Your favourite foods may not always result in health benefits. But instead of cutting them out of your life, you could always replace them with healthier alternatives!
George Bernard Shaw once wisely said – “There is no sincerer love than the love of food”. It’s incredibly difficult to disagree with this statement, especially when most of us are filled with glee at the thought of chicken biriyani for dinner, or a bar of chocolaty goodness to munch on while typing away at our desks – some of us probably look forward to our colleague’s birthdays because it means a slice of yummy cake at work! If only junk food could reciprocate our unconditional love for it by increasing the quality of our health!
Junk food affects our health negatively – an oft-repeated, extremely well-known fact. It causes your energy levels to sink, can make you to susceptible to plenty of diseases (so many of which are difficult to pronounce!), and can easily reduce years of your life. But pre-packaged or prepared foods with low nutritional value, which is what junk food is, are not the only ones that can affect your health. Several foods that you consider healthy and eat on a daily basis may also not be providing the nutrients you need; even they could probably be replaced with a more nutrient-dense alternative!
20 Food Swaps You Can Make for a Healthier Body
Instead of focusing on the heart-breaking thought of giving up a pack of heavenly crispy French fries for the sake of your health, take comfort in the fact that a lot of your favourite guilty pleasures have better, more healthy alternatives – pleasing to the taste buds and the rest of your body! Get to swapping:
1. Fruit Juice with Whole Fruits
The juices that are marketed as “all natural”, “unsweetened” and “healthy” definitely undergo processing, whereby the nutrient levels in these packs don’t really make up for not eating fruit. Even freshly squeezed, 100% natural, sugar-not-added fruit juice can’t compare to the real thing. By juicing, the body does not receive the fibre content that it needs to absorb the sugar content of the juice, thereby making the absorption process slower. Besides, it never was ‘A glass of apple juice a day keeps the doctor away’, right?
2. French Fries with Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Choose the potato’s healthier sibling when it comes to this much-loved side-dish. The key here is to get the baked version; otherwise, you’re not doing your body much of a favour. Toss them around in some olive oil to amp up the flavour
3. White Rice with Brown Rice
Brown rice offers many more benefits than white rice does, owing to its fibre content and nutrient-rich properties. It helps to reduce cholesterol levels and stabilizes blood sugar and helps with heart health and helps you lose weight and we could go on and on!
4. White Rice with Cauliflower Rice
Another unconventional (but completely healthy) alternative for white rice! You can make cauliflower ‘rice’ by running it through the food processor till the texture resembles rice. Low in carbs and completely gluten-free, it makes for a perfect stand-in for white rice; and you can pat yourself on the back for having eaten a vegetable!
Watch: Cauliflower Rice – 4 Ways
Cauliflower rice doesn’t have to be boring or bland, and these recipes prove just that!
5. Ice Cream with Banana Ice Cream
Ice cream is comfort food like no other, but this sugar-packed block of goodness doesn’t do your body much good. Blitz frozen bananas in a blender till it reaches the consistency of ice cream, and give your body the same comfort your mind will get!
6. Popsicles with Frozen Grapes
Sweet cravings hitting you at odd times and having you reach out to the freezer for some comforting ice cream or sugar-heavy popsicles? Freeze some grapes so that your hands can reach out to a healthier option instead!
7. Full-fat Ice Cream with An Ice Cream Sandwich
Okay, yes, we get it! Sometimes, ice cream in the purest form is the only way to get past your momentary cravings or crisis! So why not opt for a lesser calorie-dense option in the form of an ice-cream sandwich?
8. Mashed Potatoes with Mashed Cauliflower
If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, replace potatoes with cauliflower. In a serving size of one cup, boiled cauliflower contains a more significant portion of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate.
9. Regular Pasta with Zucchini Pasta
Slice zucchini in such a way that it resembles spaghetti and cook it in hot olive oil for a minute. Add water and let it cook for 5 to 7 minutes, and season it to your taste. Low-carb, low-calorie, low-everything pasta ready!
10. Regular Pasta with Whole-wheat Pasta
Not a big fan of vegetables taking the form of your favourite noodles? Go for whole-wheat pasta, which is healthier thanks to its rich fibre content.
11. Sugary Breakfast Cereal with Whole Grain Breakfast Cereals
Honey Loops and Fruit Loops are pre-packaged boxes filled with flakes of sugar. Make the healthier choice by choosing whole-grain or wheat flakes, which contain lesser saturated fats and sodium.
12. Sugary Breakfast Cereal with Oatmeal
Oatmeal fills you up at breakfast and does your body a favour, while at it. It contains both insoluble and soluble fibre and keeps you full for quite a while, helping you push off the temptation to reach out to a mid-morning snack. Besides, it’s super nutrient rich and gluten-free too.
