out of your diet. Have you ever read the ingredient list? Many brands contain partially hydrogenated oils, remember those are trans fats, and if it doesn’t then it contains preservatives. One common preservative in microwave popcorn is TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone). This is another one of those ingredients that the FDA has set a limit to in food, so you know that’s not good. Other than microwave popcorn, it’s also used in perfumes, cosmetics, and other non-food items for it’s preserving capability.
If you can’t give up popcorn entirely, that’s perfectly fine! You simply need to spend a few more minutes making it. Buy dry popcorn kernels and add your own flavorings! Some people use coconut oil, sea salt, nutritional yeast, or butter. You can really add whatever ingredients or spices you want (within reason).
French fries → home made fries (potato, sweet potato, eggplant, etc…)
French fries are ‘bad’ for you in a similar way chips are. They are high in fat and sodium. Fries are usually deep fried as well, soaked in oil at high temperatures; we already know that oil is not very healthy. Luckily, there are alternatives!! If you don’t want them to be too different from the fries at fast food restaurants; simply cut up potatoes and season them, then bake them in the oven. If you want more health benefits, and nutrients from your fries then go ahead and try sweet potato fries or eggplant fries. Both are absolutely delicious. (I’m working on getting my eggplant fries recipe written up, I’ll link to it here when I have it on this site!)
Ice cream→ Home made Ice cream
Regular store bought ice cream is not vegan friendly and full of saturated fat. Home made ice cream can simply be banana ice cream or other fruit based ice cream, and you already know that fruit is better for you than high saturated foods. Plus, home made Ice cream can be vegan friendly!! Check out these six ice cream recipes that my kids and I love!
Juice and soda→ home made juice or WATER INFUSED WITH FRUIT
Store bought juice is loaded with sugar, sometimes as much sugar as soda. If you have a juicer, or even a citrus juicer, then the alternative is simple; make your own juice. If you don’t have a juicer then simply add fresh or frozen fruit to your water. It’ll add flavor and some nutrients in, without all the added sugar. Or, make a smoothie!
Hot cocoa → Tea
If you’re looking for a hot drink, instead of drinking all that sugar that comes along with hot cocoa; try some warm tea. Or, if you’re a coffee drinker, you could have a warm cup of coffee, instead. Just be careful about your caffeine consumption. More is not always better. (But, it is necessary with being a mom!)
Butter on toast → avocado on toast
If you have been reading along you should know why you should make this swap. If you have just been skimming through this page then I’ll quickly explain. Butter is a controversial food right now on whether or not it’s healthy, but it’s certainly not vegan. If you usually swap butter out for margarine then that is definitely not healthy because of the trans fats. Avocado’s are a ‘good’ fat; it’s texture is somewhat similar to butter, which makes it a great substitute. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids and plenty of vitamins and minerals to live up to it’s stature of a ‘good’ fat. Plus, it tastes really good on toast (add in some sliced tomatoes and garlic powder/sea salt, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never done that before!
Sugar cereals → oatmeal (not the individually packaged kind)
Kids sugar cereals are obviously high in sugar, and extremely addictive. Have them try eating oatmeal instead. And, no, not the kind with the cute dinasour eggs or the ones that come in cute individual packets. (The packets are full of sugar.) Make real oatmeal on the stove. You can add your own sugar alternative, or simply add fruit or peanut butter (or other nut butter) to make this yummy breakfast even more filling and nutritious! I always add maple syrup, cinnamon, and apples when I make oatmeal!
If you don’t like warm cereal in the morning, or are short on time in the morning; you could always make overnight oats! These are made ahead and sit in the fridge overnight to allow the oats to soak in the other ingredients, such as non dairy milk and fruit. No cooking required, so it’s safe enough for your kids to make all by themselves!
Bagel with cream cheese → bagel with avocado and tomato
So, bagels may not be the healthiest breakfast you can eat, especially when you smother them in cream cheese, but they sure are delicious. As long as you eat them in moderation they are certainly alright for you. Just make sure you enjoy them with healthy toppings instead of fat filled toppings, like cream cheese.
A healthy, delicious alternative would be avocado and tomato. Add a little garlic and sea salt in there, and wow, it is soo good, just like toast! Plus, the tomato adds some vitamin C into your diet, along with all the nutrients that come from avocados. I make sandwiches like this all the time.
White bread → whole grain bread or Home made bread
White bread is made of white flour; and, white flour is highly processed and low on fiber. Look instead, for whole grain bread. Breads with a ton of seeds or sprouted grain in it are also good, such as Ezekiel bread (I know, the price can sometimes be a deal breaker, just read the ingredient list of other breads if that’s the case).
Don’t forget that you can always make your own bread, if you’d like to and have time. Just make sure you don’t use white flour. I use oat flour that I make myself, and it turns out pretty good. I always have a loaf of whole grain bread in the freezer as back up, though!
White pasta → veggie pasta, or pasta made with quinoa or brown rice (or just quinoa or brown rice)
White pasta is like white bread, there aren’t many nutrients in it. If you want to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition and you want pasta, try spiralizing some veggies (zucchini, squash, or even something else)! You could never have enough veggies in your diet. But, if you can’t stand the thought of replacing a carb with a veggie, there are other types of pasta out there with more nutrients. Just look at the ingredient list and nutrition label. Some alternatives are made of quinoa or brown rice. Even switching to a whole grain pasta instead of white would be good!
To sum it all up
I hope you learned something from reading all of this. I know it was kind of long, but there was just so much information. The list could have gone on and on, but I didn’t want to bore you too much.
If you want the moral of the story when it comes to eating better and you don’t want to make extreme swaps for the foods you love; remember to eat in moderation and check the label. Read the nutrition facts and ingredient list. Avoid foods with trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, TBQH, BHT (or BHA), color dyes, and more.
Basically, if you don’t know what something is in the ingredient list, or aren’t able to pronounce it, then look it up to see if it’s good for you or not; that smart phone of yours has google on it, use it to your advantage. Be that weirdo in the isle looking at the ingredient list, just be aware of others and don’t block others from getting what they need; that’s just ignorant.
That is how to eat your favorite foods and be healthy! If there are any healthy food swaps that I missed that you think should be on this list; let me know in the comments.
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