There are several healthy food swaps that will make a big difference in moving the needle on your health and your weight. You don’t need to try all of them at once, but just one change will bring you one step closer to your health goals. Start with the healthy food swap that seems the easiest and work your way up from there.
Replace a Sugary Breakfast with a Higher Protein Breakfast
If you are eating dessert for breakfast (pancakes and syrup, pastries, donuts, bagels), then swapping out with a pea protein smoothie with frozen raspberries or a veggie tofu scramble will set you up for more balanced blood sugar and less cravings throughout the day. You’ll get the protein your body needs to carry out its basic functions, you’ll feel full longer, and it slightly increases metabolism due to it’s thermic effect. This one food swap can make a big difference in your health!
Upgrade Your Eggs and Meat if You Aren’t Already Plant-Based
The ultimate goal is to transition to a plant-based diet and drastically reduce or avoid meat, dairy and eggs all together. However, if you are just beginning your journey to a plant-based diet, this healthy food swap is a great place to start.
Its best to avoid any products coming from factory farms since they can contain hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals plus the damaging effects of stress hormones due to the living conditions. Many of these contaminants act as “obesogens” in our body and can contribute to weight gain or weight loss resistance as well as chronic health conditions.
Unfortunately, most eggs and meat at the grocery store are from factory farms. For eggs, look for free-range, organic, certified humane, Animal Welfare Approved, or American Humane Certified. Eggs contain vitamins and healthy fats that are important for mood, brain function, and burning fat. For meat, look for organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and free-range animals. You can find healthier meat choices at the Thrive Market.
Skip Farm-Raised Fish
There are several issues with farm raised fish including high concentrations of contaminants like PCBs and dioxins which are linked to hormone disruption.
Farm raised fish are also high in inflammatory fats (omega-6) and are commonly treated with antibiotics due to poor living conditions. These antibiotics can affect your health and lead to antibiotic resistant bacterial strains.
Farm raised salmon has been shown to contain 50% less omega-3 fats due to an unnatural diet of grains and legumes.
Avoid tilapia and Atlantic salmon which are almost always farm raised. Shop for fish that has the wild or wild-caught label from a store that you trust. Remember that if it smells extra fishy, it’s not fresh!
Wild-caught fish can have contaminants as well and pregnant women are advised to limit certain types of fish while pregnant due to heavy metal contamination. The FDA has a useful chart listing how the contamination levels of different types of fish.
For those who do eat fish, I recommend purchasing your wild caught seafood from Vital Choice. You can find more information on healthy and sustainable seafood options at the Seafood Watch website. Another option to get the required amount of omega-3 fats in your diet is to take a trusted EPA/DHA (omega-3) supplement.
You can find my favorite brands of professional grade omega-3 supplements at my online dispensary. Just click one of the links below to see pricing and order. You’ll be asked to set up an account by entering your email address.
Reduce starchy carbohydrates and swap with more vegetables or whole grains
Pass on starchy carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, and white bread. Replace these low-fiber starchy carbs with another serving of vegetables or switch to whole intact grains. These processed carbohydrates have a high glycemic index which causes blood sugar spikes and can lead to weight gain and chronic health conditions. This is one healthy food swap that can make a big difference. Think brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread and any whole intact grains.
Replace inflammatory oils and fats with healthier options
Fats that are highly processed are unstable and prone to oxidation, which causes inflammation in our cells. Since these refined oils are also high in the more inflammatory omega-6 fats, they reduce the availability of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats because they compete with each other.
A high omega-6 and low omega-3 diet has been linked to many diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, IBS, macular degeneration, asthma, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psychiatric disorders, and autoimmune disease. The best way to ensure a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is to remove refined vegetables oils from the diet. Check your salad dressing ingredients since this is a main contributor of these oils.
Avoid the 3 Cs: corn, canola and cottonseed and the 3 Ss: soybean, sunflower and safflower oil. Peanut oil should also be avoided since it is highly processed and is sometimes a mold contaminated crop.
Don’t skip out on healthy fats to lose weight. Fat is an essential nutrient, and is not your enemy like refined sugar is! Fat supports critical hormone production, cell growth, organ protection, energy levels, weight management, regulation of body temperature, cognitive function, immune function, and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients.
