Most of us can probably find a handful of areas where our daily diet could use some improvement.
But if you’ve ever tried to make a radical change in the food you eat, you know it’s not easy.
It’s hard to change your diet, especially when you restrict yourself in some way – restricting your calories, restricting the diversity of foods you eat, etc.
This is why making healthy food swaps is the ultimate health hack.
The idea is simple: replace one thing you love and eat all the time even though you probably shouldn’t, with a similar but slightly healthier option.
No need to go on some crazy restrictive fad diet. Just implement some small, simple changes to your everyday diet.
Today’s article is going to cover 10 easy and effective healthy food swaps you can make in your diet today!
With these healthy food swaps, you won’t feel deprived. And the small health benefits will certainly add up over time.
The focus of all of these swaps will be on reducing sugary, refined, and processed foods, and swapping them for healthier, whole food options.
If you’re looking to switch from unhealthy junk foods to healthy whole foods with minimal effort, these swaps are an excellent place to start.
10 Simple Healthy Food Swaps to Make Today
1. Swap out Sugar, Swap in Stevia
First, we have to start with sugar and how to replace it with something healthier.
Sugar comes in a lot of different forms in a lot of different foods. Here, we are focusing on table sugar.
Refined white table sugar has got to be the worst of the worst. Seriously, empty calories that spike your blood sugar, with no nutritional value, is as bad as it gets.
So where can we find a comparable sweetener that is healthier than sugar?
Well, in terms of the many sugar alternatives out there, stevia is one of the best options.
Some of the best qualities of stevia that make it a healthy swap are:
- natural, plant-based
- no calories, no carbs
- does not spike blood sugar levels
- much sweeter than sugar (so less is needed for same level of sweetness)
See this post for the full scoop on stevia vs sugar: Is Stevia Better Than Sugar? [Pros and Cons of Stevia]
Some people don’t like stevia because of it’s slight aftertaste, but it’s worth giving stevia a try to see if it sticks with you! Just make sure to opt for high-purity stevia leaf extract for maximum benefits.
2. Swap out Sugar, Swap in Natural Sweeteners
If you can’t do stevia, another place to start when trying to swap out refined sugar, is to swap in natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
Now, don’t get me wrong, natural sweeteners are still sugars. They are made up of the same simple sugars as white table sugar, and are metabolized and absorbed into your blood stream fairly quickly in much the same way.
But even so, they can still offer some advantages over processed sugar.
Honey is known for its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Even maple syrup or sweet fruits like dates can offer small amounts of nutrients that are completely absent from table sugar.
Also, for the bakers out there, since it is often difficult to use stevia in baking as a sugar replacement (due to taste and texture), natural sweeteners are a good option. You can cut back on the amount and still add a nice touch of sweetness to your baked goods, along with unique, tasty flavours.
3. Swap out Soda & Juice, Swap in Infused Water & Kombucha
Drinks like soda or juice can be highly processed and a major source of added sugar.
A great habit to get into is drinking infused water (aka lemon water and all its variations) instead of pop, soda, or juice.
Carbonated water with an infused fruity flavour can be enjoyed regularly and bears close resemblance to soda (you’ll just have to get used to the lack of excessive sweetness).
Kombucha also makes for a great soda or juice alternative because of its zest and bubbliness. Just make sure to check the sugar content if buying it from the store.
In addition to infused water and kombucha, other great alternatives to sugary drinks include unsweetened coffee, tea, or coconut water (as long as you don’t go adding a bunch of sugar to them!).
4. Swap out Breakfast Cereal, Swap in Granola or Oatmeal
One of the worst offenders of high-sugar, highly-processed foods, is breakfast cereals.
If you are a regular breakfast cereal consumer, this is a major focus area to target. You don’t want to be getting your daily dose of sugar in before the day has even started!
A healthy alternative is granola! Homemade granola that is. Like store-bought breakfast cereals, store-bought granola can also be loaded with various forms of sugar.
But homemade granola can be super healthy and is super easy to make. You get to control exactly how much and what kind of sugar/sweetener you include in it. It is also very customizable and you can make so many different flavour combinations!
To rival the convenience of boxed breakfast cereal, just make a decent batch of granola and store it in a jar to last you several weeks. (Warning: homemade granola is so good that you’ll be reaching into this jar for more than just breakfast!)
For a quick and delicious healthy granola recipe, check out this recipe.
