More Healthy Food Swaps
How to Make Healthier Food Swaps
It can be difficult to eat healthy and nutritious foods when many processed foods and junk foods are so tasty. In addition, these foods are cheap, easy to get and require little cooking or prep work. Making healthier food choices can be just as easy, and you can swap in nutritious foods for those unhealthier items to improve your health and even help you lose a little weight. Slowly make changes in your diet and improve your eating habits by making better and more nutritious food choices.
Planning for Healthier Meals
Keep a food journal.A food journal is a great tool and a great place to start when you want to start swapping out some of your typical food choices for something more nutritious.
- Keeping a food journal for one to two weeks can really give you a great perspective of what you're eating and how many of your foods are not so healthy.
- Star items in your food journal that you want to change. For example, maybe you stop by your favorite coffee shop everyday for a latte and breakfast pastry.
- Review all the starred items in your food journal and make a list of things that you want to change. For instance, consider swapping tea or black coffee for your daily latte and overnight oats as an easy, filling, and healthier breakfast option than a pastry.
Write out your favorite meals and snacks.Many times, our favorite go-to meals or snacks are not the healthiest of choices. Changing these and choosing a healthier food can help improve your health.
- Take some time (using your food journal if needed) to write down some of your most common, favorite foods that are processed or aren't as healthy as you'd like them to be.
- You can use this list to help you get started finding new options for favorites. Eating healthier or swapping in healthier foods doesn't mean you can't ever have your favorite meal again. You can improve your favorite meals with healthier foods.
Clean out your kitchen.Another smart idea is to clean out your kitchen and pantry. Not having your typical go-to junk foods or processed foods around can help force you into better choices.
- Take a look through your refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Are there items in there that aren't nutritious? Do you have a lot of processed foods like sweets, chips or crackers?
- Take the time to remove all of these foods. You can toss them, donate them to friends or give unopened items to a food bank.
- You can also slowly finish off these foods and once they are gone, do not purchase them again.
Consider purchasing cookbooks or finding new recipes online.If you enjoy fast food meals, fried foods or meals that are overly processed, you may benefit from doing some research on healthy ways to cook those same foods.
- Look for healthy versions of your favorite recipes or foods online. Many food bloggers and cooking websites offer great tips and ideas for healthy spins on common high-calorie, high-fat meals.
- There are also cookbooks that solely focus on healthy remakes or healthy swaps of comfort foods.
- Look for recipes like this of your favorite foods and start incorporating some of these healthier recipes into your week.
Incorporating Nutritious Foods
Cook more from home.Many studies have shown that those people who cook from home more often tend to eat healthier and consume fewer calories overall compared to those who cook less.
- One of the main benefits of cooking from home is that you know exactly what goes into your foods, meals or snacks. Even when trying to order something healthy at a restaurant, you may not be exactly sure what's in that particular meal.
- Cooking from home also lets you control the amount of certain ingredients you use in food preparation. You can control the amount of added fat, sugar and sodium.
- In addition, when you cook from home you can make extra and prep take away lunches, snacks or meals on the fly. It takes away the excuse that you need to eat out.
Make better protein choices.Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. It helps provide energy and nutrition for you throughout the day; however, some protein sources and methods of cooking protein aren't as nutritious or good for your health.
- Choose leaner cuts of protein over higher fat protein or fatty cuts of meat. Those higher fat proteins (like pork, processed meats, lard, butter, lamb)are typically high in saturated fat which can increased your cholesterol and risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Choosing leaner cuts of protein helps you avoid or minimize how much saturated fat is in your diet. Choose items like: skinless poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, lean beef, seafood, legumes and tofu. Go for a 3 – 4 oz serving of protein per meal.
- In addition, choose healthy and nutritious methods of preparing protein foods — such as baking, boiling, or grilling — rather than frying.
- Try to avoid: deep frying, frying or cooking in a lot of oil or butter, adding high-fat or high-calorie sauces (like cream sauces, cheese sauce or gravy) and avoid seasoning with lots of salt or seasonings high in sodium.
