It’s hard to give up what you love. Whether you have a sweet tooth, love your savories, or crave those carbs, going cold turkey is never easy.
Fortunately, we have a better strategy that you are more likely to stick with.
Instead of giving up the things you love, think about how to swap unhealthy foods with healthier alternatives. For example, instead of having a cookie as your afternoon snack, try a sweet fruit, like an apple, orange, or pineapple. You’ll get a little sweetness to brighten up your day, while promoting a more natural diet.
The power of the swap
Healthy food swaps seem like a simple idea, but can end up being far more powerful than you think. In fact, they can be the key to unlocking a healthier and cleaner diet.
- They let you start small. No need to give up everything and make large changes. With swaps, you can experiment within your current lifestyle to see what works. When you find a good swap, you can use it as much as you’d like.
- They build on existing behavior. Starting new habits is no cakewalk. Stopping habits can be equally difficult. It is much easier to build upon existing behavior. Healthy swaps set you up for success because they work within your existing habits. All you need to do is make one small swap within your current lifestyle, and continue on your way.
- You still get that reward! If you pay attention to your favorite habits, they usually involve some form of reward. It might be the sugar boost from a good dessert, or that crunchy saltiness from your favorite potato chip. Whatever it is, the reward is what keeps you coming back for more. A good food swap will help you achieve the reward you crave, but in a more natural and healthier way.
7 healthy swaps you can get started with today
1. White sugar
White sugar contains no essential nutrients, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. Almost any natural alternative is better. Maple syrup and honey are good alternatives. Maple syrup contains calcium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Honey contains B vitamins and vitamin C.
Both maple syrup and honey are sweeter than white sugar, so you can use a smaller amount of these in any recipe.
2. Potato chips
Have you given up chips and feel like you need some crunch in your life?
Swap potato chips for carrot sticks, celery, or broccoli. These vegetables give you a satisfying crunch with less calories, and without the heavy fat and salt content. One ounce of Lay’s potato chips contains 160 calories while one ounce of raw carrots contains 12 calories. Choose carrots and save 148 calories per ounce! If you are looking for more flavor, add a healthy dip, such as the feta-walnut dip found in the 8fit meal plans.
Nuts are another great replacement when you want a crunchy snack. While you won’t save on calories (one ounce of mixed nuts has around 200 calories), you will benefit from eating whole, nutritious foods.
Sodium can lead to high blood pressure and should be consumed in moderation.
Herbs can be used to enhance the flavors of the food you are cooking, and make an excellent replacement for common table salt. If you enjoy a little kick in your flavor profile, chili contains nearly zero calories. Try Sriracha or chili flakes. Depending on your recipe, other alternatives include basil, thyme, dill, chives, or rosemary.
You can also purchase herb combinations in the grocery store. Just be sure to check the labels to understand when the seasonings include added salt and sugar.
Try avocado! Half a cup of butter yields 813 calories. The same amount of mashed avocado contains 184 calories.
When baking you can substitute up to half the butter in a recipe with avocado for similar results. Avocados have fewer calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. They contain more protein, fiber, and vitamins. On top of that, baked goods are often more moist when avocado is substituted!
If you don’t have an avocado, you can also replace butter with canola or olive oil. Just be sure to reduce the amount, since oil is more liquid than butter. If a recipe calls for one cup of butter, use ¾ cup of oil.
5. Ice cream
Frozen bananas are delicious.
Mash one up, or blend one with strawberries and pineapple for a smooth, creamy treat. We love the Peanut Butter Banana Milkshake, found in the 8fit Pro meal plan!
Or, dip a frozen banana in a small amount of melted dark chocolate, and then sprinkle it with unsweetened shredded coconut.
Try replacing candy with your favorite fruit.
Pineapples are sweet, and can curb that craving. They are also full of fiber, which fills you up with fewer calories. Watermelon is another great fruit. It’s hydrating and sweet – perfect for a post-workout cool-down.
Spaghetti squash is a healthy, easy alternative to traditional spaghetti noodles.
Just roast the squash for 45 minutes at 200°C (400°F). Scoop out the squash into long, spaghetti-like strands. Top it with your favorite pasta sauce, or lightly sprinkle with olive oil and herbs.
Have a sweet tooth? Two extra pro tips
Many of these swaps replace sweet treats with more natural alternatives. There are two things to keep in mind here.
- Moderation is key. The sweet natural alternatives still contain high levels of simple carbohydrates, which should be consumed in moderation.
- Mix in proteins and fats. Boosts in sugar intake can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar levels. To reduce these spikes, add some protein or fat into the mix. For example, add some yogurt, almond butter, or turkey jerky into your snacks and desserts.
Swap your way to a better diet
Give one, two, or all of these swaps a try. Making small changes helps your new diet seem more manageable, and can be the key to a sustainable new you.
As you make changes, you may find your taste buds gradually adapting to enjoy the new alternatives. This is common. Soon, these healthy swaps will become part of your daily habits, and you’ll be on your way to living a healthier life.