This amazing article was written by Victoria – Sailing through fitness – one of our ambassadors! Genius swaps from bad habits to good ones. You won’t even be disappointed to give up mayonnaise, we promise!
The classic saying goes “working out is the easy part, what’s hard is diet”. I don’t necessarily think either are particularly easy nor are they that hard, but proper nutrition can definitely be more difficult to navigate. In today’s word of fad diets, misleading “health” food advertising and the internet breeding a ridiculous amount of false information, it’s easy to fall into a trap, thinking you’re doing your body good, when really you’re simply doing it more harm. Knowing how to get started with healthy eating is often the hardest part, but there’s no need to overcomplicate it. With these 10 easy healthy food swaps, you’ll be on your way to a healthier diet, and a better, fitter and stronger you.
1. Swap Butter & Jam for Nut Butter & Fruit
The way you start your day is everything. Breakfast is your opportunity to start the day by nourishing your body with good wholesome foods, which will naturally lead you to making healthier choices throughout the day. If you’re keen on keeping your morning toast, ditch the butter and jam, there’s an equally delicious but hella-more nutrition option. Top your toast with a thin layer of nut butter (almond & peanut are my fav), and top that with fruit. Sliced banana is a classic go-to, but if you really want to cut your sugar consumption way down, opt for berries. For a more “jam” like mix, blend up a handful of berries with a drop of water, add chia seeds and let it rest until it has the same jelly-like consistency as jam. You’ll be more than halving your sugar consumption, not to mention adding lots more vitamins and protein to your breakie.
2. Swap Conventional Cereal for Whole Oats
You’d be surprised at how much sugar and processed crap is in cereal these days, and I’m not just talking about the fluorescent marshmallow ones with cartoons in the front. Even so-called “healthy” cereals that claim to “lower cholesterol” and “regular blood-pressure”, can have up to 6tsp of sugar in a single portion. And let’s be honest here, who actually follows the portion sizes on the label #notme. Instead, go ahead and buy some whole oats, add them to hot water or milk, add some berries and nuts, and you’re golden. Not only have you decreased the amount of sugar in your meal but you’ve added in a whole heap of good stuff like fibre and protein which will keep you full for longer and stop you from snacking throughout the morning.
3. Swap Store-bought Juice for Fruit-infused Water
What makes me cringe the most is when I see people actually making an effort to eat healthier, but unfortunately the “healthier” choice is actually just as bad. Juice is way up there on my list of cringe-worthy “healthy” picks. Store-bought fruit juice can have as many calories and as much sugar as a soft drink, yes, even if it says “natural” on the front. Half the time even if it’s “made with real fruit” there will be added sugar, or a sugar equivalent such as fruit concentrate, fruit syrup etc. Even those that have no additives aren’t the best. The fibre is stripped out of the fruit leaving only the natural sugars, which then causes the same plethora of issues in your body as refined sugar. Say wuuuuut! I know right, felt like the definition of health sipping on this OJ and now you’re saying I might as well have been filling up on Tootsy Rolls…Well no fear, there are tonnes of better alternatives. An easy one is filling your water bottle with pieces of fruit and mint leaves. It lightly flavours the water with none of the sugar and looks super pretty which is a very noteworthy perk.
4. Swap Ice cream for Frozen Fruit
Step 1 to not being tempted by that pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer is not having it there in the first place. We all know “I’ll just buy it for when I have guests over” is just an excuse ? As an easy swap, keep bananas in the freezer ready to blitz up into a healthy banana ice cream mix. I know, I know “but bananas have lots of sugar too no?”. They do, but even if you were to scoff down 3 frozen bananas as a treat, you’re still miles away from the sugar content of a cup of B&J ice cream. Not to mention the fact that with 1 cup of Ben & Jerry’s you’ve packed in 70% of your daily allowance of saturated fat **insert OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE emoji**. Plus let’s be real here: *Serves out a cup of ice cream, puts it back in the freezer, is totally satisfied and does not go for seconds* –> DID NO ONE EVER.
5. Swap White Potatoes for Sweet Potatoes
Society loves demonizing complete food groups with no context at all, which often leads to a “complete cut-out” reaction in people’s diets. Not too long ago, carbs were the devil. The amount of times I’ve heard “I’m going to cut out carbs” is crazy, the only thing crazier being that sentence itself. I’m in no way saying you should load up on croissants and cream cheese bagels, but not all carbs are created equal, and many foods that fall under the “carbs” category are super healthy & nutritious and can even help you make progress on your fitness journey. Potatoes have since been thrown in the same category as white bread AKA YOU WILL GAIN 5LBS IMMEDIATELY IF YOU CONSUME. First of all, false, unless you’re having a baked potato filled with sour cream and cheese, which in that case yes (but in that case you might just get a heart-attack before the 5lbs actually pack on). If you’re a big fan of the baked potato though, simply switching to a sweet potato decreases the amount of carbs you consume, while loading you up with vitamin A, C and B6. Try holding back on the sour cream and cheese and try opting for hummus or avocado as stuffing.
