The holidays are almost upon us, once again! It’s a time of love, family gatherings, gift giving (and receiving), trees, eggnog and…that special dish that’s full of unhealthy stuff! (But, we can’t skip it because it’s tradition, right?) Luckily, you’ll soon know how to make healthy food swaps that can clean up pretty much any recipe (that you want to, anyway).
My family has their own collection of very unhealthy (but delicious) dishes that are always served at Christmas (and often Thanksgiving). In fact, my brother whines and laments about how he won’t get Mom’s special force meat so she goes out of her way to cook an entire turkey dinner for him, just for that one dish!
Grandma always made an orange Jell-O with orange slices (another one of my brother’s favorites). My Dad always makes pie. We can’t get away from these traditional holiday feasts, nor should we always have to. But, sometimes it can make you feel just a little bit better about the ‘bad’ stuff if you’re able to clean up something else! Right? (Or is the just me???)
It’s possible to make healthy food swaps for some famous holiday dishes. This Cranberry Sauce recipe is one of my absolute favorites and easily replaces the canned stuff on our table. Another healthy food swap idea is to swap mashed white potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes.
Now, it’s one thing to make a few healthy food swaps for the holidays, but it’s completely another to learn which foods make the best alternatives all year round.
And lifestyle changes like these are really the whole goal of holistic health!
Go Gluten-Free Naturally
I’ve been experimenting a little bit with coconut flour in recipes that ask for traditional flour. These experiments don’t always work but I’m happily moving towards more share-worthy results!
Coconut flour is a different consistency than wheat flour but, with a bit of thought and some helpful reference recipes, you can replace gluten-containing flour with this. Almond flour or oat flour work well too.
And, I just learned that it’s the weight of the flour that matters, not necessarily the size of volume! So, you may want to invest in a small kitchen scale for better flour swaps.
For a brownie or dark dessert, ditch the flours and swap in pureed black beans. Simply drain and rinse a can of black beans, puree them and add the same amount into the recipe that calls for flour (i.e. 1 cup flour = 1 cup beans). Enjoy healthy food swaps like this that help improve protein content and balance blood sugar.
I admit that I am a pasta-lover! I could eat pasta with tomato sauce every single day…of course I don’t, but I could! (And, I used to…it was a staple during my university days.)
For a few years, I would stumble across pasta recipes and stare longingly at the delicious-looking pictures. I craved for pasta but felt I shouldn’t eat it 6 days a week.
Now, though, I can make delicious pasta sauces every day because there are super healthy food swaps for pasta! Have you seen these at the supermarkets?!?!
Try swapping traditional pasta noodles for zucchini noodles (called ‘zoodles’, not be confused with that questionable canned pasta, “Zoodles”), beet noodles, sweet potato noodles and butternut squash noodles. And they’re already spiralized for you so it makes life even easier!!!
This is kinda my new passion in life!
Oh, and don’t forget about spaghetti squash, whose whole purpose in life is to be used as a base for pasta sauce!
Cut Back on Bread
Sometimes healthy food swaps mean replacing a traditional ingredient with something completely crazy and new! I’m talking about using lettuce leaves instead of tortillas or wraps!
Tuna or turkey roll-ups, with chopped veggies, avocado, mayonnaise and spices, is one of my new favorite go-to Saturday afternoon snacks. The lettuce is refreshing and I don’t feel stuffed and gross from too much bread.
Or, skip the pitas and turn them into healthy salads or bowls! In fact, any sub, sandwich or wrap can also be eaten without the bread. A new perspective on eating opens tons of doors.
Say NO to Sugar!
Next month, I’m going to running my inaugural FREE 5-day sugar-free challenge! If you’re interested, sign up here and I’ll make sure you’re on the list.
In the meantime, start reducing your sugar intake with some of these healthy food swaps.
In most baking, swap sugar for unsweetened applesauce. Use the same amount of applesauce as sugar, but reduce other liquids by ¼ cup.
Another super easy and highly nutritious swap is commercial brands of shelf-stable nut butters for all-natural nut butters. Sure, you may see a noticeable difference in the number of calories, but calories are not everything. The healthy fat will keep you feeling full longer and you won’t need to eat as much. Shelf-stable nut butters have dangerous fats and added sweeteners in them.
Raw cacao and cacao nibs are another of my favorite healthy food swaps. Use raw cacao in any recipe that asks for cocoa, even the baking grade cocoa. For a chocolate fix, mix raw cacao with non-dairy (unsweetened) milk, some berries and maybe a scoop of protein powder, and blend. Yum!
Cacao nibs are the perfect, more nutritious, replacement for any recipe calling for chocolate chips too!
Mmmm, coffee. Another one of my favorite places to make healthy food swaps, especially on the sweetener side. Here’s where you can get creative. Ditch the sugar and cream. Now, start playing with healthier options like full-fat coconut milk, cinnamon, raw honey, coconut oil, or vanilla powder.
For a delicious latte-like hot drink, add coconut milk and vanilla to your coffee and blend it with a hand blender (but be careful – it’s hot!).
Yogurt is another food high in sugar, especially if you buy the low-fat, flavored kind. To have a healthier yogurt, switch to plain full-fat Greek yogurt; top it with berries and a drizzle of raw honey.
Remember, too much sugar can be very harmful to your health, so it’s very important to start ditching as much processed sugar as you can!
A Few Other Healthy Food Swaps
Plain Greek yogurt can be used in baking instead of sour cream or certain oils. This swap doesn’t always work in a 1:1 ratio so you might have to tweak things as you go.
Mash a few ripe bananas and use it to replace unhealthy fats and oils in baking. Mashed bananas are great in cookies, pancakes or muffins.
While I don’t think there is anything wrong with eggs, you can also swap whole eggs with ground flaxseed ‘eggs’. Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes; this equals 1 whole egg.
Another favorite of mine is to squeeze fresh citrus juices on fish or into stir-fries. I prefer the flavor of the citrus juices over most other sauces. And, this helps avoid added sugar and salt from packaged stir-fry sauces or marinades.
Make healthy food swaps a part of your everyday meal planning. You’ll get the benefit of added fruits and vegetables (and the excellent phytonutrients they supply) and avoid the harmful effects of refined oils and processed sugars and grains.
The best and most important thing you can do is learn to experiment. Don’t worry if you make a mistake or a dish turns out not quite the way you liked. Keep trying and you’ll find some very lovely and tasty options. Just remember to jot down what you’re doing in case tonight’s experiment turns into a total success (it WILL happen)!