40 Simple Food Swaps that Could Make You Drastically Healthier

40 Simple Food Swaps that Could Make You Drastically Healthier

1. Baked Sweet Potato Fries for French Fries: Traditional French fries are loaded with calories and fat (both saturated and trans – the bad fats!). One serving typically contains nearly 400 calories and 20 grams of fat, and French fries are generally just a side dish! Instead of starchy, artery clogging white potato fries, bake your own sweet potato fries. Simply cut them into small wedges or thin strips (to your preference), coat with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at about 375 degrees Fahrenheit until browned.

2. Sprouted Grain Bread for White, Whole Wheat and Multigrain Bread: White, whole wheat, and multigrain breads are more or less the same. Usually, even whole wheat bread and multigrain bread contain white flour, just a bit less than 100% white bread. Most bread causes a spike in blood sugar and a crash without any nutritional value, this stimulating hunger. Additionally, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives are found in most bread. Choose sprouted grain bread such as Food for Life’s Ezekiel, which is a complete protein source, contains essential amino acids, is easily digestible, and is made from freshly sprouted certified organic grains with no flour, GMO’s, refined sugar, or anything artificial.

3. Sprouted Grain English Muffins for Bagels: One bagel is the equivalent of four slices of bread. Would you eat four slices of bread at one meal? Likely not. Additionally, for the same reasons listed above regarding the unhealthy nature of bread, bagels are typically heavily processed, contain no nutritional value and nasty additives, and will spike your blood sugar. Instead, opt for sprouted grain English muffins, which will give you the chewy bagel texture with much more nutritional value.

4. Nutritional Yeast for Parmesan Cheese: Nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or deactivate it. Since it is inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability. It is a great Parmesan cheese substitute as it has a similar texture and enhances flavor. It is also great sprinkled on popcorn, on pasta dishes, beans, potatoes, soups etc.

5. Plain Greek Yogurt with Fresh Fruit for Fruit Flavored Yogurt: Instead of fruit at the bottom or fruit flavored yogurt, choose plain Greek yogurt, Icelandic-style yogurt or make your own coconut yogurt and add your own fresh fruit and even a touch of raw honey. Fruit at the bottom and fruit flavored yogurts are packed with added sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Additionally, the Greek and Icelandic styles contain more protein.

6. Unsweetened Almond or Coconut Milk for Skim Milk: One cup of skim milk contains 90 calories and 12 grams of sugar, while unsweetened almond and coconut milk contain about 30-40 calories per cup with zero grams of sugar. Though almond and coconut milks typically contain about 3-4 grams of fat per serving, the fat is harmless, whereas the 12 grams of sugar in skim milk will convert to fat inside your body. Additionally, dairy milk is processed and contains nasty additives.

7. Oil & Vinegar for Salad Dressing: Pre-bottled store bought salad dressings contain added sugars and preservatives. Opt for oil, such as coconut oil, and vinegar, or make your own dressing with oil, vinegar, some Dijon mustard, and herbs. You can even add in avocado for a creamier dressing and fresh lemon juice for a nice zing. Also, avoid fat free dressing; it contains even more sugar to make up for the lost fat and more chemicals as well. Extra virgin olive oil contains heart healthy fats.

8. Plain Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream: Sour cream is high in fat and calories, replace with plain Greek yogurt and the fat/calorie content will be drastically decreased.

9. Avocado for Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is very high in fat as it’s the emulsion of egg yolks and soybean oil, which is an unhealthy oil due to its hydrogenated fat content. An easy, healthy alternative to mayonnaise is avocado. Smear some on a sandwich or mash it up as a creamy spread and it’s sure to hit the spot while adding healthy fats to your meal.

10. Hot Sauce & Mustard for Ketchup: Ketchup is packed with sugar and in the form of high fructose corn syrup. This seemingly harmless “tomato-based” condiment can pack on the sugar at nearly 4 grams per tablespoon (now think about how much you typically use on that burger!). Opt for hot sauce and mustard, which are lower in calories and sugar.

