Making healthy swaps is easier than you think!
I know, I know, I get it – healthy swaps can often sound bland, boring and totally not as fun as their sugary and fat-filled opponents. Can I ask you though, to bear with me, put your judgement aside for five minutes and take a scroll through this list, please?
Now I’m not going to tell you that any of the healthy alternatives I suggest here taste exactly the same as their ‘regular’ counterparts. Of course, they don’t.
I believe that they taste better, and here’s why. After your palate re-adjusts from the excessive sweetness of overly processed, packaged foods, you’ll find that the healthier versions taste better.
When you bake or make raw treats with natural, whole ingredients, there aren’t any artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, etc. to affect the taste.
It’s real food, the way food is meant to be, the way that our bodies get the most nourishment, and the way food used to be before the big food companies made everything about profit and shelf life.
Yes, it does take a little while for your taste buds to adjust to more subtle flavours when you’ve been assaulting them non-stop with tons of sugar and artificial flavours for a long time – and it’s worth it.
If you make changes slowly, one healthy swap at a time, you’ll love how good real food tastes.
I’ve got loads of recipes for you to try here on my blog. Check out the HEALTHY SNACKS category page for starters
My PINTEREST BOARDS have lots of recipes from other healthy food bloggers too, so hop on over there for more great ideas.
Okay, so here are some easy healthy swaps you can try
1. Drink water or tea instead of soft drink & soda
Besides the excessive amounts of sugar, soft drinks are also dehydrating. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated, plump up your skin, and help you control your weight, among other things.
If you don’t like plain water, add fruit, veggies, fresh herbs, or flavoured ice cubes.
Make your own fizzy water with a Soda Stream.
Drink Rooibos, green or herbal teas. Add fruit to green tea and chill it for a delicious iced tea. Read about the benefits of ROOIBOS TEA in this post.
2. Whole fruit instead of fruit juice
Fruit juice is pretty much just concentrated sugar in large amounts. It takes a lot of fruit to make fruit juice, so you may be consuming a large amount without even realising.
Did you know that a lot of the juices on the supermarket shelves aren’t even made from real fruit? And the juices & smoothies you buy from those trendy juice bars – some of those have added sugar!
Whole fruit does contain natural sugars, but it also has fibre, vitamins & minerals, to help your body process the sugar properly. So make your own juices & smoothies at home, using a blender so you get the goodness of the whole fruit.
3. Banana ‘nice cream’ instead of regular ice cream
There are tons of recipes out there for yummy frozen fruit desserts, and I highly recommend that you try them! Search Google and Pinterest, and you’ll see what I mean.
If you haven’t tried nice cream yet, you definitely need to try this BANANA MANGO NICE CREAM. This is creamy, delicious ‘soft serve’ at it’s best!
I also highly recomment that you try these MANGO ICE CREAM POPSICLES. I keep some on hand in the freezer all Summer long for a delicious, healthy treat after a hot & sweaty run.
4. Home made protein balls, bars & muffins instead of regular snacks
It does take planning and preparation to make your own snacks, but it’s well worth the effort to avoid excessive amounts of sugar, refined flours and other not so great ingredients.
I’ve got lots of easy to make recipes here on my blog. Have a look through these categories on the recipe index page: HEALTHY BAKED TREATS; NO BAKE RECIPES; BLISS BALL RECIPES; ENERGY BARS; SNACKS & TREATS.
When I’m looking for healthy swaps, one of my favourite go-to websites, besides my own of course, is wholefoodsimply.com. Bianca has a huge variety of snacks, treats & dessert recipes, and healthy versions of just about everything you can think of!
5. Butter or avocado instead of margarine
If you don’t know by now that butter is better for you than margarine, and avocado is a healthy fat, then you must have been hiding under a rock!
Seriously though, margarine is a nasty chemically made concoction, that can lead to illness & disease when it’s consumed long term.
Saturated fats, like butter and avocado, are now considered ‘healthy fats,’ meaning that they’re good for you, when consumed in small amounts.
6. Home made popcorn, kale and other veggie chips instead of regular potato chips/crisps
Most regular potato chips are cooked in unhealthy vegetable oils. Another good reason to avoid them is that a lot of them contain palm oil.
The issue with palm oil is that it’s cultivated in an unsustainable way, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. This threatens the indigenous community and wildlife, in particular orangutans.
It’s quite easy to make your own potato chips and they are seriously yummy. Try my recipe for KALE & OTHER VEGGIE CHIPS.
7. Olive oil or coconut oil instead of canola or vegetable oils
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, are the best oils you can choose for your health. Olive oil is really versatile, you can cook and bake with it, and use it in dressings, dips & sauces.
Canola and vegetable oils are very high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammation in the body. They’re also bleached and go through a very high level of processing before they make it to the supermarket shelves in their plastic containers.
