Introduced gradually, healthier substitutions here and there don’t really feel like effort – but can add up to significant results. See where these 11 little changes to your eating habits take you.
1. Sparkling Water Instead of Soda: We probably don’t need to rehash facts and figures about how sugary and artificially sweetened sodas promote diabetes, make you gain weight, and even mess with your microbiome. Keep the bubbles and ditch the sugar with naturally flavoured sparkling water. Still need a hint of sweetness? Add a dash of juice or frozen fruit to your water.
2. Whole Grains Instead of White: The USDA recommends “at least making half your grains whole.” It can’t be too hard to make the switch just half the time, right? Reach for whole grain (instead of white, also known as “refined”) pasta, bread, and cereals for more fibre and other nutrients.
3. Oatmeal Instead of Breakfast Cereal: Speaking of grains, how healthy is your morning breakfast cereal? Odds are, not very. Many packaged cereals contain high amounts of sugar and little fibre and protein. Instead of letting dessert masquerade as your breakfast, try a bowl of good old-fashioned oatmeal. One serving of quick-cooking oats offers four grams of fibre and five grams of protein. And with one little gram of sugar, you can go ahead and add that maple syrup you crave.
4. Olive Oil instead of Vegetable Oil or Butter: Olive oil really does live up to its reputation as an excellent choice for heart-healthy cooking. Its monounsaturated fats help protect the cardiovascular system, while many other oils (and butter) contain damaging trans and/or saturated fats. Install an attractive olive oil cruet on your stovetop to remind yourself to reach for it when sautéing or roasting.
5. Applesauce or Mashed Avocado Instead of Butter in Baking: Love baking banana bread on a leisurely Saturday morning? Think of it as an opportunity to experiment with alternative ingredients! To cut calories and unhealthy fats, use applesauce or mashed avocado in place of at least half the butter or oil in baked goods. The more you experiment, the more you’ll get the hang of the perfect balance in your favourite recipes.
6. Spinach Instead of Iceberg Lettuce in Salads: Talk about a simple switch. When grocery shopping for your dinner salad, opt for spinach (or any dark leafy green) instead of the less-nutritious iceberg. Leafy greens will give you a boost of fibre, vitamin A, and vitamin K – and they’re associated with decreased risk of cancer.
7. Coffee Instead of Energy Drinks: Many energy drinks are laden with shocking amounts of sugar. A can of Red Bull packs 37 grams – nearly as much as a can of regular Coca-Cola. When you need a pick-me-up, coffee makes a far better choice. And don’t worry, you won’t miss out on caffeine kick.
8. Real Fruits and Veggies Instead of Fruit and Veggie Snacks: Sorry to say, despite the “fruit” and “veggie” in their names, fruit snacks and veggie chips are a far cry from fresh produce. Whenever possible, swap out these processed snacks for the real thing. Pre-packaged carrot sticks or a small carton of berries can be just as convenient as bagged snacks and give you antioxidants, fibre, and other nutrients the “sticks,” “bites,” and “chips” don’t.
9. Herbs and Spices Instead of Breading and Sauces: To keep excess calories at bay, skip sauces and breading on meal items like meats and veggies, both at home and when dining out. Instead, seek out recipes and entrees that use herbs and spices to flavour food. Tasty seasonings like rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon juice contain almost no calories or fat and nothing artificial. Make it exciting by picking up an unfamiliar herb and using it in a new recipe.
10. Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream: For a creamy accompaniment to tacos or chilli, making the switch from sour cream to Greek yoghurt is pretty painless. In non-fat Greek yoghurt, you’ll get one-third the calories and fat of sour cream, plus four times the protein.
11. Low-Sodium Products Instead of Regular: If you don’t need to restrict sodium for a health condition, you may rarely give a second thought to this micro-nutrient. But here’s some slightly scary news: Most Americans take in far more sodium than the recommended amount, and doing so is linked to serious health concerns like high blood pressure and even stomach cancer. To keep your sodium within moderate limits, swap in low-sodium products like tomatoes, soups, and deli meats. You may not even notice a difference.