Making small changes to everyday meals is a great first step toward healthier eating. Swapping ingredients in your favorite recipe is an easy way to enjoy the foods you love while decreasing calories, fat, and sodium. Use the following tips to make swapping foods simple.
Ditch the High Fat Dairy
Dairy is essential for strong bones and teeth because it provides both calcium and vitamin D. However, dairy products high in saturated fats can have a negative impact on your cholesterol, which can increase the risk for heart disease. Swapping dairy is simple! Check the fat content on your milk, cheese, and yogurt. Look for key words like “skim” or “low fat.” These will be lower in saturated fat, but provide the same great nutrients. If you are lactose intolerant, try non-dairy options such as soy or Lactaid milk.
Grab the Whole Grains
Grains can be divided into two subgroups: whole and refined. Whole grains are less processed and include dietary fiber, B vitamins, and iron. Examples of whole grains are whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oats. Refined grains have been processed to improve shelf life, which strips them of their natural fiber and nutrients. Sometimes refined grains undergo a process called enrichment, where nutrients are added back in after processing. Dietary fiber cannot be added back in. Consuming more whole grains can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and assist with weight management. Common grain swaps include brown rice for white rice or whole grain bread for white bread.
Pick More Protein
Meat, seafood, poultry, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds make up what is known as the protein group. Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscles and cartilage. It is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, but can contain a high amount of saturated fat. When you eat meat, try to choose leaner cuts such as top loin, top round, eye of round, and chuck shoulder. For ground beef to be considered “lean,” it must be 92% lean/8% fat or less. It is also recommended to include 8 ounces of seafood each week to provide your body with the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. If you don’t eat meat, use nuts and nut spreads, legumes, beans, and seeds to meet your protein needs!
Flip the Fats
Fats are an essential part of our diets, but they contain more than twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates, so they should be consumed in moderation. Fats can be divided into two main groups: saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found to be solid at room temperature and can raise your LDL cholesterol which can increase your risk of heart disease. Examples of these are coconut oil, butter, and lard. Unsaturated fats, such as vegetable and seed oils, avocado, and nuts have been found to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Choose unsaturated fats as much as possible.
Here is an example of simple salad swaps making up to a 650 calorie difference!
Choose one of your favorite recipes and try making one healthy ingredient swap.