11. Ghee for Butter: Though derived from butter, ghee is a healthier option. Butter contains butterfat, milk solids and water, whereas ghee is pure butterfat cooked longer, until all moisture is removed and the milk solids are caramelized and then filtered out. Ghee has more health benefits and can help decrease unhealthy cholesterol levels.

12. Spinach, Kale and Arugula for Iceberg: The lettuce in your salad is an easy way to sneak in extra vitamins and nutrients. Typically, the darker the green, the more nutrients. Spinach, Kale and Arugula have higher levels of vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and iron than iceberg.

13. Kelp noodles and Spaghetti Squash for Spaghetti and other noodles: We all know the sad truth about beloved spaghetti – the white flour it is made of is essentially sugar and contains slim to none nutritional value. It’s high in carbohydrates as well. Try kelp noodles, which contain about 6 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving, and spaghetti squash, which is just 31 calories per serving and 7 grams of carbohydrates. You can use these noodles with marinara or a healthy pesto sauce, and even make a stir-fry or Pad Thai with the kelp noodles.

14. Wild Rice, Quinoa or Cauliflower Rice for White Rice: White rice, just like white bread and white pasta, contains little nutritional value and will spike your blood sugar. Instead, opt for wild rice, quinoa or make rice out of cauliflower (way easier than it sounds – just pulse it in a food processor!).

15. Cauliflower Pizza Crust for Traditional Flour Pizza Crust: Again with the white flour, it is no good! It is a refined carbohydrate that raises triglyceride levels, spikes blood sugar and triggers a release of insulin, leads to weight gain, etc. Try making pizza at home with a cauliflower crust, it boosts the nutritional value of the pizza, will digest slower and won’t cause a blood sugar spike.

16. Sparking Water with Added Fresh Fruit Essence for Soda: Soda, we all know it’s bad for us, both diet and regular, yet it’s still one of the most widely consumed beverages. One can of soda contains about 44 grams of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, and diet soda contains artificial sweeteners, which have been clinically proven to cause cancer. People drink diet thinking it will help keep their waistlines down, but it causes bloating and tricks taste buds into craving sweetness. Choose sparking water with naturally infused fruit essence, or buy plain sparkling water and add your own squeeze of lime and any fresh fruit you’d like. You’ll stay hydrated and healthy!

17. Frozen Banana Ice Cream for Ice Cream: Ice cream is high in fat and sugar, and just ½ cup can contain 250 calories, 20 grams of sugar and up to ten grams of fat. Try blending a couple bananas and add your choice of flavors vanilla extract, peppermint extract, cocoa, shredded coconut, cacao nibs, fresh fruit such as raspberries and strawberries, etc.

18. Matcha Tea for Latte: Try a Superfood Tonic Matcha Latte instead of your daily latte.  Latte’s become high in calories, fat and sugar due to all the milk, while Matcha is a nutritional powerhouse; containing 10x the nutritional and antioxidant content as regular brewed green tea do to its concentrated whole form.1

19. Kale Chips, Seaweed Snacks, or Air Popped Popcorn for Potato Chips – Starchy, high in fat and sodium, potato chips are no good. When you have a salty crunchy craving, choose kale chips, seaweed snacks, or air popped popcorn.

20. Steel Cut Gluten-free Oatmeal for Dry Cereal – Dry cereal is heavily processed and contains lots of added sugar. It is also usually derived from white flour or corn, which is quickly digested in the bloodstream and causes a spike in blood sugar. Opt for steel cut gluten-free oatmeal or rolled oats, top with some raw nuts, fresh fruit, and a bit of almond milk if you’d like. Sweeten with a touch of raw honey or Grade A maple syrup. It will keep you fuller longer and won’t cause a spike in blood sugar.

