8 Simple Healthy Food Swaps to Try Today
A few weeks ago, we talked about what it means to eat healthy.
One of the key ideas of eating healthy is to eat more whole foods. Making a few simple changes in your daily diet will allow you to add more nutrient-dense whole foods and variety to your current food choices.
Most of these food swaps are extremely easy (almost effortless!). It is as easy as picking up another brand in the supermarket, or ordering something slightly different when dining out. I hope this inspires you to try out something new today!
01 | Instead of Mayonnaise, Try … Mashed Avocados
A tablespoon of mayonnaise contains about 90 calories, while a tablespoon of pureed avocado contains only 23 calories. Mayonnaise is high in unhealthy saturated fats, while the fats in avocados help to lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Avocados are also one of the richest source of potassium, and contains carotenoids such as beta-carotene. I love mashed avocados with a pinch of sea salt and pepper – absolute delight!
02 | Instead of Cereal, Try … Muesli
Most breakfast cereals are made from heavily processed grains and are loaded in added sugars. Even when they are labelled with health claims such as ‘Made from Whole Grains’ and ‘Low in Fat’, these claims are often misleading. When you read the labels carefully, most commercial cereals only contain a small amount of whole grains.
Muesli is a healthier breakfast option as it is made from rolled oats, dried fruits, seeds and nuts. Oat is an extremely nutritious whole grain, best known for its health benefits of lowering cholesterol levels. As compared to cereals, a breakfast of muesli is nutrient dense and keeps you full for longer.
SN Tip: Make your own muesli by adding your favorite dried fruits, seeds and nuts to raw rolled oats. You can even add fresh cut fruits to your muesli before serving.
03 | Instead of White Bread, Try … Wholemeal Bread
Wholemeal bread is made from unrefined whole grains, while white bread is made from refined grains. During the refining process, the bran (outer layer) and germ (inner layer) of the grain is removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Removing the bran and germ also removes key nutrients, such as dietary fiber, vitamins A, B and E, calcium and phosphorous. As a result, white bread is higher in carbohydrates and has less vitamins and minerals as compared to wholemeal bread (think: empty calories!).
There are many different varieties of bread available at the supermarket, which makes it extremely confusing for consumers. Some brands are labelled as ‘enriched’, ‘multi-grain’, or ‘whole grain’, but may be made with refined flour with the addition of wheat germ, wheat bran or nuts and seeds.
SN Tip: Look out for brands that are made with 100% wholemeal or whole wheat flour, with more than 2 g of fibre per serving, and trans-fat free.
04 | Instead of White Rice, Try … Brown Rice
Similarly, brown rice is a healthier option as compared to white rice. Brown rice contains the essential nutrients that have been removed from white rice during the refining process.
In Singapore, brown rice (‘糙米’) is commonly used to refer to both brown and red rice. Don’t be surprised to see a bowl of red or purple-colored rice when you order brown rice at the hawker centre! The type and amount of color pigmentation in the rice bran determines the ultimate color of the rice, and the nutritional content of the different colored rice differs slightly.
SN Tip: If you find it difficult to get used to the taste of brown rice, start with replacing only half of your bowl of rice with brown rice. There is also a magical way to cook brown rice that makes it super tasty – recipe coming soon!
05 | Instead of Fruit Juice, Try … Fresh Fruit
Juicing removes the skin and pulp of the fruit, leaving only the liquid. The edible skin of many fruits contain key nutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids, and often contain many times more nutrients as compared to just the juice.
The skin and pulp is also an important source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps to maintain a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. Drinking pure fruit juice causes your blood sugar level to spike, leading to a subsequent sugar crash (i.e. low energy and feelings of fatigue).
06 | Instead of Milk Chocolate, Try … Dark Chocolate
Milk chocolate contains very little cocoa solids as compared to dark chocolate, and is mostly made up of milk solids, cream and sugar. As a result, milk chocolate contains twice as much sugar and less fiber, vitamins and minerals as compared to dark chocolate.
SN Tip: Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 65% cocoa, with little or no added sugar, and made from cocoa butter instead of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
07 | Instead of Salted or Oil-Roasted Almonds, Try … Raw or Dry-Roasted Almonds
Almonds are an extremely good source of monounsaturated fat, which has many heart-healthy benefits. However, it is very easy to eat too many of them as a small handful of almonds will add up to quite a significant number of calories.
Avoid brands that add salt, oil, or sugar in the roasting process of almonds. This increases the caloric count, sugar and sodium content of almonds, which makes it more unhealthy as compared to raw almonds.
SN Tip: Roast your own almonds by baking raw almonds in the oven for about 30 minutes at 170°C. Take the pan out and stir them up every 10 minutes. Easy!
08 | Instead of Pasta, Try … Soba
Similar to white bread and white rice, white pasta is made from refined white flour, which is stripped of the important key nutrients that are present in the bran and germ of the grain.
An alternative to white pasta would be wholemeal pasta (getting the hang of this yet?).
I would recommend giving soba noodles a try. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour, which is lower in calories as compared to pasta and is also gluten-free. Research has also shown that the rate of release of glucose from eating buckwheat noodles is slower than wheat noodles, making it a better alternative for individuals with diabetes or are looking to control their blood sugar level.
SN Tip: Look for brands that are made with at least 80% buckwheat flour (‘hachi-wari‘ in Japanese).
What are some of your favorite healthy whole food swaps? If you tried any of the above swaps or have any of your own to recommend, let me know by leaving a comment below!