Eating more healthfully doesn’t require buying more expensive foods, or giving in to pricey health gimmicks. It also doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself completely from the foods you love in order to drop a few pounds.
There are plenty of simple changes you can make to the meals you already enjoy every day to improve your health. By making some simple swaps, you can increase the nutritional value of your favorite foods, lower calorie content, and even improve the taste!
Here are our best simple ingredient swaps for getting and staying healthy:
Nutritional yeast (instead of salt, or cheese).
It’s always a good idea to work towards cutting back your sodium intake, and nutritional yeast is a fantastic way to do so. Usually found in the supplement section of the grocery store, nutritional yeast is rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid – making it perfect for any vegetarians out there, since it’s difficult to find in any natural foods other than meat.
Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of popcorn instead of salt, on salads or pasta instead of Parmesan cheese, or mix into sauces in place of other white cheeses. It’s also great to thicken and add flavor to gravy!
Hummus or avocado (instead of mayo).
Nothing completes a sandwich more than a creamy spread that holds it together and melds all the flavors. Although mayonnaise is delicious, it doesn’t add much as far as nutrition is concerned.
Spread some hummus on your bread instead, and reap the benefits of an added boost of protein, improved texture, and energy from healthy fats.
Speaking of healthy fats – substituting mashed avocado also works wonderfully! Try it instead of sugary ketchup on your burger too. You may never go back.
Ground nuts (instead of breadcrumbs).
Nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), are fantastic when ground up to replace salty seasoned breadcrumbs! They’re full of healthy fats, protein, calcium, and vitamin E. Just pulse your favorite type of nut (or a combination) in a food processor, and use them as a coating for chicken, as a salad topping, or on top of pastas.
For an added salt-free boost of flavor, mix the nut crumbs with True Lime Garlic & Cilantro. This is a delicious combo when making “breaded” fish as well – and even gluten-free. Bonus!
Vegetable noodles or cauliflower rice (instead of pasta or regular rice).
It’s ridiculous how easy it is to make cauliflower rice. Just throw it in a food processor and pulse until it’s the size and consistency of rice, then cook in a skillet on the stove! Cauliflower is fantastic instead of rice – not only does it cook much faster, but it’s high in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Another option is to find a vegetable spiralizer (you can even just use a vegetable peeler) and make your own zucchini or carrot noodles! Use the same pasta sauce as usual, but increase your nutrient content by half. Cauliflower rice or vegetable noodles are great bases for stir fry dishes as well.
Fruit (instead of sugary syrup).
It may be tempting to pour maple syrup on top of your pancakes, or add a drizzle of honey to your granola and yogurt. However, these syrups are packed with sugar and very little nutrition. Since fruit is sweet but also full of plenty of fiber and other nutrients, use sliced peaches, strawberries, or apples on top instead!
Want something a little more drizzly? Add some fresh or frozen fruit to a pot on the stove with a few splashes of water and a sprinkle of True Lemon. Cook until it starts to get syrupy, and serve on top of oatmeal, ice cream, waffles, and anything else.
Coconut oil (instead of butter).
When it comes to a butter substitute, coconut oil is hands-down the winner! It has a similar consistency, melts beautifully, and has a host of health benefits that are much better for you than plain old butter. You can even use it to kick-start your morning cup of Joe.
Tempeh (instead of ground beef).
Although going fully vegetarian isn’t right for everyone, eating more vegetable-heavy meals is vital in improving your health. Made from fermented soybeans and grains, it will give your meal more fiber and good probiotic bacteria for digestion. It also packs a protein punch of about 16 grams per serving!
Tempeh also has a similar texture to ground beef, so try it crumbled in your favorite chili recipe, as a base for burgers, or cut into cubes in a stir-fry.
[Credit: Taylor, Marygrace. “12 Whole-Food Swaps Under $10 That Make Clean Eating Easier Than You’d Expect.” Greatist.]