Simple Swaps for Healthier Eating

I found a post on Pinterest last summer that inspired me to begin “eating clean.” It basically was a blog post full of simple swaps for your diet that can help you eat healthier and cleaner.

Since I was on summer vacation at the time, I was indulging in ice cream, fried foods and too many snacks at happy hour. I was five months postpartum and starting to feel uncomfortable that the “baby weight” was not disappearing as quickly as it did with my first child. I completed a 30-day clean eating challenge to jump start a cleaner way of eating. I lost 12 pounds in six weeks and felt awesome.

Here are some simple swaps that helped me get there:

  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables vs. Canned

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but for the most part, it’s much better to each fresh fruits and veggies rather than from a can. Often (not always) there is salt, sugar, preservative and chemicals added to canned food to make them last longer and it’s much healthier and tastier to eat fresh foods instead. I definitely keep canned food on our pantry shelf in a pinch, but much prefer the taste of fresh.

  • Natural Peanut Butter vs. Regular

Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods and I LOVE natural peanut butter. I started eating natural peanut butter several years ago and *just* about a month ago, my husband finally switched over. When looking for natural peanut butter, you’ll have to steer clear of Jif or Skippy and look for peanut butter where the only ingredients are “peanuts” (and maybe salt).

  • Lara Bars vs. Other Granola Bars

Lara Bars are clean granola bars. They have very few ingredients and are gluten free, vegan and GMO free. They don’t taste like typical granola bars because they don’t have any of chemicals and artificial flavors of traditional granola bars. Take this ingredient list from a Kellog’s Special K granola bar (If you can pronounce every ingredient on the following list, then you’re my hero):

Cereal, Rice, Sugar, Whole Grain Wheat, Wheat Bran, Soluble Wheat Fiber, Malt Flavoring, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Monoglycerides, Maltodextrin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) (Vitamin B2), Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Folic Acid (Folate) Vitamin B12, Soluble Corn fiber, Vegetable Oil (less than 0.5g trans fat per serving), Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Soybean (Glycine Soja) Oil (with TBHQ for freshness), Palm Oil (with TBHQ for freshness), Corn Syrup, Fructose, Dextrose, Wheat Flour, Raspberry Cereal Pieces, Raspberry Puree (concentrate), Whole Wheat, Wheat Gluten, Nonfat Dry Milk, Defatted Wheat Germ, Salt, Vitamin C Blend (sodium ascorbate, asorbic acid), Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Vitamin B12, Sorbitol (2% or less), Glycerin, Natural & Artificial Raspberry Flavor, Natural & Artificial Cream Cheese Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Molasses, Beet (Beta Vulgaris) Powder (for color), Natural & Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Calcium Propionate (preservative), Red 40, Color Added, BHT (preservative), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090).

I don’t even know what most of that means. Now take the ingredients for a Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bar: Peanuts, dates, sea salt. Enough said.

(I’ve also made my own granola bars and they are delish!)

  • Nuts vs. Chips/Pretzels/Crackers

If you like to snack on something crunchy mid-afternoon, you’re not alone. We can’t keep potato chips in our house because they will disappear way too quickly. Pretzels are full of gluten, which our older son doesn’t eat, so we try not to keep them in the house either. Nuts are jam packed with protein, are gluten-free and delicious. There is so much variety from peanuts, almonds, cashews and lots of other dried fruits that you can mix in to make your own trail mix, such as raisins, pineapple, cranberries, cherries and papaya. Though nuts are high in fat, they’re the GOOD fat and are very healthy when eaten in moderation.

  • Green Tea vs. Soda

When I started eating clean last August, I gave up drinking soda. And I have not missed it! I wasn’t a huge soda drinker to begin with, but I did enjoy an occasional glass of Diet Coke when I was out to dinner. I tried a sip of soda a few weeks ago and almost spit it out. Soda is filled with sugar, “caramel color”, and high fructose corn syrup. If you’re drinking diet, it’s even worse because then it also has artificial sweeteners, which only make your body crave sugar even more. The only liquids I drink now are decaf green tea and water. Pour yourself a glass and drink to your good health!

  • Honey and Raw Sugar vs. White Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

As mentioned above, I avoid artificial sweeteners as much as humanly possible. I used to eat a lot of “diet foods” that tasted good because they contained sweeteners like aspartame, which are found in Equal and NutriSweet and sucralose, which is found in Splenda. Now, I prefer to sweeten my green tea with honey. I also use honey when baking in place of sugar. When I do use sugar, I buy “raw sugar” which is also called Tubinado sugar. It’s less processed than white sugar and tastes exactly the same (in my opinion).

  • Homemade Salad Dressing vs. Bottled

The ingredient lists for bottled salad dressings make me cringe, much like boxed granola bars. Most bottled salad dressing is filled with sugar and contains preservatives so it can last on the supermarket shelf.  While it’s convenient to open a bottle and pour, I’m not a fan of some of the ingredients, which include Natamycin, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate and Soybean Oil (usually genetically modified).

Making your own homemade salad dressing is so easy! I enjoy this Honey Dijon dressing from Heather’s Dish

  • 1/2 cup dijon mustard
  • 3-4 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (I only use 1 tsp; I like the extra acidity)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
    (I usually make this is single serving batches in the morning to bring to school and eat with my salad. After you make it a few times, it’s unnecessary to measure ingredients and easy to throw together in a small Tupperware container.
  • Quinoa vs. Rice

Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, though most people think it is. Quinoa is very high in protein and fiber and has a low glycemic index. It keeps you full and even though it is high in carbohydrates, it’s a very healthy choice compared to rice. If you’re going to opt for rice, skip the white rice and instead choose long-grain brown rice or wild rice.

  • Maple Syrup vs. Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth

With ingredients like corn syrup (most likely genetically modified), high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE and artificial flavor (who even knows what that means?!), it’s a much healthier option to choose pure maple syrup. Yes, it’s more expensive (many healthier options are), but it’s naturally very sweet, so you probably won’t use as much as a bottle of imitation syrup. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

  • Ezekial Bread vs. White or Wheat Bread

I don’t eat a whole lot of bread these days, but when I do, I choose Ezekial bread. Ezekial bread is sprouted bread, which means that it’s made from freshly sprouted live grains and contains absolutely no flour. It has a good amount of protein (4g) and fiber (3g) per slice, and is a healthier option than white bread which is higher in calories and carbohydrates and lower in protein and fiber.

Now of course, I’m not a machine – I did enjoy a piece of birthday cake at a recent family event and I did use some bottled salad dressing last week when I ran out of olive oil. But overall, I really enjoy eating cleaner with these simple swaps and feel so much better about the food I’m putting in my body.

What are some simple swaps that you have made to eat healthier?

3 Responses to Simple Swaps for Healthier Eating

  1. Love this list! I have done a lot these swaps and it’s been great. But my all time favorite swap I using zucchini noodles instead of flour pasta.

  2. Here’s the problem I have… just going through the first 3

    1.65/can or $4.99/pc for fresh

    Peanut Butter
    $2/18oz or 3.29/16oz for natural

    Granola Bars
    2.99/8ct or Lara’s Not available. Comparable product 4.19/5ct

    There are so many links between poverty and obesity… it’s such a shame.

  3. Thanks for putting these together! I’ve never heard of Ezekial bread…

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