Trying to make your diet healthier, but don’t know where to start? Just a few easy food swaps can give your diet a nutrition boost.
Knowing how to choose a healthy diet is one thing, but putting healthy eating into practice can sometimes
be a lot harder to do. This week, I’m going to show you nine food swaps that can put you on the path to
healthy eating in no time.
Sure, your diet would probably be a lot healthier if you cut back on fats and sweets, opted for leaner proteins, ate more fruits and vegetables and chose better snacks. But all that can seem overwhelming—especially when you can barely even manage to work in a banana or a side of green beans every once in a while. When you feel as if there are too many things to change all at once, you may decide it’s simpler to just do nothing. So, why not try making a food swap plan instead and in the process, make your daily diet a whole lot healthier? Here are some ideas:
A bowl of cereal with milk is quick and easy, but you can pack a lot more nutrition into an equally easy protein shake.
Why it’s better: A protein shake made with protein powder, milk or soy milk and fruit will give you more protein, which gives your meal more staying power. Plus, the fruit contributes vitamins, minerals and filling fiber. Since you’ll be drinking the milk, rather than leaving it at the bottom of the cereal bowl, you’ll get a good dose of calcium, too.
Pre-mixed fruit yogurt has very little fruit,
and often a lot of sugar. It really doesn’t take that long to slice some fresh fruit into plain nonfat yogurt and drizzle with a little honey or maple syrup. Or, zap some frozen fruit in the microwave for a minute or two, then stir in your yogurt.
Why it’s better: You’ll be getting more fruit and fiber, more protein and less sugar.
Leafy greens are great, but some greens like spinach are nutrition superstars. Instead of lettuce, try making salads with mild baby spinach.
Why it’s better: A serving of spinach has three times more potassium, calcium and vitamin C, and
50% more vitamin A than a serving of iceberg lettuce.
Starchy sides of white rice or regular pasta don’t pack the vitamins, minerals and fiber that whole grains do. While brown rice or whole grain noodles would be better, a serving of beans offers up even more nutrition.
Why it’s better: Swapping in beans for a side of rice or pasta means you’ll get more iron and more
When you’re craving something savory for a snack, try some edamame soybeans instead of salty chips. Look for bags of frozen edamame in the pod at your grocery store. After a five minute dip in boiling water, they’re ready to eat.
Why it’s better: A half-cup of shelled edamame soybeans has about 9 g of fiber, 11 g of protein, and around 10% of your daily needs for vitamin C and iron—all for about 120 calories. Show me a chip that can do that! Also, it takes time to remove the beans from the pods, which slows down the rate at which you eat.
Canned tuna is a great food, but canned salmon (which works well in most recipes calling for tuna) has a nutritional advantage since it contains more beneficial fat.
Why it’s better: Wild-caught salmon (nearly all canned salmon is wild) contains a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids compared to farmed salmon. Being a fattier fish, a serving of salmon has about twice the omega-3 fatty acids as a serving of tuna.
Avocado can be a great substitute for less healthy fat sources in all kinds of dishes. One of my favorite ways to use it is to replace the mayonnaise used in tuna (or salmon!) salad. Mashed avocado can replace fatty dressings and sauces: it makes a great dip for raw veggies, and it’s wonderful on grilled fish or chicken.
Why it’s better: Avocado is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, similar to what’s found in other beneficial fats like olive oil and nuts.
If you’re trying to work more fruit into your diet, whole fruit is the way to go. The calories in fruit juice can add up quickly, and juice just doesn’t fill you up.
Why it’s better: Fiber is what makes whole fruits more filling compared to fruit juice, and berries are some of the highest fiber fruits around. Spend 50 calories on a serving of raspberries, and you get a whopping seven grams of fiber in return.
If beef burgers are a menu staple, try this food swap. Go for veggie burgers made with soy protein or beans instead. When they’re crumbled on top of a salad or nestled on a whole grain bun with plenty of onion, lettuce and tomato, they’re a pretty good substitute for the real thing.
Why it’s better: You’re getting your protein from a plant source, which means a lot less fat and saturated fat than what you’d get from the ground beef.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.