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.