I believe that reaching our health goals should not feel like deprivation, and that there’s always a way to fit someone’s dietary needs and preferences into their existing lifestyle. It’s one of the reasons I don’t support a one-size-fits-all nutrition plan, but help my clients come up with unique goals that feel motivating and fun, rather than restrictive and depressing.
One way I make my personal goals a bit more fun is by incorporating healthy substitutes, like the ones I’ll discuss below. These are my top 7 healthy food swaps, and I hope you enjoy!
But first, let’s get this straight. I did not call this “eat this, not that,” because if you want to eat “that,” and it’s really a good decision for you, eat “that!” I don’t believe in a dogmatic approach to nutrition (e.g. “you’re ‘bad’ if you eat pasta”), but rather in making choices that support ourselves feeling our best. And for me personally, when I eat a bunch of refined carbs or processed food, I feel pretty junky! So not worth it. So I choose some of these other options to support my goals. For more on making choices rather than restricting yourself, see this post.
Here are my top 7 healthy food swaps:
- Swap regular pasta for spiralized veggies like zucchini, butternut squash, or sweet potato. This helps reduce refined carbohydrate intake and boosts nutrient density of the meal. I have 20 of my favorite spiralized veggie recipes for you right here!
- Swap rice for cauliflower rice (or broccoli rice, carrot rice, or any other veggie rice!). I am fine with rice in moderation (depending on the person’s goals, of course), but I always welcome an opportunity to fit in more veggies, and cauliflower rice can be a great way to do that! I love putting frozen cauliflower rice in my smoothies (here is more on healthy smoothies!), but I also love this chicken cauliflower fried rice, this chicken and cauliflower rice soup, and this skillet taco cauliflower rice.
- Swap vegetable oils (like canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, soy, and cottonseed) for ghee, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil. You know I love my veggies, and vegetable oil sounds healthy, but in fact, it’s anything but. Most vegetable oils are hydrogenated, oxidized, and full of omega-6 fatty acids (all things that are not great for your health – see this post or this post for more!). They’re in tons of packaged foods, salad dressings, and more, but I do my best to stay away from them. And certainly, when cooking, I choose a healthy oil based on this post!
- Swap energy drinks for healthier substitutes. Have you seen last week’s blog post? It will walk you through all of that!
- Swap low-quality coffee and sugary, chemical-filled creamers for upgraded coffee. Coffee can be filled with chemicals, mold, and more, and even if you think you’re just putting in a dab of creamer, a dab a few times a day, every day of the year, can add up to a lot of sugar (or artificial sweeteners!). My personal favorite coffees are Bulletproof Luminate or Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee. I put a tablespoon or so of Nutpods and two tablespoons or so of Califia Farms almond coconut milk in my mug, mixed with collagen (see this post for the benefits!), and use my frother to make it nice and foamy. Then, I add in the coffee, and savor as I’m doing my morning routine!
- Swap regular pizza for a healthy pizza substitute. Again, if pizza every once in a while makes you feel great, eat the pizza! But if it leaves you feeling bloated and sluggish, like it does for me, enjoy some of these healthy alternatives! I like Caulipower cauliflower pizza crust (I add my own toppings), or Trader Joe’s broccoli and kale pizza crust. I also love making fun veggie pizzas, like homemade portobello pizzas, zucchini pizza bites, pizza-fied chicken or bell pepper pizzas.
- Swap negative self-talk for positive affirmations. OK, OK, this isn’t a healthy food swap, but any time we start talking about reducing or avoiding foods, I want to do everything in my power to ensure we’re still staying positive and kind to ourselves. So consider this your strong reminder that negative self-talk is not in our best interest! I read my affirmations every single morning (here’s how I write them) , and it’s a huge part of my overall positive attitude and constant effort towards more self-love. Just for a few moments, flood that brain with positivity, and see how it bleeds over into the rest of your day!
Now it’s your turn … What’s your favorite healthy food swap? Which one of these do you want to try?
Hi Megan. I love how your last point was a healthy substitute for brain food! This one resonates with me the most currently, as I’m trying to correct my inner voice at the moment.
I stopped drinking coffee because of the same reason. I might try your suggestion and drink again!
Great! I hope it works out for you, Matt!