Healthy Ingredient Swaps that will Change Your Life

We all want to be healthy. We want to look good in our clothes. We want to feel strong and full of energy. Unfortunately, the road to wellness can often be an uphill climb, full of temptations — hello, Starbucks Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato — and, conflicting information around every corner (like, “all carbs are bad,” or “eating organic is super expensive”). The entire thing is exhausting, often discouraging us from seeking out a healthier lifestyle before we even start.

Luckily, eating healthier might actually be a lot simpler than we think. “So many people think healthy eating has to be hard, time-consuming, or expensive and that’s simply not the case,” Chelsey Amer, MS and RDN  told me in an interview. “If you think outside of the box and make some smart swaps, you can actually save money by eating healthier!”

Here are some simple swaps you can make in your own kitchen that will help you take steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

Greek yogurt for Sour Cream

I have a confession: I love me some tacos, especially those finished off with a giant dollop of sour cream.The trouble is, sour cream isn’t exactly making the honour roll when it comes to healthy food options. That’s why Rebecca Lewis, in-house dietitian at Hello Fresh, suggests swapping out this fatty topping for Greek yogurt. “Greek yogurt has less calories and fat than sour cream,” she told me. “A bonus: Greek yogurt is also a rich source of protein and vitamin D.”

Taco night doesn’t have to make us feel guilty any longer!

Nuts for Croutons

When I first got into the habit of eating salads, croutons were a star ingredient of any plate of greens I prepared for myself. But since becoming more adventurous in my salad-making, not to mention, more health conscious, I’ve ditched the croutons for crunchy veggies and fruits. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally miss these little morsels of toasty perfection, until Lewis suggested trying out nuts in their place.

“Nuts give the desired texture and crunch that you’d want from croutons,” she said. “Nuts are also a nutrient-dense super food supplying protein, fiber, and healthy plant-based fats to keep you full and satiated.” Lunch salads will never be the same.

Citrus Zest for Salt

One of the biggest challenges people face as they adopt healthier eating habits is feeling like their missing out on great flavor. Let’s face it, there’s only so many plain chicken breasts and cups of steamed broccoli one can take before you start fantasizing about a big, salty plate of cheese fries.

But Lewis explains that we certainly don’t have to skip out of flavor when we eat healthy, we just have to get a little creative. “Boost flavor without loading on extra fat, salt, and sugar by using aromatic herbs and the oils from citrus fruits,” she said.

Avocados

For many of us, sandwiches and wraps are a go-to lunch option. And while these can be a great way of getting in some greens and lean protein, it becomes less of a healthy option when we starting adding things like mayonnaise to the mix. Instead, Lewis suggests trying avocado. “Avocados have the same creamy consistency that mayo gives, but are nearly half the fat of mayo,” she told me. “Avocados also have more fiber than any other fruit or vegetable.”

Amer agrees, telling me, “I love using mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise when I’m making any deli salad [ie: tuna salad, egg salad or chicken salad]. Mayonnaise really doesn’t provide much nutritious benefit whereas avocado contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber, making it a better swap.”

Lentils for Beef

For vegetarians, or at least any of us who are actively trying to consume less meat, healthier eating means trying to find tasty alternatives to beef. Amer says to consider lentils. “I often use lentils instead of, or in addition to, ground meat in meals such as tacos or bolognese sauce because they are loaded with plant-based protein and iron without any saturated fat or dietary cholesterol,” she told me. “Plus, lentils are extremely inexpensive so they’re a great way to bulk up a meat dish!”

Pea Protein for Eggs

Like lentils, peas are another wonderful source of plant-based protein. It’s no wonder that pea protein, is becoming a popular alternative to whey as a main ingredient in protein powder. Pea protein can also be a plant-based alternative to eggs. In fact, Hampton Creek, maker of the popular line of Just Mayo products, uses pea protein in place of eggs to make its super tasty dairy-free mayonnaise.

“In addition to having a high quality oil (canola instead of soybean oil), we use pea protein to act as an emulsifier instead of the conventional egg,” Sadie Barr, the brand’s director of sustainability and heath, told me. “This makes our mayo both egg-free and soy-free. It also makes our mayo more accessible to folks who don’t eat eggs for either allergy, religious, or ethical reasons. And it tastes just as good, if not better, than conventional mayonnaise.”

Dates for Sugar

Avoiding sugar is also a big challenge for those of us who want to eat healthier, especially those of us a soft spot for things like cookies, cakes and other baked goods. Luckily, we don’t have to forego our favourite treats all together in the name of nutrition, according to Amer. All it takes is a little creativity.

“One of my favourite baking swaps is using medjool dates instead of refined white sugar in my muffins and breads (like these vegan banana bread muffins or these zucchini carrot muffins),” she told me. “Dates are naturally sweet so they provide the same sweet flavor you want when baking, but without the refined white sugar (that is really just empty calories)! Plus, dates contain fiber, which benefits your heart and digestive health and boosts satiety.”