By now, you’ve probably heard that the best diet is no diet at all. To lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just live a healthier life, a sustained healthy lifestyle is imperative. However, it’s difficult to cut back on or remove some of our favorite foods from our diets. Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to many of the foods that wreck our diets and expand our waistlines.
Here are some of those healthy food swaps that won’t leave you missing out.
Ah, sugar. It tempts us via countless sweet treats. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we cut down our sugar intake to no more than 10% of our total energy intake. The reason for this is primarily to ward off obesity, diabetes, and dental problems. But sugary desserts, drinks, and snacks are difficult to give up if you have a sweet tooth. Try these swaps.
- When you’re hit with a craving you just can’t ignore, try reaching for a small amount of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has half the amount of sugar that milk chocolate has.
- An even better alternative is low-fat, sugar-free chocolate pudding. Low in calories and fat and free of sugars, this chocolate snack will ease your craving without adding to your waistline.
When it comes time for dessert, and you just can’t skip it, fear not. The following swaps will keep you on track.
- In place of cheesecake, loaded down with gooey, sugary fruit syrup, try a cup of low or no-fat Greek yogurt topped with fresh, raw berries. You’ll get the fruit and the creaminess without loads of calories and fat. You could also top fresh berries with a bit of whip cream for a low-calorie fruit dessert.
- Feeling like a slice of pie? Go for baked apples instead. Slice apples, sprinkle on a little cinnamon, and bake until tender.
- If ice cream is your dessert of choice, there’s a substitute for that, too. Place frozen bananas (allowed to thaw slightly) into a blender or food processor. Add vanilla, cocoa powder, or real maple syrup. Blend until you get the consistency of ice cream.
Sodas and sugary fruit drinks are empty calories that can sabotage a good diet. Try these instead.
- You can’t beat water when it comes to healthy drinks. But when you feel like something a bit more interesting, try squeezing lemon into your water for a flavor boost.
- Drink unsweetened tea. Tea comes in an endless variety, from green to black to citrus zingers. Experiment with both hot and iced tea in different flavors to cut calories and sugar.
- Low-fat milk or almond milk are also smart beverage choices. They’re low in sugars, fat, and calories and high in protein and calcium.
- If you can’t get a crisp glass of fruit juice off your mind, opt for a whole piece of fruit instead.
If your favorite indulgences are on the more savory side, there are plenty of swaps for these, too.
On average, we consume about twice as much salt daily as we should. This increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also causes water retention and bloating. According to the WHO, 80% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods.
- If you’re a sucker for chips, it’s time to break that habit. Opt for unsalted nuts. Almonds are an especially good substitute because of their high-protein and low-fat content.
- Air-popped popcorn is another great alternative to chips. You get the crispiness and crunchiness without the fat, salt, and extra calories.
Dips and Dressings
- Instead of creamy dips, use salsa. This is low in calories, low in fat, and has vitamins and plenty of flavor. When you’ve replaced your dips with salsa, also replace the vessel. Instead of dipping chips, dip vegetables in your salsa. You’ll get tons of flavor and crunch without the salt and fat.
- Use reduced-fat mayonnaise. This cuts fat and reduces calories by half.
- Instead of high-calorie, fat-loaded salad dressings, try squeezing lemon or lime on top of your greens.
- Use a homemade mixture of vinegar or citrus juice, Dijon mustard, and a drizzle of olive oil in place of bottled, processed dressings.
- Use low-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for both cooking and toppings.
Pasta and Rice
- Experiment with vegetables instead of using pasta. With a spiral cutter, you can turn zucchini and yellow squash into long noodles. Top with marinara or shrimp for a healthy “pasta” dish.
- Instead of white rice, which is stripped of many of its important nutrients, use brown rice. This rice has tons of fiber and flavor.
- Choose lean meats like turkey and chicken over beef. Use ground turkey in place of ground beef. Use Canadian bacon instead of fatty, traditional-style bacon.
- Experiment with tofu. It’s high in protein and nutrients and serves as a wonderful meat substitute in almost any dish.
- Integrate Omega-3-rich fish into your diet. Salmon is loaded with good fats, amino acids, and nutrients.
If you’re looking to revamp your diet in order to adopt a healthier lifestyle, start by making these few simple changes. By finding healthier substitutes for some of your favorite foods, you can satisfy your cravings while cutting back on calories, fats, sodium, and sugars. Use the above tips to get started. For other foods, keep experimenting with healthier options. Choose whole, raw foods in place of processed foods.
For more information about adopting a healthier diet, or to share one of your own healthy food swaps, please contact us.