21. Chia Pudding for Pudding – For a satisfying sweet treat, try making chia pudding, it’s incredibly easy. Put two tablespoons of chia seeds into a small bowl or mug, add about one cup of almond milk and add flavoring depending on what you’re in the mood for. If you want chocolate, do a splash of vanilla extract, pinch of stevia and a few teaspoons of cacao powder. You can also add in some cacao nibs and coconut flakes. For vanilla, simply add vanilla extract, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and coconut flakes if you would like. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Chia are a terrific source of fiber and protein, are loaded with antioxidants, contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids, calcium, among other nutrients.

22. Frozen Fruit for Ice Pops – Ice pops can be refreshing but contain artificial coloring and added sugar. Simply freeze grapes, buy a bag of frozen mango, cherries, or whatever your favorite fruit may be, and enjoy those when you are in need of a sweet, cold, refreshing treat.

23. Fresh Fruit for Pie – Pie is a very sugary and fattening dessert, so don’t let the fruit inside fool you into thinking otherwise! Additionally, the crust is a simple carbohydrate, which is never good. Try having a bowl of fresh fruit instead; you’ll be surprised how satisfying it can be.

24. Marinara for White Sauce – Cream based white sauces, such as Alfredo, are packed with fat from the milk, cream and cheese, and it’s saturated fat, the unhealthy kind. Chose marinara sauce as it’s tomato based and cream-free, making it lower in fat.

25. Broth Based Soup for Cream Based – Tomato soup and chowders are loaded with cream making them high in saturated fat. Chose chicken soup, vegetable soup, or minestrone, which are cream-free and lower in fat.  Chicken and vegetable stock are packed with nutrients, so are a much better choice!

26. Raw Vegetables for Dipping Instead of Crackers – When you’re grabbing something to dip into hummus, guacamole or salsa, chose raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell peppers, broccoli, radishes or cauliflower instead of crackers. Crackers are highly processed and are often white flour based, which will breakdown into sugar once inside the bloodstream.

27. Green or Herbal Tea for Chai Tea Lattes – Chai Tea Lattes are unhealthy due to the added sugar and milk. Try plain green tea or any herbal tea – peppermint, licorice root, ginger, chamomile, etc., and add a squeeze of lemon and a touch of honey if you’d like. You’ll also reap the added health benefits of the herbs in the tea.

28. Mashed Fresh Berries with Raw Honey for Jelly and Jam – Instead of jelly and jam on toast, mash up fresh berries, smear on toast, muffins, whatever it may be, and drizzle with a touch of raw honey. Jam and jelly contain too much added sugar and will spike your blood sugar. The fresh fruit will give you an extra bit of fiber, too.

29. Raw Honey for Artificial Sweeteners  – Artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic and should be avoided. Opt for raw honey instead, which contains many healing properties and is packed with antioxidants, enzymes and minerals. Honey also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the intestine.

30. Roasted/Salted Chickpeas for Roasted/Salted Peanuts Roasted and salted peanuts often contain unhealthy additives such as corn syrup solids and are roasted with unhealthy oils. Additionally, peanuts are highly susceptible to growing toxic mold. Look for roasted/salted chickpeas, which should be roasted in an olive oil, sunflower or safflower oil and contain salt with no other added ingredients.

31. Flax or Brown Rice-Based Crackers for Flour Based – Although raw vegetables are always the best choice, if you must have a cracker, look for those that are based with flax, quinoa or brown rice rather than white or wheat flour.

32. Brown Rice Cakes for Pita Chips – Pita chips have been marketed as a healthy option, but in reality, they aren’t. They’re high in fat and carbohydrates and are made from white or wheat flour. The calories on the packaging may seem low, but pay attention to what the serving size is, chances are it’s fewer chips then you would typically eat. Chose brown rice cakes instead, they’ll digest a bit slower and very low in fat.

33. Portobello Mushroom Cap for Hamburger – Pre-made hamburgers often contain pink slime, a mechanically separated meat product that is treated with ammonia to kill bacteria, and is used as a low-cost ground beef filler. They’re high intrans fat and have up to 1,000 calories (once you add on toppings and the bun), in addition to other additives such as sodium phosphate and nitrates. A great alternative is a Portobello mushroom cap. .

