Here are some ideas for healthy recipe swaps!
I love finding a good recipe and making tweaks to make it a little healthier! I like to call it "dietitian-ing" a recipe. 🙂
Typically, making some of these swaps doesn't alter the taste of the recipe much, but can majorly alter the nutrition.
Tips for healthy recipes
When I make myself or my family a meal, I think about a few things:
- Balancing my plate. I try to fill my plate half full of veggies or veggies & fruit. The other half is split between a whole grain or other carb like sweet potatoes and a lean meat, eggs or seafood.
- Making sure I am including nourishing foods that will fill me up and keep me satisfied. These include foods that are high in fiber, healthy fats, and protein as well as vitamins and minerals.
- The obvious. Taste! I definitely don't want to sacrifice taste for nutrition. And you don't have to. Eating healthy can truly be delicious.
- If you are trying to eat healthier, you can still make your favorite recipes! Just make some healthy recipe swaps.
Below are some examples!
Healthy Recipe Swap 1: swap out simple carbs for complex carbs
Carbohydrates are your body's primary source of energy and they are also your brain's preferred energy source so they are an important component of a healthy overall dietary pattern.
With the ketogenic diet and other low carb diets trending, carbs have gotten a bad rep in recent years. But the key is not to avoid carbohydrates altogether. Instead, it's to choose the right kind of carbohydrates.
Instead of: simple carbs
Use: complex carbs
I won't get too in the weeds of this here, but simple carbs are refined sugars and include things like white sugar, many baked goods, white crackers, pastas and rice as well as many breakfast cereal and chips.
Complex carbs are the ones higher in fiber so they digest slower and keep you full for longer. Plus, fiber is great for your overall health and gut health and it helps to regulate your blood sugars. Think of things like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and beans, legumes and vegetables or fruit.
Whereas simple carbohydrates will cause a quick glucose spike and ultimately a dip in blood sugar (afternoon naptime, anyone?), complex carbohydrates will raise blood sugars slower and more steadily to give you energy to get through an afternoon dip! Below are some examples of this healthy recipe swap.
- Swap white rice with brown rice or quinoa
- Swap white pasta with whole grain, chickpea, or lentil pasta
- Swap white flour for whole grain flour, almond flour, or oat flour
- You can also replace pasta with zoodles (zucchini noodles). Or do a half & half mix of pasta and zoodles.
Here is my favorite zoodler: [CLICK HERE]
Healthy Recipe Swap 2: swap out full fat dairy for reduced fat dairy or dairy alternatives
Instead of: full fat dairy products
Use: reduced fat or dairy alternative. You can also simply cut the amount on things like cheese.
Full fat dairy products are high in saturated fats. These are one of the "bad fats" to watch out for, in addition to trans fats.
Whereas unsaturated fats (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are good fats, try to limit saturated fats and trans fats whenever you can in order to maintain a healthy heart! Some examples of healthy recipe swaps for dairy are below.
- Swap sour cream for low fat greek yogurt
- Swap whole fat milk for reduced or skim milk, almond milk, or oat milk.
- Swap whole fat cheeses for reduced fat. *Pro tip:* I personally find that reduced fat cheese really doesn't taste good and it doesn't melt as well. So I typically just cut the cheese portion in ½ to cut down on the sat fat while also maintaining the taste and texture of full fat cheese.
- Swap mayo for avocado in things like tuna salad. Avocado does still have the same amount of calories, but it also has a ton of nutrients and good fats and when mashed up it has a creamy consistency similar to mayo. This is a tasty healthy recipe swap!
Healthy Recipe Swap 3: swap out high fat, high calorie salad dressings
Salad dressings tend to be pretty high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
Sometimes people think by having a salad they are automatically making the healthy choice, but unfortunately that's not always true! You can easily stack up the calories in a salad when it's topped with stuff like croutons, cheese, and a heavy dressing.
Instead, make the healthy recipe swap of opting for a dressing with an olive or avocado oil base because these oils are both high in the good kind of fats!
- Use oil and vinegar for salad dressing instead of bottled dressing. Opt for olives high in oleic oils like olive oil, avocado oil, or sunflower oil. These high oleic oils aren't heart healthy options! But oil isn't low calorie so if you are cutting calories, you may consider a different option.
- Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top of your salad. This way you are not just getting the fresh flavor, but some vitamin C too! And since you have the flavor from the lemon you can do a bit less dressing.
There are a lot of ways you can customize your meals, including recipes, to make them healthier and help meet whatever your individual goals are. I love making healthy recipe swaps that add nutrients like more fiber and vitamins and minerals. This is because it is important to have nourishing meals that include a wide variety of nutrients. And fiber helps keep you full for longer and helps your gut health too! It also helps with blood glucose regulation.
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