#WellnessWeds: Make Healthy Choices With These Easy Food Swap Ideas

There are so many foods out there that are high in calories, fat and sugar. Not only do these foods add to your waistline, but many times they also don’t offer any real nutritional value. This leaves you with an opportunity to make better choices and learn about some healthier food-swapping options.

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But be careful, because you want that first meal to fuel you throughout the day, not bog you down. Here are some alternatives that you can food swap for a healthier and less caloric breakfast:

  • Have eggs whites or egg beaters instead of eggs. This will cut out the fat and cholesterol.
  • Choose fat-free milk rather than whole milk or 2 percent to cut out fat and saturated fat.
  • Choose high fiber, low-calorie cereals, rather than sugary high-calorie cereals.
  • Have a veggie omelet rather than one filled with meat.

Snacks

Ah, the wonderful snack time. We all do it—and sometimes it is very necessary—but it is also a time when calories can sneak up on us very quickly. Here are some healthier snack options—just remember to keep those portions in control:

  • Choose veggie chips rather than potato chips or make your very own kale chips. I just made some of these yesterday.
  • Instead of regular full-fat cheese and crackers, try Laughing Cow cheese or another low-fat alternative with a whole wheat cracker. I like the Wasa crackers and even use them as bread for sandwiches.
  • Of course, choosing fruit or dried fruit and veggies is always a great snack idea over chips, pretzels, animal crackers because this wonderful produce is giving us vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you are choosing vegetables to snack on and you like to dip, be careful that your dip is not high in fat and calories, especially some of those ranch dips.
  • For some crunch, try having some nuts. They provide heart-healthy fat and some protein. But beware of overeating: 1/4 cup of nuts is a serving. Even though there are heart-healthy fats, there is still fat and those fat calories add up quickly. To mix it up a little, try making your own trail mix. I always do this with the end of the cereal box, some nuts and dried fruit.

Meat and Protein

Who doesn’t love a great steak once in a while, right? Just remember that any protein source that comes from an animal will naturally have some fat. Again this is just another opportunity for you to be extra mindful of what kind of protein sources you are consuming and how much.

  • To help you get your protein in, try tofu, nuts, legumes, beans or egg whites. Pairing a whole grain and a bean or legume at the same meal makes a complete protein. A great example of this would be red beans with brown rice or black beans in a whole wheat tortilla.
  • Check the fat content of your meat. If you want red meat, think flank steak, filet or ground sirloin.
  • Choose ground turkey breast for less fat rather than ground turkey, which has all turkey parts included.
  • Avoid double protein at one meal, it will add up in calories and fat quickly. For example, have a hamburger rather than a cheeseburger—you will save at least 100 calories.

For more ways to make over a sandwich, click here.

Beverages

What you drink can greatly impact your health and weight. There are many beverages out there that are very high in empty calories, so be smart about what you choose to quench your thirst.

In general, the diet version of your favorite drink is better in the sense of fewer to no calories. Pure, plain water is always the best drink to keep you hydrated, but I realize that it does get old sometimes, so here are more great ideas:

  • Choose club soda over tonic water. Club soda has no calories, where tonic is about the same as regular pop with about 85 calories in a cup.
  • Try flavored waters rather than sports drinks. Sports drinks are filled with excess sugar calories.
  • Did you know that coffee and tea have pretty much no calories? It is what you add to it that can make it high in calories and fat. So skip the cream, sugar, and whole milk and enjoy the pure taste of coffee and tea.
  • If you must have a fun coffee drink, choose a cappuccino over a latté. Even choosing one with non-fat milk and no sugar, a 12-ounce latté has 100 calories, while a 12-ounce cappuccino has 40 calories.
  • Non-fat milk is better, but when choosing other dairy alternatives, be careful of all the extra flavoring that adds sugar calories to soy, almond or rice milk.
  • Keep in mind controlling your adult beverages as well. The calories can add up very quickly when consuming alcohol. Not only does the mixer come into play, but so does the alcohol itself.

A couple of my favorite no-calorie beverages that are alternatives to water are from Michigan-based companies. I love the La Croix sparkling waters and the Faygo sparking waters. Both of them have no calories and are Michigan products. Yay!

Desserts

Dessert for me is the quintessential end to a wonderful meal. I don’t need a lot in the sweet department, just a taste. There are some healthier dessert options out there. Again, don’t forget about controlling those portions.

  • Fruit is naturally sweet and may make for a good substitute as dessert on its own. If you are looking for more, try chocolate semi-covered strawberries.
  • Try fun-size pre-wrapped chocolate rather than king-size candy bars.
  • When baking, substitute some of the higher-fat products, like oil or butter, with applesauce or prune puree. When you are making the dessert at home, making substitutions to cookies, cakes and pies is a great way to watch the calories and fat.

Now that I have you thinking about food swapping, what are some ways that you already do this now? What are some ways you will try do this in the future? I would love to hear your ideas.

Photo Credit: havankevin

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