41.9% of Americans are obese.
Obesity can lead to numerous preventable health conditions that can shorten your life span. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the leading causes of obesity. Fortunately, obesity is usually preventable and reversible with lifestyle changes.
Are you interested in eating healthier or trying to lose weight? Changing your diet can be overwhelming and doing too much can make it harder to stay on track.
But, you don’t have to completely overhaul your diet to improve your health. There are plenty of small changes you can make that will have a significant impact without shaking up your whole routine. Keep reading to learn more about the easiest healthy food swaps you can make today.
1. Soda for Tea or Coffee
Nearly half of Americans report drinking at least one glass of soda or pop each day. Among those soda drinkers, most drink more than 2 glasses. Whether you call it soda, pop, or soda pop, these sugary carbonated beverages may be holding back your diet plan.
One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can make is cutting out sugary drinks.
Most of us know that soda is bad for us, but just how bad is it? A single 8-ounce serving of cola contains 26 grams of sugar. Most cans contain 12 ounces, increasing the amount of sugar you consume.
Soda is packed with caffeine, sweeteners, and high-fructose corn syrup. Soda can cause weight gain, belly fat, sugar addiction, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, tooth decay, dementia, and gout. If you’re thinking of reaching for a diet soda instead – think again.
Diet soda isn’t a huge improvement and comes with its own set of issues because of its use of artificial sweeteners and lack of any nutritional value.
So what should you swap in? Try swapping tea or coffee into your diet plan, especially if you’re looking for an energy boost.
Tea comes in a variety of styles and flavors including herbal brews that don’t contain caffeine. You can enhance your tea with natural flavors like mint, cinnamon, or citrus.
When it comes to coffee, be careful with cream and sugar. Too much sweetener can make your cup of joe as bad as a can of soda. Coffee and tea also contain heart-healthy antioxidants that can lower your cholesterol and risk for stroke.
2. White Bread for Whole Grains
White bread offers little nutritional value and can wreck your diet plan.
One of the simplest food swaps you can make to promote healthy eating habits is the type of bread you choose. White bread is high in sugar and carbs and lacks the nutritional value that its alternatives have to offer. Swap in whole grains for refined grains like white flour.
Whole grain bread, tortillas, pitas, and wraps pack a nutritious punch with fewer calories. Whole grains contain important nutrients like iron, fiber, B vitamins, and magnesium.
Fiber is particularly beneficial as it can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Fiber is also good for digestion and makes you feel fuller, reducing the urge to snack when you’ve already eaten enough calories.
3. Ice Cream for Yogurt
There’s nothing quite like a cool creamy scoop of your favorite ice cream. But this sweet treat is full of sugar, fat, and empty calories. Swapping ice cream for yogurt can be just as satisfying while also promoting healthy living.
Next time you’re craving ice cream reach for frozen yogurt or froyo instead. Be careful when it comes to trendy froyo shops that offer unhealthy toppings that can pack on calories. It’s cheaper and more fun to make your own frozen yogurt.
If you don’t want to freeze it, you don’t have to.
Greek yogurt offers the most health benefits with the lowest sugar content and it’s also thicker and creamier than other yogurts. Greek yogurt contains only a fraction of the calories and sugar of ice cream and also offers calcium, protein, magnesium, and vitamin B to fuel your body.
You can add delicious fruits like berries or bananas to sweeten your treat and boost your nutrition even more. If you absolutely have to eat ice cream, opt for healthier brands that offer products with reduced fat and sugar content.
4. Baked Goods for Dark Chocolate
Healthy living doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a sweet treat. In fact, what if we told you that you could lose weight and still eat chocolate?
One of the worst things for your health and your waistline is baked goods like cookies and cakes. These desserts are full of unhealthy ingredients like white flour, which lacks fiber, butter and hydrogenated oils, and sugar. Butter and hydrogenated oils contain saturated and trans fats that aren’t good for your heart.
But if you have a sweet tooth, you’re not out of luck. Dark chocolate can actually be part of a healthy diet.
Dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids than milk chocolate and can taste just as good and satisfy your craving. This food swap can reduce your chances of chest pain, heart attack, and stroke. Of course, you should be careful not to overdo it.
5. White Sides for Green Sides
It’s important to pay attention to more than just the main dish when you’re following a healthy eating plan. Side dishes can be hiding large amounts of unhealthy carbohydrates that can sabotage your diet plan.
Common side dishes like bread, rice, noodles, and potatoes are starchy carbs and can raise your blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to heart disease. Consider swapping starchy sides for healthier alternatives like brown rice, whole grain pasta, or wild rice.
