Gone are the days when people didn’t care about the types of food they ate. Due to the numerous health consequences of eating unhealthy, people now give some thought before buying their groceries or ordering something in a restaurant.
Starting a fitness and health journey is a slow and steady process. You can get success in your journey by eating healthy foods and substituting unhealthy ingredients with healthy alternatives.
A few strategic food swaps can give you a jump start and go a long way toward improving your health.
Here are the top 10 simple dietary swaps for your health.
1. Swap Junk Foods with Healthier Snacks
In the past few decades, doughnuts, pizzas, burgers, hamburgers, rolls, wraps, French fries and the like have become very popular, and so have the related health problems.
Junk foods are easily available, taste good and are not very expensive. But they are high in calories, sugar and salt while very low in nutritional value and hence cause obesity, diabetes, depression, kidney problems, fatigue and poor digestion. They also can lead to low brain functioning, increase the risk of heart disease and damage your liver.
Eat healthy snacks instead of junk foods so that your body gets the essential nutrients to function properly. Some healthier snack options are:
- Instead of chocolate chip cookies, try oatmeal cookies.
- Instead of ice cream, try yogurt topped with fruits and nuts.
- Instead of potato chips, try roasted nuts.
- Instead of white and milk chocolate, try dark chocolate.
- Instead of French fries, try edamame beans.
- Instead of candy, try fresh fruits.
- Instead of salted or buttered popcorn, try homemade air-popped popcorn mixed with different spice blends.
2. Swap Salt with Fresh or Dried Herbs and Spices
Your body needs a moderate amount of sodium to function properly. Health experts recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) daily.
Higher sodium intake can cause many problems, such as increased blood pressure, heart complications, kidney problems as well as fluid build-up in people with congestive heart failure. On the other hand, reduced salt intake will help reduce water retention.
When you need to enhance the taste of your food, you can use fresh or dried herbs and spices instead of salt. Some flavorful herbs and spices are cinnamon, ginger, garlic, clove, parsley, sage, cilantro, nutmeg, basil, coriander, cumin, cardamom and many more.
3. Swap Refined Grains with Whole Grains
Grains are an essential part of any diet. For the most health benefits, include whole-grain food items in your diet rather than refined grain products. Refined grains are milled, which causes many of its essential nutrients to get lost. Popular refined grain foods are white flour, white rice, white bread and regular cereals.
Whole grains have their bran intact. They are the healthiest kind of grains and even the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating more whole grains. Whole grains provide more fiber, selenium, potassium, magnesium and other nutrients that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems.
To get more whole grains in your diet, opt for oats, quinoa, barley and brown rice.
4. Swap Red Meat with Cold-Water Fish
Red meat from cows, sheep, ducks and geese is rich in protein and iron, but the high percentage of saturated fat that red meat contains makes it an unhealthy food choice. Saturated fat is linked to obesity.
Plus, studies have shown that eating red meat can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and certain types of cancers.
It is better to eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel, lake trout, swordfish and haddock.
These cold-water fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids can help lower blood pressure, improve overall blood cholesterol levels, boost memory power, improve your mood, fight depression, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
5. Swap Mayonnaise with Avocado
Mayonnaise is a thick, creamy sauce made of oil, egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings. It is often used in salad dressings, dips and as a spread for sandwiches and burgers. Though the creamy texture and soothing taste of mayonnaise appeals to many, it is not good for your health.
Most commercial mayonnaises are packed with unhealthy fat and calories that can cause obesity, heart problems and other health issues.
Instead, opt for avocados, which contain more than 25 essential nutrients. Avocados have several vitamins, copper, iron, potassium, fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating avocados regularly is known to promote brain and heart health, prevent arthritis, protect against cancer, aid digestion and nourish your skin.
You can mash a ripe avocado and use it as a spread for your sandwich. You can mix a little salt and lemon juice in mashed avocado to make healthy creamy dips.
6. Swap Butter with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
One common ingredient in many kitchens is butter. You spread butter on bread and use it for baking and cooking. But butter contains saturated fat that can cause high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, heart problems, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancers of the reproductive system, colon and gallbladder.
Instead of butter, use extra-virgin olive oil, which has fat that is unsaturated and thus a healthier option. It also contains omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well as vitamins E and K.
Olive oil can help reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and cancer. Plus, it can make your skin and hair healthy.
You can use olive oil like butter in baking. You can also use it for cooking or for salad dressing.
7. Swap Non-Organic with Organic
Organic foods are safer and healthier compared to non-organic foods. This is mainly because organic foods have fewer toxins. A 2012 meta-analysis by Stanford University found that eating organic foods means less exposure to harmful pesticides that can adversely affect your health.
- Buy organically grown tomatoes, potatoes and onions that make up a large part of our diets.
- Buy organically grown fruits, especially those that you eat with the peels like apples, guava and so on.
- Buy organic herbs like coriander, basil, mint and parsley for use in raw form like garnishing.
- Use organic animal products, such as meat, dairy and eggs, to reduce the level of toxins in your foods.
During the weekends, take a trip to the farmer’s market instead of the grocery store to shop for local, seasonal fruits and vegetables, dairy products and grains that are more nutritious and healthy.
8. Swap Sugary Beverages with Filtered Water
Sweetened commercial beverages as well as soda have no nutritional benefits. Even worse, these drinks are loaded with chemical additives and high amounts of refined sugar, syrup or artificial sweeteners.
Excess sugar intake can increase your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s and many other serious health problems.
Opt for plain filtered water instead. Pure water serves your body’s needs for fluids and has many health benefits, too. Drinking water regularly will help relieve fatigue, improve mood, treat headaches, aid digestion, treat constipation, support weight loss and flush toxins out of the body.
For added health benefits, add some lime or lemon juice and honey to a glass of water before drinking it.
Avoid drinking bottled water as the plastic used in making the bottles may not be healthy. Always drink filtered water at home and carry water with you in a glass bottle.
9. Swap Cereal with Oats
It’s important to eat breakfast daily and one of the most common and easiest breakfasts that many people have is a bowl of cereal with milk. Unfortunately, many cereals are packed with excessive sugar, refined grains and even salt, which are not healthy.
Instead, enjoy a morning bowl of oats. Oats contain fiber, protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Eating oats regularly can lower cholesterol, boost immunity, improve cardiovascular health, aid weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and lower high blood pressure.
Along with oats, you can choose quinoa, plain porridge and whole-wheat cereal as healthy alternatives.
10. Swap Coffee with Green Tea
Some people simply need a cup of coffee or more to get going in the morning. Well, one cup of coffee a day is fine, but too much can cause more harm to your body than good.
According to Michigan State University, the high amount of caffeine in coffee can contribute to dehydration and also interfere with sleep and cause restlessness. It can also exacerbate ulcers, raise both blood pressure and cholesterol, and speed up your heart rate.
You can kick start your morning with the healthy alternative—green tea. Green tea has antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticavity properties that can boost metabolism, improve brain health, aid weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of cancer.
Sip a few cups of green tea daily.
Incorporating these little changes in your dietary habits can make a big difference in your overall health