We’ve done a bit of digging and found some healthy swaps that will both help your waistline and keep your meals and snacks exciting.
If you’re looking to eat more healthily, the chances are you’ll already be familiar with the idea of ‘healthy food swaps’.
Taking unhealthy food and drink out of your diet and replacing it with alternatives that provide a better nutritional balance without compromising on taste is a great idea. That much is obvious.
But there’s a problem.
A lot of the time these swaps risk taking the fun out of food, making it hard not to fall off the wagon. That’s where we come in. Powered by our smart network of doctors, we've found some healthy swaps that will both help your waistline and keep your meals and snacks exciting.
Why not give them a go?
OUT → Salt - IN ← Herbs and spices
You’ve probably heard the recommendation that you should get no more than 6g of salt per day. That’s because too much salt raises your blood pressure, which makes it more likely that you’ll suffer from potentially life-threatening heart problems.
One way to cut back on your salt intake is to find alternative seasoning methods that will make your dishes burst with flavour and keep you healthy. Still need convincing? Here are some healthy facts you might not have known about herbs and spices:
- Studies have shown that spicy dishes could actually be good for your heart. Chilli contains a substance called capsaicin that is also used in anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Garlic is thought to improve your heart health and immune system.
- Ginger is used to treat nausea and calm symptoms in people suffering from joint pain or arthritis.
- Coriander provides a great source of vitamin K, which is useful for healthy blood and strong bones.
- Mint has been shown to help people with bowel or digestive problems.
- Sage can help with symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
So next time you’re making dinner, put the salt shaker down and head over to the spice rack!
OUT → Fruit juice - IN ← Fresh fruit smoothie
Those cartons of fruit juice may claim to provide one of your five a day, but they’re much less boastful about the large amounts of sugar they’re hiding.
A quick scan of the labels on these products will also reveal that the amount of pure fruit juice is actually quite low. A much better option would be to make your own fruit juice or smoothie to make sure all those lovely nutrients go straight into your glass.
It’s not difficult to fix yourself a freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning, while blitzing some of your favourite berries with some almond milk will provide you with a delicious, satisfying drink that’s packed full of vitamins and minerals.
OUT → Ice cream - IN ← Frozen banana
We’re aware this one might raise eyebrows. Let’s be clear - we’re not suggesting you never eat ice cream again. However, if it’s something that you regularly overindulge in, then this guilt-free snack could really help you reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Simply pop a banana in the freezer, then when you’re craving a tasty frozen dessert, let it thaw slightly and put it in the blender. You’ll get the texture and temperature of your favourite gelato, without the sugary hit. Plus of course, bananas are a rich source of potassium, fibre and vitamin B6.
OUT → Potato - IN ← Sweet potato
While potatoes have some nutritional value and are not quite as bad as some health sites would have you believe, swapping them out for sweet potato is a healthier option.
Potatoes are regarded as a starch and do not count towards your five a day. While they’re high in fibre, this is only true if the skins are left on, which is usually not the case when they’re mashed, roasted or made into chips.
They also rank very highly on the glycaemic index, which measures how quickly a food raises your blood sugar levels.
In contrast, sweet potatoes are classed as a vegetable. They’re a rich source of vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as calcium. They’re also much lower than white potatoes on the glycaemic index, meaning they won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar.
A baked sweet potato would make a fantastic, nutritious lunch - just be sure to keep those fillings healthy too!
OUT → Sandwich spreads - IN ← Avocado
You can hardly go into a cafe these days without seeing ‘smashed avocado’ somewhere on the menu. There’s a reason for this. Not only is it delicious, it’s also one of the best known sources of ‘good fat’.
We all need some fat to help our body absorb certain vitamins, so you shouldn’t try to cut it from your diet entirely. However, as much of it as possible should come from unsaturated sources, which are often found in plant oils.
While popular sandwich spreads such as butter, margarine and mayonnaise can all contain saturated fat, which we know is bad for us, avocado is rich in unsaturated fat, which won’t raise your cholesterol. Simply spread this onto your sandwich or wrap for a tasty, nutritious way to bind the whole thing together.
OUT → Shop-bought salad dressing - IN ← Fresh lime juice
Looking for something to perk up your salad? Those shop-bought dressings may seem like just the job, but on closer inspection they’re likely to contain way more salt and sugar than you need.
A squeeze of lime juice will add the dash of flavour you’re looking for, while of course you’ll also be getting a top-up of vitamin C.
While you’re at it, this is a great chance to try out some new salad options beyond the usual lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Why not whip up a zingy salsa using fresh mango, diced chillies, chopped coriander and lime juice?
OUT → Fruit-flavoured yoghurt - IN ← Greek yoghurt and fresh berries
Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but we’re back to sugar again. Despite what their adverts might suggest, the yoghurts you buy in shops are often packed with the sweet stuff. This is especially true if you get varieties with a supposedly ‘healthy’ fruit compote at the bottom.
It’s actually really quick and easy to create your own healthy, delicious yoghurt at home, with minimal prep time. Take a few spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt, mix in some fresh, vitamin-rich berries and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the top for extra tastiness, plus a healthy hit of fibre, iron and calcium! What could be simpler than that?
Got your own healthy food swap? Tell us about it!
Have you got a top tip for people who are looking to make more healthy food choices? Have you made a small change to an established recipe that you think gives it even better nutritional value?
Why not head over to Facebook and let us know about it? We always love to hear from you!