Remember that oil is a processed food and no matter how much accolades you hear about olive oil, it’s still a processed food. It’s best to avoid all types of oil, but if you find that difficult to do, stick to more anti-inflammatory oils like avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and macadamia nut oil in very small quantities. All oils should smell fresh and clean. If they do not, they have gone rancid and you should dispose of them. These rancid oils can be extremely toxic and can interfere with normal fatty acid metabolism.
Most importantly, include healthy whole food sources of fat like avocado, olives, nuts and nut butters, and seeds (chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower).
While fats can be a healthy addition to your diet, if you are trying to lose weight be careful not to over consume fats since they are a calorically dense food.
Replace sugary snacks with a serving of nuts
Sugary snacks are the same as a sugary breakfast – it raises blood sugar and insulin which creates an environment for fat storage.
Studies show that those who ate a serving of nuts every day had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease compared to those who never eat nuts. Nuts contain protein, good monounsaturated fats, minerals and fiber.
Go for unsalted raw or lightly roasted nuts, not prepared in oil. If you have a difficult time digesting nuts, you can soak and sprout them to reduce the anti-nutrient content, which can block mineral absorption and cause damage to the gut. Watch the serving size since a serving is 10-12 nuts or a small handful. Sprouted pumpkin seeds are a great option as well!
Replace coffee with green tea or a healthy decaf coffee
Caffeine may be fine for some, but so many people are stressed these days. Caffeine + stress is not a good combination for your adrenal glands. Once you start producing more cortisol due to stress, you create an environment that is perfect for gaining weight due to an increased insulin response caused by high cortisol levels!
Take a break for a while and see if it makes a difference. Green tea is beneficial for weight loss, brain function, and certain types of cancer. If you are someone who gets a headache when quitting caffeine, reduce slowly over 1-2 weeks by cutting your daily serving in half every 3 days.
If you love your coffee like I do, try upgrading your coffee to Purity Coffee! I switched to the Decaf Purity Coffee a long time ago and have never looked back. Purity uses a Swiss Water Process to decaffeinate their coffee, which is completely chemical free and organic. They soak their coffee beans in a hot green coffee extract that draws out the caffeine but not the flavor! This decaf coffee is antioxidant rich with a lower acidity, creating a decaf coffee that tastes amazing. Take it from a true coffee snob, this will not disappoint.
Replace soda with sparkling water or stevia sweetened soda
If you have a carbonation addiction, just this one healthy food swap will generally show immediate positive effects on the scale. One study found that for each additional 12-ounce soda children consumed each day, the odds of becoming obese increased by 60% during 1½ years of follow-up.
Also, people who consume sugary drinks regularly (1-2 cans/day or more), have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Diet drinks are also associated with weight gain as well as an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and early death in women over 50.
There are many different flavors of carbonated sparkling water on the market and if you don’t care for that, you can try filtered water with a little fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice as a great alternative. This is one of the most important healthy food swaps on the list!
Swap cauliflower rice for white rice
Replace white rice with riced cauliflower for a healthy food swap that will cut down on refined carbohydrates while adding in a cruciferous vegetable which is great for cancer prevention, getting additional fiber and minerals.
White rice has a high glycemic index (GI) and eating too many highly processed GI foods can lead to insulin resistance and possibly diabetes. Many stores sell riced cauliflower in the produce or freezer section and some have pre-made fried cauliflower rice. You can also make your own using a box grater or a food processor.
Key Points on Healthy Food Swaps
- Replace a sugary breakfast with a higher protein breakfast
- Upgrade your eggs to free-range organic eggs and meat to grass-fed meat
- Skip farm raised fish and replace with wild-caught fish
- Swap starchy carbohydrate with more non-starchy vegetables
- Replace inflammatory oils and fats with good fats like avocado, olives, nuts and seeds
- Swap sugary snacks with a serving of nuts
- Replace coffee with green tea or Decaf Purity Coffee
- Replace Soda with sparking water
- Swap cauliflower rice for white rice
Sign up for a nutrition consultation if you would like to learn more about healthy food swaps and get recommendations tailored to your specific health status.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Check with your doctor or nutritionist before starting a new supplement program.
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Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010;33:2477-83.
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