Pay attention to serving sizes to avoid consuming too much. If you want to make even healthier food swaps, ditch the white sides altogether.
Green sides like vegetables provide critical vitamins, minerals, and nutrients without the carbs. Veggies like spinach, broccoli, kale, and collard greens contain vitamins A, K, and C, as well as fiber. They can also reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol.
6. Red Meat for Seafood and Veggies
Fatty cuts of red meat are a staple of the American diet, but when you’re trying to lose weight, they can do more harm than good.
Instead of fatty red meat, which is high in saturated fat, consider swapping in seafood or even vegetables. Next time you have a barbeque, replace the grilled red meat with a healthier alternative from the ocean.
Red meat can raise your cholesterol and increase your chances of developing heart disease. On the other hand, seafood like salmon and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids. They can actually lower the amount of bad fat in your blood and prevent plaque from building up in your arteries, which causes heart disease.
So, with this food swap, you’re actually reversing your previous unhealthy habits.
If you love to grill, try swapping in grilled shellfish such as crab or lobster. These healthy food swaps contain plenty of protein and minerals to help you lose weight and stay healthy.
It’s always best to avoid processed meats. Highly processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer and they’re just generally not good for you.
For example, when you’re shopping for salmon, choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon instead of farmed salmon. Salmon raised on a farm is fed a high-fat diet designed to produce larger, more profitable fish.
Wild-caught fish offers fewer calories and more omega-3s. It’s also better for the environment
If you don’t like seafood or are following a vegan diet, you could even replace ground beef with lentils and mushrooms. Cooked lentils closely resemble ground beef and mushrooms have a similar flavor and texture. Try cooking them together and adding plenty of seasoning to replace ground beef in your diet plan.
Lentils and mushrooms can make an excellent substitution for sloppy joe sandwiches. Be sure to use a whole grain bun! Sneaking in plant-based proteins can provide health benefits and save you money.
7. Chips for Nuts and Popcorn
If you’re a snacker, you’re not alone. Chips are one of our favorite snack foods but they aren’t exactly healthy. When we’re snacking away, it’s too easy to polish off an entire bag of chips before we realize how much we’ve eaten.
Fortunately, healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up salty snacks. Chips contain too much salt and unhealthy fats. These saturated and trans fats increase your risk of heart disease.
But, it’s important to remember that not all fat is bad. Fat is essential for our bodies to function properly. Chips can be swapped for nuts, which contain healthy fats.
For example, cashews, walnuts, and almonds contain unsaturated fats. This type of fat is good for your heart. These types of nuts also contain fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
But, nuts aren’t a low-calorie food. While they can be a part of a healthy diet plan, they should be consumed in moderation if you’re trying to lose weight.
One of our favorite healthy food swaps is chips for popcorn. While you might associate popcorn with movie theatres, it can actually be a healthy snack at home or on the go. Popcorn is a whole grain that contains fiber to fill you up and keep you full without consuming a ton of calories.
Popcorn also contains antioxidants, which reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. You can make your own popcorn using an air popper. Be sure to choose heart-healthy oil and go easy on the salt.
For the healthiest popcorn, skip the butter to avoid consuming too many calories and too much fat.
8. Salt for Herbs and Spices
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, you might still be consuming too much sodium.
The CDC recommends that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is only about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Processed foods and even seemingly healthy frozen foods are often packed with added sodium.
Adjusting to healthy eating can be challenging for your tastebuds. Eventually, you’ll find that healthier food swaps actually have more flavor and are more satisfying than their processed counterparts. But, if you need a little help getting there, that’s okay.
You should think twice before you reach for the salt shaker. Everyone can benefit from consuming less sodium. Instead of salt, consider using fresh or dried spices and herbs.
Your taste buds will acclimate to these new flavors that you didn’t even know you were missing. If you decide to use pre-made seasoning blends, be sure to choose ones that don’t contain salt.
If you aren’t ready to give up salt, you can reduce your sodium intake by avoiding using it while cooking. Wait until you are ready to eat to add just a little salt to your plate.
Are You Ready to Try These Food Swaps?
If you’re ready to lose weight and change your life, you’ve come to the right place.
Making these simple healthy food swaps can have a significant impact on your weight and your overall health. Losing weight can help you look and feel better and even give you more time to spend with your loved ones.
The best part? You don’t have to do it alone. Following a weight loss program is the best way to stay accountable and access the resources you need to succeed on your weight loss journey.
UnCraveRx is a complete medical weight loss program designed to foster a healthy lifestyle. Find an UnCraveRx provider and get started toward better health.