If that’s not enough to put you off, these polyunsaturated oils are also susceptible to oxidisation – both on the shelf, and inside your body.
And finally, as part of their processing, these oils often contain trans fats, which has been associated with many serious health problems.
8. Home made muesli and granola instead of packaged cereals
Packaged breakfast cereals are mostly high in sugar, although you probably wouldn’t think so if you just go by the marketing labels on the boxes!
They all have different amounts of sugar, so if you’re going to buy them, you really must know how to read labels.
I’ve got a free LABEL READING GUIDE you can grab a copy of here.
The other option is to make your own. Make your own muesli or granola, and tweak the recipes to your liking with your favourite nuts, grains & seeds.
9. Home made dressings/sauces/dips instead of packaged ones
Again, the reasoning for making your own is to avoid some of the ingredients used in the commercial varieties. Don’t be fooled by low fat and lite labels either – these usually have excessive amounts of sugar added to replace the flavour that the fat would have provided.
Make sure you read the labels when you do buy them, so you understand what you’re consuming and how much. See above for the link to download my free label reading guide.
It really is quite easy to make your own salad dressings, mayonnaise and dips. It just takes a little bit of planning, and like anything, once you’re in the habit, it’s easy.
10. Zoodles instead of pasta
Make your own veggie noodles from zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, beetroot (or whatever you like) to use in pasta dishes instead of pasta.
I especially love using carrot and beet noodles with bolognese sauce. The flavour combo is delicious, and you get an extra vegetable hit, so it’s win-win!
Check out inspiralized.com for some amazing recipe ideas and veggie noodle creations. I follow them on Facebook, and pop over whenever I need some inspiration.
11. Cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes
Don’t get me wrong, rice and potatoes have a valid place in a balanced diet, but sometimes it’s nice to have an alternative. Most of us don’t eat enough vegetables, and they can provide a healthy swap for starchy carbs sometimes.
Try grated cauliflower as a substitute for rice next time you make FRIED RICE. Or steam and then mash cauliflower with garlic or herbs for a change from regular mashed potato.
12. Almond meal/coconut flour/spelt flour/buckwheat instead of white flour
There are lots of alternatives to white flour, depending on what you’re cooking or baking. I think there are a lot of treats, like muffins and banana bread, that can be made better for you with alternatives like almond meal, coconut flour and ground flaxseed.
A good way to find out what you might like is to just start experimenting! Visit my HEALTHY BAKING page for some ideas to get you started.
13. Plain yoghurt with added fresh fruit instead of flavoured yoghurts
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the reason I recommend buying plain yoghurt and adding your own flavouring is – you guessed it, added sugar! Along with other ingredients that just aren’t necessary in yoghurt.
Just add a little bit of vanilla or a teaspoon of honey to plain Greek yoghurt, then top it with some fresh fruit, nuts and seeds.
Get my BREKKIE BOWL RECIPES for healthy, easy to make breakfast & smoothie bowl ideas.
14. Sourdough, rye, sprouted grain breads & wraps instead of white bread
I love bread, but I mean real bread, not the fluffy, sweet white stuff that gets passed off as bread these days.
Bread has changed a lot over the years, and white bread loses so many nutrients during the processing, that the manufacturers now add some back at the end!
Wouldn’t you rather eat good, wholesome bread made from just a few ingredients, that has some substance, like sourdough, rye, or sprouted grain bread?
15. Raw local honey or pure maple syrup instead of refined white sugar
It’s best not to add sugar whenever you can, as there is sugar added to just about everything that we buy these days.
When it comes to cooking and baking, honey and maple syrup are great alternatives to white sugar that still taste good. I like to bake with them, as I prefer the flavour, and I also find that I can use less.
Cinnamon and vanilla are also great natural ways to sweeten porridge, smoothie bowls, desserts and even coffee.
16. Nut milks and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk
I do like the taste of cow’s milk in my coffee and tea, however I like to use coconut milk in porridge and a lot of my baking.
Nut milks like almond or cashew, are a great alternative for anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance.
As with everything, make sure that you read the labels when buying them, as a lot of them, especially the non chilled varieties, have additives and preservatives.
17. Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
So I made sure to save the best til last, haha! Dark chocolate can be good for you, as opposed to milk chocolate, with it’s high levels of sugar.
I used to be a big milk chocolate fan, but after I discovered the benefits of dark chocolate, I thought that I would have a go at switching.
I now regularly make my own, yep it’s easy! Try my recipe, and read about the benefits of cacao and dark chocolate: RAW CHOCOLATE.
So what do you think?
I hope I’ve inspired you with this list to maybe try something new, or a little bit different. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, and try new ingredients and new flavours.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should always be swapping your regular potato chips or ice cream for healthier versions. The occasional indulgence has a lot less impact, when it’s well, occasional!
I’ve made up a handy infographic that summarises all of these swaps. You can download it for free by clicking the button below.