Latest posts by Dawn Schenone, MSACN, CNS, LDN (see all)
- 8 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain - November 10, 2019
- 9 Healthy Food Swaps that Will Transform Your Health - March 31, 2019
- Plant-Based Protein: All You Need to Know - February 17, 2019
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 omelet 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 its thermic effect. This one food swap can make a big difference in your health!
Upgrade Your Eggs and Meat
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. Don’t skip out on the yolks – they 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 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. Here is a great chart with pregnancy recommendations.
My favorite online source for wild-caught seafood is 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
Pass on starchy carbohydrates like white potatoes, white rice and white bread. Replace these low-fiber starchy carbs with another serving of vegetables or a side salad. 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.
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. Only use salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.
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.
Include anti-inflammatory oils like coconut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil and grass-fed butter or ghee. 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. Also include healthy fats like avocado, coconut, olives, wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, nuts and nut butters, and seeds.
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.
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. Ideally most nuts and seeds should be soaked and sprouted 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
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.
Replace soda with sparkling water or stevia sweetened soda
If you have a carbonation addiction, this one change with 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 the Zevia brand soda which is sweetened with stevia, a safe non-caloric sweetener. Of course filtered water with a little fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice is a great alternative as well. 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 to 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 high 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 high 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 coconut, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil
- Swap sugary snacks with a serving of nuts
- Replace coffee with green tea
- Replace Soda with sparking water or stevia sweetened soda
- Swap cauliflower rice for white rice
If you would like to learn more about healthy food swaps and get recommendations tailored to your specific health status, you can sign up for a nutrition consultation here.
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.
Malik VS, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and BMI in children and adolescents: reanalyses of a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:438-9; author reply 9-40.
Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001;357:505-8.
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.
January C, Wann L, Calkins H et al. 2019 AHA/ACC/HRS Focused Update of the 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation. Circulation. 2019. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000665