One of the biggest challenges of eating healthy is filtering all the information you’re bombarded with. Is that true for you too?
Eating clean is one of the most popular goals for the new year. Knowing what’s healthy and what to avoid can be a chore though. Here’s a rundown of 10 healthy substitutions for common foods you might be trying to avoid.
1.) Eat This Not That: Substitute Cinnamon for Sugar
If you’re like the 65% of coffee drinkers that prefer cream and sugar in your morning cup of joe, you can significantly cut down on your daily sugar consumption by swapping in a spoonful of cinnamon instead. The average American’s daily sugar intake is nearly triple the recommended amount. Plus you’ll get a nice boost of all the health benefits of cinnamon.
A little bit of cinnamon every day is actually pretty darn good for you! It’s loaded with antioxidants (more than garlic & oregano), known for its anti-inflammatory properties, lowering blood-sugar levels2, and boosting your metabolism3… to name just a few of the benefits this tasty spice offers.
And for those of you counting calories, when swapped for the teaspoon of sugar in the (on average) 3 cups of coffee per day that Americans drink, that dash of cinnamon can save you 50+ calories.
2.) Substitute 100% Grass Fed Beef for Grain Fed Beef
Where to begin? This is definitely one of the easiest and most beneficial swaps on the list (I’ll admit we’re a little biased). But see for yourself!
You’re literally substituting a healthier version of the same food, making this one a no-brainer. In fact, in a side by side comparison grass-fed beef is more like poultry with higher nutritional value. Seriously.
There’s 2 sides to this one too. First, there’s the direct health benefits of added nutrients from the natural grass fed diet the cows eat, compared to an un-natural diet of grain/corn/soy that conventionally raised cows eat (their stomachs aren’t really built to eat these foods). The grass fed option has less total fat (particularly saturated fats), fewer calories, more much-needed omega-3 fatty acids and the ideal balance of omega-6 to omega-3s, more cancer-fighting CLA & ALA, and more vitamins and minerals. And that’s the “short list”.
Second, and just as importantly, there’s all the bad stuff you get to avoid. Like growth hormones, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, herbicides, and bacteria as a byproduct of a confined factory farm system. Yuck.
For more info about Grass Fed Beef just browse this site, we make it pretty easy to learn more and even have some of our very own small-batch grass fed beef available in our store for home delivery.
3.) Substitute Garlic Powder (or any other spice…) for Table Salt
Let’s talk about salt for a second. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day4 (that number goes down drastically for the 70% of the population that should need low salt diets). A single teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg5… and the average adult eats 3,400 mg per day. The CDC calculates that if everyone followed the intake guidelines for sodium there would be 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease each year.
Sold? Ok, then what should you substitute in for this common cooking spice?Try a pinch of garlic powder or fresh herbs to add flavor in its place. You’ll get a healthy dose of vitamins not found in salt, along with garlic’s immune-boosting properties and antioxidants. Of course, raw garlic has a much higher concentration of nutrients if you really want to maximize its benefits, and there’s plenty of other healthy herbs and spices to experiment with in the kitchen, all a great substitute for salt.
Important side note: The best way to cut excessive sodium out of your diet is to pass on processed foods whenever possible.
4.) Substitute Sweet Potatoes for White Potatoes
Let’s be honest, french fried potatoes are a staple side dish for many an American meal. And rightfully so with all their crispy, salty deliciousness. But they’re really not good for you at all, what with the deep frying, salt, and so on. If you have the option, always bake your potatoes instead of frying them, and swapping out white potatoes for sweet potatoes will give you more healthy nutrients in your meal.
When comparing white potatoes to sweet potatoes, the orange-er of the two offers fewer carbohydrates, fewer calories, and considerably more vitamin A and vitamin C. Baked sweet potato fries with fresh herbs are a great, very flavorful side dish the whole family will love.
5.) Substitute Greek Yogurt for… Everything. Mayo, Sour Cream, & Butter.
Mayo has long been deemed one of the quintessential do-not-eat foods. Store-bought commercial mayo is often made with oils high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, calories, and sodium.
If you just can’t do without a slather of mayo on your afternoon sandwich or homemade potato salad, try substituting Greek yogurt in its place.
Greek yogurt has more healthy protein and considerably less fat and calories6 than both mayonnaise and sour cream.
If you can’t do a flat-out swap and want something that tastes more mayo-y, mix the yogurt with some cider vinegar, a little yellow mustard, and a dash of salt & pepper to taste. Boom, homemade Greek Yogurt Mayo.
