Eating a healthier, more wholesome diet can seem like a daunting task. You may think you need to throw out all your old meal plans for complicated recipes with hard-to-find ingredients.
While that may work for some, it’s not your only option.
If you’re just getting started on a commitment to eating healthy, try starting small. With a few simple changes in your buying and meal prep habits, you can make a significant difference in your diet.
Here are five easy food swaps that will get you started toward a better diet and a healthier family:
Start your grocery run in the produce section
There’s a reason fresh fruits and vegetables are touted by everyone from your grade school teacher to your physician. They are powerful sources of much of what your body needs to be healthy.
Add a few extra fruits and veggies to your weekly diet with some of these substitutions:
- Top pancakes with fresh fruit (like strawberries or blueberries) instead of syrup.
- Instead of packaged snack crackers, eat some sliced apples (or pears) and cheese.
- A bag of fresh grapes, frozen, are a quick substitute for popsicles.
- Indulge in some healthy, fruit-based smoothies.
- Salads are a simple way to get your greens. Instead of iceberg, load up on the much-healthier spinach (bonus: can be added to omelets for a powerful alternative to breakfast cereals).
- Keep carrots, celery, and even zucchini on hand with some hummus for an afternoon snack spread.
DIY instead of delivery
It can be difficult to get everyone in the family to buy into healthier eating. Especially when it comes to family pizza & movie night.
No problem. Homemade pizzas are easy to make and far better for you than either frozen or delivery. As a bonus, coming up with new and interesting toppings for each week can add excitement to dinner preparation.
More ideas for healthier home versions of your favorites:
- Air popped popcorn, topped with sea salt or nutritional yeast.
- Instead of mayo, make your own creamy avocado spread.
Stash the Starch
Let’s face it, the typical American diet is full of starches, and none so popular as the potato. Even our description of the all-American fare is called “meat & potatoes.”
Unfortunately, white potatoes don’t add much nutritional value apart from their carbohydrates.
Consider leaving the bag of russets at the store and bringing home some cauliflower instead.
Cauliflower is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
Instead of mashed potatoes, serve up Creamy Mashed Cauliflower!
Cauliflower also makes a great alternative to rice. Simply grate some cauliflower to rice-sized pieces and cook for 5-7 minutes with a little bit of water. For additional help and ideas, check out the Minimalist Baker’s guide to cauliflower rice.
Honey, I shrunk my sugar intake
Natural honey is a much better alternative for sweetening than refined sugar. Although it has more calories per teaspoon than sugar, it’s much sweeter, so most people use less. More importantly, honey has a lower Gl value than sugar, which means it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly.
Try a small amount of honey any time you might be tempted to use a spoonful of sugar, such as on oatmeal or in your green or herbal tea. Just remember to start small, since honey has a stronger flavor.
If you want to use honey instead of sugar for baking, follow these simple steps.
Do your best to find a local honey source, as honey from local bees will have small amounts of the local pollen. If you eat a teaspoon a day, your immune system will desensitize to the pollen, reducing your seasonal allergy symptoms.
Can the cola
In case you haven’t heard already, sodas are terrible for your blood sugar, your teeth, and your general health. Many people find it hard to give up sodas, especially at certain times of the day or when eating their favorite foods.
The next time you have a craving for a fizzy drink, mix equal parts 100% fruit juice with plain seltzer water!
BONUS: A healthier Salt-ernative
Salt is a critical mineral for healthy living, though most Americans get far too much of it. While you work on cutting back your salt intake, make the switch from regular, processed salt to natural sea salt. It contains far more beneficial minerals, and is more flavorful, so you need to use less!