Healthy Food Swaps Your Family Will Enjoy
Eating healthier doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite dishes. There are tons of healthy food swaps that will keep in the flavors you love with less fat, fewer calories and more nutrients.
Don’t throw away your favorite recipes — just learn to tweak some details. After a few weeks, as your taste buds adjust, the original versions of these foods will taste too salty or sweet. Below are 10 food “hacks” you can easily incorporate into your family favorites.
- Veggie “noodles” instead of pasta. Use a mandolin or spiralizer to transform zucchini, carrots, sweet potato and other root vegetables into thin, pasta-like ribbons. Microwave the vegetables for 20 seconds first, then place on the spiral and start cranking. You can use a vegetable peeler instead, but it might take a little more patience.
- Fresh fruit instead of jam. Peanut butter and jelly is a favorite with kids and adults, but jams and jellies are loaded with sugar. Instead, try thinly sliced fresh fruit, such as apples, bananas, strawberries, peaches and pears. You can even add crunch, flavor and nutrients to savory sandwiches (think apple slices on turkey).
- Avocado or hummus instead of mayo. Mayo is nearly all fat, with zero nutrients—unlike hummus and avocado, which are high in nutrients, fiber and healthy fats. Plus, they will elevate your so-so sandwich into something spectacular.
- Veggies in place of meat. Sturdy “meaty” veggies, such as carrots, eggplant and portabella mushrooms make great meat stand-ins. For a twist on “pulled pork,” place 5 medium carrots (peeled with a vegetable peeler and then shredded) along with a cup or more of barbeque sauce in a crockpot for six hours on low. Similarly, marinated portabella mushroom caps make great burger alternatives. Serve on whole grain buns or slider rolls.
- Greens rather than bread. Whether you’re dining on burgers, “carrot hotdogs” or a simple turkey and cheese sandwich, ditch the bread and wrap your sandwich in romaine lettuce leaves or mustard greens instead.
- Pureed fruit in place of oil. Replace oil in baked goods recipes with puréed fruits, such as apples, pumpkin and avocado. 1/4 c oil = 1/4 c fruit.
- “Riced” vegetables instead of potatoes. Cauliflower makes a tasty, fiber-rich alternative to rice or mashed potatoes. Chop cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor to create rice-like consistency, then cook to taste. Or, you can boil and mash the cauliflower as you would potatoes.
- Ditch the flour in sweet treats. Check sites like Pinterest and All Recipes for flourless versions of baked goods like brownies and blondies. Oats, dates or beans can be combined to replace wheat flour.
- Oats and seeds in place of breadcrumbs. Oats are great in meatloaf and meatballs; crushed hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds make a great coating for chicken cutlets or fish. Besides being flavorful, nutty and crunchy, seeds are high in healthy nutrients like iron, zinc and omega-3s.
- Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. Thick and creamy Greek yogurt is a tangy and healthy swap for sour cream on baked potatoes, and it can also stand in for mayo, cream cheese and crème fraiche. Here’s a quick break down of where you can substitute the versatile nutrient powerhouse: 1 cup butter = ¼ cup Greek yogurt + ½ cup butter. 1 cup oil = ¾ cup Greek yogurt.
There’s no pressure to implement all of these switches overnight. Experiment to find out what you and your family end up liking, and make changes gradually. For example, instead of swapping out your entire dish of pasta with zucchini noodles, serve noodle dishes with half (or even ¼) of your regular noodles and half zucchini. The goal, of course, is to inch your way to a healthier plate without abandoning taste.
Have you discovered a healthy and delicious food swap? Share it with us below.