- Instead of fried shrimp, try baking breaded shrimp. Instead of chicken Alfredo, toss chicken and pasta with naturally low-calorie marinara sauce. You can also swap 80/20 ground beef for 93/7 ground beef or lean ground turkey or chicken when making burgers or meatloaf. If you normally purchase poultry with the skin on, remove the skin or opt for the skinless versions for less fat. Purchase white meat poultry over dark meat.
Go for whole grains over refined grains.Another easy fix to add more nutritious foods to your diet is by swapping out refined grains for 100% whole grains.
- Refined grains are those that are highly processed and have their nutrient-containing parts removed. Although they have a long shelf life, they're less filling and low in fiber and other essential nutrients.
- 100% whole grains are minimally processed and are much higher in fiber, protein and other vitamins. Although very similar in calories, whole grains are much more nutritious than refined grains.
- Change your typical refined grains to whole grains like: oats, quinoa, brown rice, 100% whole wheat pasta or bread. Aim for 1/2 cup or 1 oz serving of these foods.
- Swap your typical plain spaghetti for whole grain or whole wheat versions. Choose brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice when making stir fry or curries.
- If you're making baked goods like homemade bread, muffins or cakes try substituting half of the flour in the recipe with 100% whole wheat flour. (Completely substituting whole wheat flour for white flour usually requires a special recipe since whole wheat flour is much more dense than regular.)
- Like protein, still consider how you prepare your grains. Avoid adding a lot of extra butter or oil or tossing them with higher fat or higher calorie sauces.
Always include a fruit or vegetable.Another quick way to make any meal more nutritious, is to include more fruits and vegetables.
- Fruits and vegetables, even if they're minimally processed, offer a wide variety of benefits. They're low in calories, high in fiber and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Swapping out a starchy side (like bread, rice or potatoes) or larger servings of protein for more fruits and vegetables will automatically lower the calories of your meals and increase their overall nutrition.
- Aim for a total of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Aim to make half your plate or meal fruits and/or vegetables.
- Like other foods, you can still make less healthy choices in this food group. Limit high-fat sauces (like cheese or cream sauce) on vegetables or adding too much butter or oil. Keep fruit simple and do not add any sugar, honey or other sweeteners to keep calories and sugar in check.
- If you typically buy fruit cups or applesauce cups with added sugar, switch to no-sugar added varieties or those packed in their own juice. With vegetables, choose canned or frozen veggies without added salt or sauces to save calories.
Treat yourself with a smart snack.Even if you're trying to eat healthier and consume more nutritious foods, that doesn't mean you have to stop snacking.
- Snacks are a great way to give yourself a boost of energy, added nutrition or enough fuel to get yourself through a workout.
- Try to avoid processed food snacks like: candy, cookies, chips, crackers or pastries. These are high in calories, sugar and fat.
- If you're craving something salty or crunchy try having: low-sodium beef jerky, a hard boiled egg, 1/4 cup of nuts, raw vegetables and hummus or a low-fat cheese stick.
- Instead of going for sweets like candy or cookies, try: a piece of fruit or small fruit salad, a low-fat yogurt, apple with peanut butter or 1/4 cup of dried fruit.
Go with water over sweetened beverages.Making better food choices is just one part of your diet. Also pay attention to the types of drinks you're consuming throughout the day.
- Some beverages are just as processed and unhealthy as junk foods. Avoid items like: sodas, sugary coffee drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, sports drinks or alcohol.
- Instead of these types of drinks, go for eight to 13 glass of beverages that are sugar-free and caffeine free. Plus, these are the most hydrating.
- Besides water, you can try flavored water, flavored sparkling water, decaf coffee and decaf tea. Any combination of these will hydrate you without any additives or extra calories.
- Plan to make gradual changes to your diet over a longer period of time. You'll be more successful in the long run.
- Any time you can swap a processed food for a whole food, you are on the right track! For example, instead of a packaged snack food, eat fresh fruit. Instead of a side of macaroni & cheese, include a side of steamed vegetables.
Video: Candace Kumai's Healthy Snack Swaps
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