13. Milk Chocolate with Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers, listen up! Since dark chocolate contains 60% more cocoa, it contains more flavenoids which act as antioxidants in the body, and it has lesser calories than milk chocolate does. Of course, downing an entire bar of dark chocolate daily would do you little good, as it is still fattening. 2 to 3 squares should do the trick of satisfying your chocolate cravings.
14. Cocoa Powder with Cacao Powder
Chocolate lovers, continue paying attention! Apart from the different spellings, cacao powder is more nutritious than cocoa powder, because it is less processed and contains more antioxidants. It may not be as sweet as cocoa; but cacao nibs do make great replacements for chocolate chips!
15. Potato Chips with Popcorn
Air-popped plain popcorn, of course, because drowning it in butter wouldn’t make much of a difference. It contains more dietary fibre, and is lower in fat and calories than that bag of crispy fried chips.
16. Potato Chips with Unsalted Nuts
If the crunch-and-crisp factor in potato chips is what is important to you, switch to a serving of unsalted nuts. Nuts have a higher content of fibre and nutrients, and can satiate your snack cravings. However, stick to unsalted nuts; the salted variety contributes to an unnecessarily higher level of sodium to your daily intake, which is not ideal for healthy blood pressure levels.
17. Salad Dressing with Olive Oil
Drenching a healthy green salad in dressing which is highly processed completely defeats the purpose of having a healthy salad. Olive oil, however, is flavoursome and healthy, and is filled with antioxidants. It protects the heart, has anti-inflammatory properties, and also, YUM!
18. Refined White Sugar with Jaggery
Refined sugar is subject to processing to the extent that the end product tends to be powdered refined carbohydrates. Replace it with jaggery which provides benefits like curing colds and coughs, giving immunity a boost, and preventing constipation. Ensure that the jaggery you buy in supermarkets does not have refined white sugar in it because that would counter the health benefits you’re seeking from jaggery.
19. Paneer with Tofu
Another option for people looking to lose weight is to incorporate tofu into their diet, instead of paneer. Tofu is derived from soy milk, while paneer is made from curdled cow’s milk. It has a higher protein content than paneer, and is also lower in calories and fat, and has zero cholesterol content.
20. Cow’s Milk with Almond Milk
Since we are on the subject (somewhat!), let’s discuss cow’s milk too! While several emerging studies are claiming that cow’s milk has adverse effects on the human body because it is simply not designed for human consumption, most nutrition experts still believe that it is good for you. That being said, cow’s milk available today does undergo a lot of processing and can’t be consumed by people who are lactose-intolerant. Switch to almond milk which is similar in texture to cow’s milk – it’s lactose-free, has no saturated fats or cholesterol.
Simple Tips for Healthier Food Habits
You can also incorporate the following tips and habits into your daily lifestyle to extract maximum health benefits out of your daily meals:
- Don on your chef’s hat more often. Your busy lifestyle may not always allow you to spend much time cooking at home. But there are simple, Michelin-star-vibe-exuding meals you can whip up in no time, that are super healthy too. Easy on the body and easy on the wallet too!
- Deep-frying foods isn’t the only way to make them tasty. As much as possible, experiment with baking, grilling, steaming, even pan-frying (tossing them around in a pan with a little cooking oil) your favourite dishes. Same food, healthier versions!
- Don’t skip meals – unless you’re on an intermittent fasting plan! Skipping meals make you more hungry, increasing the tendency to overeat when you finally set your eyes on food.
- Eat at the table more often. While your eyes are glued to the TV, it’s possible that you don’t realise how much you’re eating. At the table, you have a clear vision of the food on your plate; and let’s face it, conversations with family and friends are more entertaining than TV shows anyway!
- Chew slowly and take smaller bites. The slower you eat, the more full you feel! A study has shown that the brain takes time to understand the feeling of fullness; this is why when you eat slowly, your brain has time to register that you’re feeling full and stops you before you eat too much.
- Eggs are such easy breakfast options – toss them in a pan, stick a lid over it, and voila, delicious fried eggs! Sounds lovely right? Unfortunately, not very healthy. Get creative with your egg dishes – hard-boil them, scramble them up with some vegetables, or poach them.
- Time to stock up on groceries? Head to the supermarket after you’ve had a meal. While shopping on an empty stomach, you tend to choose unhealthier food options.
- Stay armed with healthy, homemade snacks wherever you’re headed. It helps you resist the temptation to rush to the nearest vending machine or grocery for a sugary treat.
Feeling happier that your favourite dishes can still remain in your life in healthier forms? We thought so! While your unconditional love for junk food may remain unrequited, smile and remember that there is always something better (and much healthier) out there for you!