A lot of times we choose certain foods based on convenience. Other times we stick with what we know. But if you’re looking to improve your overall health, there are a number of alternatives you can use for common foods. Let’s look at some simple food swaps for better overall health.
This is the sixth installment in a multi-part series of food swap ideas. The topic we will cover in this part of the series is food swaps for overall health. Follow any of the suggestions below to enjoy all of your favorite foods without the added fat, sugar, or sodium, along with the added benefits of several essential nutrients.
Improved Overall Health Food Swaps
- Sweet potato fries for French fries
- Sweet potatoes provide an extra serving of fiber and vitamins A, C, and B6. They are also slightly lower in carbohydrates. White potatoes are still a great choice and offer their own health benefits, but variety between the two is key.
- Kale chips for potato chips
- To make this swap, lightly coat kale leaves in olive oil and seasoning (experiment with salt, pepper, paprika, or chili powder) and bake until crispy. They offer the same crunch without the sodium and fat, but with a healthy vitamin bonus.
- Unsalted nuts for salted nuts in trail mix
- Store-bought trail mixes generally contain sugary dried fruits, salted nuts, and chocolate. Skip the salt and sugar mess by making your own mix with unsalted nuts and dark chocolate. Your homemade trail mix will be lower in sugar and salt and higher in antioxidants.
- Popcorn for potato chips
- Plain popcorn is a great high-fiber snack choice. A proper serving size is 3 cups! You could even try a homemade seasoning by adding chili powder, Parmesan, or cinnamon to give it an extra flavor boost.
- Dark leafy greens for iceberg lettuce
- Dark leafy greens are higher in iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants than other greens. Iceberg lettuce provides few nutritional benefits and should be used more as a filler.
- Whole-wheat flour for white flour
- By using whole-wheat flour in baking instead of white flour, you will get an extra dose of fiber, which can help with digestion and lowering your risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Whole-wheat flour will change the texture and flavor of your baked goods.
- Olive oil spray for olive oil from the bottle
- It is very easy to over-pour olive oil from a bottle versus spraying the bottom of a pan with a light mist. Switch to a spray bottle and you can save calories from your extra oil dump!
- Brown rice for white rice
- Brown rice has slightly more fiber than white rice, so make this swap if you need to increase your fiber intake.
- Turnip or cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes
- Variety in your vegetable intake is key. Make the swap from traditional mashed potatoes to turnip or cauliflower mash to sneak in an extra serving of veggies. Add a sprinkle of fresh herbs instead of salt and you’re ready to go. Not sure of making the leap right away? Try mixing 1/3 potato, 1/3 cauliflower, and 1/3 turnips to begin.
- Grated steamed cauliflower ‘rice’ for regular rice (brown or white)
- Save on carbohydrates by swapping out grated cauliflower ‘rice’ for regular rice. Grated cauliflower has almost the same taste and texture, so the switch is barely noticeable.
- Whole-wheat bread for white bread
- Whole-wheat bread will provide a better nutrition profile, flavor, and texture.
- Rolled oats for cereal
- Cereal is generally more highly processed and higher in sugar than rolled oats. Make this swap to cut down on sugar and other additives.
- Greek yogurt for sour cream
- Greek yogurt will provide an extra serving of lean protein and lighten up the dish while not sacrificing the flavor.
- Avocado mash for mayo
- Avocado is full of healthy fats and will give the same moisture as mayo on any sandwich.
- Greek yogurt for mayo
- Add a few herbs and some lemon juice to Greek yogurt and you will barely taste the difference!
- Pureed fruit for syrup
- Pureed fruit will contain more natural nutrients and less sugar than traditional syrup.
If you have any additional questions about these swaps or need ideas for more foods, come see me for a free nutrition consultation at any of the clubs!Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.