34. On Taco Night, Swap Ground Beef for Sautéed Vegetables Making tacos can be a healthy, easy dinner, but stick with sautéing vegetables in Mexican spices, rather than ground beef. Try bell peppers, onions, summer squash and mushrooms. You will consume way fewer calories, fat and additives, and you’ll be surprised at just how tasty the dish is. Extra bonus points, drop the shell or tortilla and use lettuce as the shell, fill with veggies, salsa, guacamole, tomatoes and whatever else you like!

35. Organic, Free Range Poached or Hard Boiled Eggs for Fried and Scrambled – This one pertains especially to eating out. When you aren’t making your eggs at home, ordering fried and scrambled can be risky as it will likely come with added fat from butter, and often times scrambled eggs have milk added in. Order poached or hard-boiled eggs to avoid this. Also, don’t be afraid of yolks, they are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, and contain 100% of the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K. They also contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Though egg whites are higher in protein than the yolk, which is really just because the yolk is smaller than the white, they are low in nutrients.

36. An Apple Instead of Soda or Coffee for an Afternoon Pick-Me-Up – Around 3 or 4pm, most people tend to hit a wall and feel a wave of exhaustion, leading them to pick up a caffeinated soda or coffee, sometimes even chocolate. Instead, eat an apple, you will be amazed at the wave of energy you get, and without the crash!

37. Homemade Trail Mix for Store Bought – Pre-packaged trail mixes are often loaded with added oils, sugars and sometimes, artificial coloring (those colored chocolate pieces that look like candy!). This seemingly healthy snack packs a ton of calories, fat and sugar with nuts that contain added oil and lots of sodium, dried fruit with added sugar, and chocolate candies. Make your own trail mix with raw nuts, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and dried unsweetened fruit. If you want that salty fix, add your own!

38. Fresh Fruit for Dried Fruit – Dried fruit is the original fruit minus the water content, leaving sugar, and actually more sugar than the fresh fruit. The sugar in dried fruit is called fructose and gets converted by the liver into VLDL, a form of cholesterol that’s high in triglycerides, which leads to fat storage. It’s also the type of sugar that leads to obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, among other problems. Additionally, people tend to underestimate the serving size of dried fruit and end up eating multiple servings of the original whole fruit. To put it in perspective, one bag of M&Ms has 30g of sugar, which is less than what’s in a cup of dried papaya or figs. Opt for fresh fruit! It will keep you fuller longer due the water content.

39. Dark Chocolate for Milk Chocolate – The higher the cocoa percentage, the fewer additives. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, provides cardiovascular benefits by reducing inflammation, protects the skin from oxidative damage and helps to improve cognitive function and mood. Milk chocolate is diluted with milk solids, sugar and cream, taking away from the health benefits of cocoa and adding sugar and fat. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.

40. Raw Nut Butters for Traditional Nut Butters with Added Oil and Sugar – Nut butters can be tricky and it’s important to read labels closely. Many store brands contain an added oil and an added sweetener. Raw is your best bet, as it won’t have anything added and is simply the nut in its raw, natural form. You’ll also reap the most health benefits from raw as roasting nuts takes away some of their nutrients.

Emily Borgeest

Emily Borgeest is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, founder of Cleo’s Wholesome Crunch LLC, an organic, gluten and sugar-free line of granola and cookies and a public relations professional based in New York City.  Emily holds a Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school and the only school integrating over 100 dietary theories, from traditional philosophies like ayurveda and macrobiotics, to modern concepts.

In her free time, Emily enjoys cooking nutrient-dense foods and baking with superfoods and gluten-free flours, and without refined sugar (and then posting her creations on her Instagram @cleaneatswithcleo). She is a fitness enthusiast and makes an effort to break a sweat each day, whether it’s through a run, weight training session, or kickboxing. Emily thrives on helping people become their most vibrant self through clean eating and exercise.