6. Swap Flavoured Yogurt for Homemade Tofu Pudding
Flavoured yogurt is just another one of those things that falls under the “supposed to be healthy but actually might as well have had a Twix” category. It’s crazy how companies these days are even allowed to market their product as “healthy” and even make these whack-o health claims which are essentially completely false. Strawberry yogurt used to be my go-to “healthy” snack, cuz you know, they have these girls with flat tummies on the front, supposed to aid digestion blahdy-blah. But when I finally had a look at the ingredients, turns out it’s preeeetty much all sugar. Yup, that was a total smack-in-the-face for me as well… So time to ditch the strawberry yogurt and move on… the girl with the flat tummy on the front probs doesn’t eat that much of it anyway. So what’s a good trade? My mum introduced me to making tofu pudding as an easy yogurt replacement. For this I blend up silken tofu with half a banana, raw cacao and cinnamon or simply some berries. You can even add a drop of honey to sweeten and you’ll still be cutting way down on the amount of sugar than you’d find in flavoured yogurt. Alternatively if you’re looking for a pre-made alternative, simply go for plain yogurt or coconut yogurt and add your own flavour (cinnamon, drop of honey, oats, fruit, etc.).
7. Swap Store-bought Salad Dressing for Homemade Vinaigrette
Alright I’m about to shock you once more. So salads are healthy right? Turns out that once you douse it with store-bought salad dressing, it basically becomes dessert because yup you guessed it, there’s crap loads of sugar in dressing as well… So if you’re going to actually make the effort to eat a salad, man don’t mess with it by dousing what is essentially chocolate sauce all over it. I always keep a jar of homemade vinaigrette ready to top on any salad: 1 part mustard, 2 parts vinegar and 3 parts olive oil. Easy peasy! But if you’re really not up for making your own mix, stick to a drizzle of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Literally zero calories, zero sugar, zero fat, it’s pretty much just tasty water on your salad. YUM.
8. Swap Afternoon Chocolate Bar for Dark Chocolate & Almonds
Later afternoon always requires a small little pick-me-up. It’s so easy to pass by a convenient store and grab a chocolate bar because I mean, it’s right there…and just oooone little unhealthy snack won’t change everything right?? Well… it can change the way you feel, can lead to you feeling sluggish after the initial peak in energy, therefore you skip the gym, making you feel lazy and disappointed in yourself, causing you to snack on more crap later on… basically it can result in a huge downwards spiral. So yes, in a way it can change everything. When it comes to this stuff, being organized is key. If you know you’re the kind of person who will reach for a snack bar mid-afternoon, beat yourself to it. Prepare an easy snack to grab in times of need. My favourite is 2 squares of 90% dark chocolate with a small handful of almonds. The high fat content (don’t get scared now, these are healthy fats) will satisfy your hunger cravings without shooting your blood-sugar on a complete whack! Pre-making portion sizes is super important. If you bring the whole chocolate tablet and whole bag of almonds along, it can be very hard to regulate quantities AKA finish the whole thing in 5 mins flat… been there. Also remember to chew your almonds slowly. They’re high in fibre and fat so they will naturally keep you full, just don’t scoff them down. Being mindful when snacking is the ultimate key to success.
9. Swap Soda for Kombucha/Sparkling Water
Okay soda is something I’ve never really understood because I’ve never been into it, but I do get the whole “it’s refreshing” part. In the end though, refreshing or not, soft drinks are FULL of sugar and are definitely not the best way to rehydrate. However, if plain water’s not doing it for you (cuz booooring), try switch over to kombucha. This fermented tea beverage is not only super tasty, but has very few calories while providing your body with lots of healthy bacteria that can assist in healing your gut. With all the anti-bacterial this and that we’re so used to using these days, we’re not only killing off the bad bacteria but also the good, leading to a whole cohost of issues (think stomach ulcers, increase risk of infection, etc.). Kombucha, which is essentially mouldy tea (don’t think about that part…) is full of healthy bacteria since the scoby (the mould part) is grown in a controlled, sterile environment, breeding healthy probiotics. Note there are very few scientific experiments proving the benefits of kombucha, but whether it truly helps prevent cancer or not, it’s heaps better than the proven diabetes-inducing Cola drinks. If you’re not too keen on dropping the 8 bucks on some mould tea, opt for a cheaper sparkling water option. Ditch the soda and save the calories for cake. Way more worth it I promise.
10. Swap Mayo for Avocado
Store-bought conventional mayo is probs just one of the worst things ever (you can quote me on that if you want #ScienceWithVic). With only 1tbsp you’re already packing in 15% of your daily recommended quantity of fat for the day which is absolutely wild. Pair that with the cheese and ham on your sandwich and your intake is through the roof yet here we are wondering why the hell heart disease is now the leading cause of death in the US. I’m not condemning all fat, fats are essential for proper bodily functioning and they’re a great tool to help you progress in your health & fitness journey, but yet again, it’s all about the kind of fat. Factory created trans fat is the worst of all, which is why so many processed foods have now been linked to cancer. Although I never suggest to cutting anything entirely out of your diet I will say: If it’s got trans fat, DITCH IT. Like now. RN. Common, go ahead. I’ll wait. Spare yourself a few years to your life and swap the crap fat for good fat: Mayo for Avo. Not only are you cutting your calories and fat intake by 1/6, you’re actually adding 28% more fibre and 16% more vitamin C. Plus who isn’t eternally in love with avo?! No one, I mean they pretty much made a full iPhone update just to incorporate the avo emoji. Case closed.