We’ve all had that moment of fear where we want to lose weight and change our habits, but the thought of changing and not being able to have the food we love makes us scream.
But have no fear! Choosing healthier foods is easier than you may think! Below are 10 healthy food swaps that you can easily incorporate into your everyday diet.
Swap Sweets For Dried Fruits, Fresh Fruits, Or Dates
Dried fruits and dates are loaded with fibre, micronutrients, and disease-fighting antioxidants, especially polyphenols which protect the body’s tissues from pre-mature aging, reduce the risk of eye diseases, promote bone health and may help reduce blood sugar levels, and lower heart disease risk (1).
Similarly, dates are very sweet and chewy. They high in some important nutrients such as potassium for the heart, fibre, iron and vitamin B6 for mood regulation, and disease-fighting antioxidants (2). Dates are a brilliant alternative to sweets and they are very sweet, and have caramel taste.
Likewise, fruits like grapes and strawberries are naturally sweet and are a great naturally sweet alternative.
Swap Plain Water For Coconut Water Or Lemon Water
If you don’t particularly enjoy the taste of plain water, having coconut water or adding lemon to your water is a brilliant alternative (3). Coconut water is very refreshing (4). It is also loaded with nutrients such as magnesium, manganese, sodium, and calcium that most people don’t get enough of (5). Lemon water is loaded with vitamin C that helps improve skin quality and boosts the immune system. Similarly, polyphenol antioxidants found in lemons significantly reduces weight gain.
Swap Fizzy Drinks With Sparkling Water With Lemon/Lime
Similarly to lemon water, sparkling water with lemon keeps you hydrated, contains vitamin C, and is a healthier substitute to fizzy drinks.
Swap Crisps With Popcorn
Popcorn is a whole-grain food, making it naturally high in several important nutrients (6). It contains a lot of fibre and is filling because it takes up a lot of space in your stomach despite being relatively low in calories.
If you are going to choose this healthy option, homemade, unsalted and air-popped popcorn is the healthiest.
Swap Meat With Lentils
Lentils are highly nutritious and an inexpensive way of getting a range of nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium, essential for wound healing, growth and development, building your DNA, regulating your heart and muscles, and maintaining the nervous system (7).
Lentils are also made up of over 25% protein, which makes them a fantastic alternative to meat products, and a brilliant natural muscle builder. Furthermore, lentils are packed with fibre, which supports regular bowel movements, increases your stool weight and greatly improves overall gut function (8).
Swap Salt With Spices
Swap White Rice or Pasta For Brown Rice or Pasta
Whole grains are higher in fibre, vitamins, and minerals than white rice/pasta. Moreover, brown rice and whole-grain pasta are very high in manganese, which is a vital mineral used for many important processes in the body, such as bone development, wound healing, muscle contraction metabolism, nerve function, and blood sugar regulation (11). Additionally, wholegrain foods are more filling, and several studies have shown that whole grains can aid in weight loss (12), and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (13).
Swap Ice Cream For Frozen Blended Banana
Research has found that bananas are a fantastic source of energy, which is ideal for people who are lacking in energy, or for those who often work out (14). Just two bananas provide enough calories for a 1-1/2 hour workout or walk.
Bananas are also an ideal energy booster when feeling tired and sluggish. This is because they are rich in potassium, which aids the body’s circulatory system in delivering oxygen to the brain, helps the body maintain a regular heartbeat, lowers blood pressure, and helps maintain a proper balance of water in the body (15).
Furthermore, bananas also have a small amount of tryptophan, an amino acid that when combined with bananas’ natural vitamin B6, helps boost the production of serotonin, a “feel-good hormone” that aids in boosting mood (16).
Swap Hot Chocolate for Warm Milk With Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been praised for its powerful medicinal properties. It contains the compound cinnamaldehyde (17), which has powerful effects on health and metabolism. Moreover, cinnamon is also loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols which protect the body from oxidative damage. In fact, a recent study found that the polyphenols found in cinnamon were more powerful than ‘superfoods’ such as onions and garlic.
Further research has found that due to its high concentration of the active compound cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon may help to fight bacterial and fungal infections. Cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi, and also reduce the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella (18). Furthermore, the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon may also help prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath (19).
If you’re aiming to lose weight or simply improve your health with diet, it is quite tempting to try the latest fad diet and hope for the fat to melt away. While this may be effective in the short term, these restrictive diets are not sustainable and can negatively impact your long term health. Making small changes to your diet is the healthiest and most achievable and sustainable way for optimum health.
Your first step to optimum health is to eat fewer foods high in calories, fat, salt and sugars, and swapping them for healthier foods listed above. By changing just a few eating habits, you can make a big difference to your overall diet.