Or just switch to mustard.
6.) Substitute Natural Peanut Butter for Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Reduced fat peanut butter looks pretty tempting on shelf. If you compare it to natural peanut butter side-by-side, the reduced-fat option does have less fat. But let’s not mistake less-fat for “healthier”.
Reduced-fat peanut butter has to make up for all the fat that’s removed to maintain it’s claim. But to keep its consistency and flavor, hydrogenated oils and sugars are added in their place. Oh, and those fats that are removed, they’re actually “good” monosaturated fats that your body needs…
Remember, not all fats are created equal.
Peanuts are a rich source of antioxidants, healthy fat, protein, niacin, and vitamin E. So why mess with a good thing? Next time you’re shopping for this pantry staple, don’t fall for the low-fat marketing trick and grab the natural variety for a healthy boost of all the good stuff this tasty schmear has to offer.
7.) Substitute Homemade Dressing for Store-Bought Dressing
Want to know the biggest reason to switch to homemade salad dressing? It’s super easy to make and it’ll make your salads even healthier. That is the point, right?
Store bought salad dressings are loaded with processed yuck… hydrogenated oils, artificial food dyes, bad fats, sugar, and preservatives.
Making your own dressing is one of the easiest ways to make your dishes healthier. Minimize the mysterious list of ingredients and know exactly what’s in your food. Plus you can season to your taste until you get the perfect dressing.
Interested in making your own healthy lettuce sauce? Check out these guides and recipes to get started.
8.) Substitute Honey for Sugar
That’s right, sugar made the list twice. Remember what we talked about above?
Refined sugar is one of the most overconsumed foods in the modern diet. It’s the leading contributor to obesity and increases your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. On top of that, it can be very addictive.
Honey is made up of more complex sugars, making it harder to break down and giving it lower GI value than sugar (it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels as quickly). Although it does have slightly more calories per teaspoon, you can use much less of it because it’s sweeter than sugar. Raw honey has more nutrients and antioxidants than refined sugar, so it’s generally considered a healthier alternative.
At the end of the day, you should be limiting your added sugar intake as much as possible. But if you need a sugar substitute, honey outranks sugar as a healthier alternative.
9.) Substitute Applesauce for Butter and Oil
Do you love baking but feel a little guilty everytime you spoon butter in your batter? Baked goods rely on fats like butter and oil to give them rich flavor and fluffy volume. But we all know that baked goods are best consumed as an infrequent treat because of their fat and sugar content.
Butter is about 80% fat, with about 70% saturated fat and 25% monounsaturated fat (the good kind). Butter definitely has a worse reputation than it deserves, as many of the dietary fats in butter are part of healthy, balanced diet. But if you’re trying to watch your fat intake and you’d like to substitute something with less of it, try applesauce or mashed bananas.
The most common swap for baking oils is a 1:1 ratio of unsweetened applesauce. If you need to ensure a similar consistency to what oil provides, going all-applesauce is most acceptable in cake and bread recipes. Muffins, cookies, and pies could fall a little flat, so the general recommendation is to replace just half the amount of butter called for with applesauce.
Butter really isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be, but we strongly encourage you to switch to the kind made with milk from grass fed cows. You’ll get more healthy omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). See above for more on the health benefits of grass-fed products.
10.) Cooking Oils
All oils are made up primarily of fat. As with many of the foods on this list, the important thing to look for is the types of fat. When it comes to oils though, it gets a little more complicated.
There’s been a long-running debate of what the healthiest cooking oils are to use. Often times the debate is led by marketers. The most recent additions to the conversation have been seed oils and other highly processed vegetable oils that claim a higher amount of polunsaturated fats (PUFs) make them the healthier option. But the key to polyunsaturated fats (omega-6 & omega-3 fatty acids) is balance. In the case of these oils, we’re usually just talking about a high amount of omega-6, the pro-inflammatory fatty acid that our diet is already over abundant with.
Our general recommendation for any given food choice will always be to go with the most natural option whenever possible. Flaxseed oil has a great reputation for having the highest omega-3 content, and the highest percentage of essential fatty acids out of all the oils. Sounds great. However, it doesn’t handle heat well and the good fats become oxidized while cooking, making them potentially more harmful than healthful.
Use extra-virgin olive oil. It’s rich in antioxidants, monunsaturated fats, and even some vitamins. It’s lower in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and stable enough to cook with at higher temperatures.
What do you think? Are you already usingsome of these substitutions? Let us know in the comments.