Another healthy alternative to processed breakfast cereal, is oatmeal.
Not store-bought instant oat packages (which have insanely high amounts of sugar), but just plain oats with fresh toppings of fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices.
If you’re short on time for steel cut oats which take a bit longer to cook in the morning, regular quick oats can be made in minutes. Prepping overnight oats is also a very convenient breakfast option.
5. Swap out Flavoured Yogurt, Swap in Plain Yogurt with Fresh Fruit
Now that you’ve totally switched over to Team Homemade Granola, you might enjoy eating it with some yogurt.
Yogurt is another popular food that often has tons of added sugar, preservatives, “natural and artificial flavours,” and other strange, unnecessary ingredients.
To cut back on the sugar you get from yogurt, consider swapping flavoured yogurts for plain yogurt. You can still make it flavoured very easily by topping it with fresh fruits and a drizzle of honey.
6. Swap out White Bread, Swap in Sourdough Bread
Oh, bread. We all know that white bread is one of those foods to avoid. But most of us would probably agree that it’s one of the hardest foods to avoid. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing better in the whole world than some good ol’ bread and butter.
Well, if you can’t bring yourself to stop eating bread (I can relate), sourdough bread is a healthier – and likely the healthiest – bread option.
Sourdough bread is comparable to white bread in terms of calories and carbs (it is still bread after all), however sourdough has less sugar, preservatives, and other artificial things, has more bioavailable nutrients, and is easier to digest.
Read this post for the full picture of what makes sourdough the healthiest bread option: Is Sourdough Bread Healthy?
So if you’re going to eat bread (which most of us are, let’s be honest), consider swapping white bread for a slice of sourdough bread.
What’s more, sourdough is a great bread to make at home. With just three ingredients (!!!), you’ll know exactly what’s going into your bread.
Ready to try your hand at sourdough? Check out this guide to how to get your starter going and bake a basic bread loaf: Easy Sourdough Bread Recipe (With Starter).
7. Swap out White Rice, Swap in Brown Rice
Rice is one of the most commonly consumed foods and a major staple in many diets around the world. So it’s worth checking out the healthy rice options.
Now, I am not necessarily of the opinion that white rice, or rice in general, is unhealthy – whether it is healthy or not seems to depend on who you talk to. However, like all grains (and foods in general), the closer you are to the whole food, the healthier it’s going to be.
Such is the case with rice. White rice has been refined and no longer contains the bran layer that other whole grain rice like brown rice and wild rice have. This means it is lacking a lot of the nutrients of whole grain rice.
Learn more about brown rice vs. white rice here: Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which is Healthier? [Nutrition & Health Effects]
So if you eat rice as much as I do, it may be a good idea to mix it up and incorporate brown rice or other whole grain rice into your meals instead of white rice.
8. Swap out Vegetable Oil, Swap in Olive Oil
Cooking oils are another example of where the closer a food is to its natural form, the healthier it is.
Vegetable oil is a highly processed substance made up of various oils extracted from plants such as canola, soy, and corn. These oils are extracted through lengthy chemical processing, and it’s hard to tell what real foods the resulting “vegetable oil” even came from.
Vegetable oils are also very high in omega-6 fats which can cause inflammation and other harmful effects if over-consumed.
A healthy swap is olive oil, which is made by pressing olives. Extra virgin olive oil is not refined, and has numerous proven health benefits as it contains mostly healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is also quite heat stable and very versatile for cooking with.
9. Swap out Margarine, Swap in Butter
Similar to the olive oil vs. vegetable oil comparison, is the butter vs. margarine comparison.
Butter is made from cream. Margarine is made from highly processed vegetable oils.
It’s generally a good rule of thumb to eat things that most resemble their natural appearance. In this case, that’s definitely butter.
10. Swap out Veggie Dips, Swap in Hummus
Lastly, we’ve got to swap out dips.
Veggie dips tend to be highly processed foods with a ton of sugar, vegetable oils, preservatives, and other mystery ingredients.
Hummus, on the other hand, is made from a handful of simple, healthy ingredients and can easily be made from scratch at home! This tasty spread goes great with all kinds of veggies, crackers, sandwiches, and tons of other snacks!
That wraps up the 10 simple foods swaps you can use to eat healthier without even trying!
What healthy food swaps are you making in your diet today? Let me know in the comments below!