10 Dietitian-Approved Food Swaps To Try This Year

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With the new year here, many of us resolve to eat healthier foods and reduce processed and sugary foods. So I asked Caroline, a dietitian and nutritional hypnotherapist who works with emotional eating, for some tips. 
Let’s look at Caroline’s favourite food swaps that will help you reduce sugar and additives while boosting your nutrient intake. 

Why swapping is better than a total overhaul

You might be tempted to quit everything at the start of January and eat chicken, rice and broccoli. But the best way to transform your health is to implement small changes over time.
They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. So start by picking 2-3 of these switches and try them for a month. Once they’ve become a habit, add another one or two. Over time, you’ll be making healthier choices and establishing good habits.


Switch chips for air-popped corn 
Chips are delicious, but they’re not particularly nutritious. Most flavours also contain additives and sweeteners that are less than ideal. 
On the other hand, popcorn is one of my favourite snacks! Popcorn is a wholegrain that provides more fibre and contains few calories than chips. For your salty, crunchy cravings, popcorn is the way to go. 

Switch vegetable oil for extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil is a generic name – anything vegetable-based can be added to it. It is usually low quality and high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. 
On the other hand, extra-virgin olive oil is the healthiest oil we know of – it contains plenty of antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins. 

Switch salad dressings for DIY dressings
Salad dressings can be packed full of added sugars. Low-fat dressings are often the worst offenders. Even ‘low-sugar’ dressings will replace sugar with an artificial sweetener.
It’s easy to whip up your own using a few basic ingredients. Olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar and some fresh herbs and spices can liven up any salad. If you prefer a quick option, use balsamic vinegar.

Switch processed wheat products for wholemeal or wholegrain options
When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s all about how quickly they feed energy into the bloodstream.
Processed carbohydrates like white bread and pasta sends your blood sugar levels sky-high, so your body stores the energy quickly in your fat stores. It also sets you up to crash after the spike, which leaves you grumpy and hungry again.
Instead, choose high-fibre options like wholemeal bread or pasta that feed energy into your body slowly. This means you can use the energy, instead of storing it. It also keeps your energy levels steadier throughout the day.
Want to try something different? There are lentil-based pasta options in the supermarket that are high in protein and fibre. Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, are a good option if you want to keep the calories down and the nutrition up.

Switch nut bars for nuts
Many of the nut bars and muesli bars in the supermarket are bound together with 2 or more types of sugar. We want to skip the unnecessary added sugars whenever possible!

Instead, munch on a handful of nuts instead. It’s just as satisfying.

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Switch margarine for avocado or butter 
This might sound crazy coming from a dietitian! But having a small serve of butter is healthier and more natural than processed and refined margarine products. 

Want an even healthier option? Avocado provides fibre as well as fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats.

Switch flavoured yoghurts for plain yoghurt
Flavoured yoghurts might be tasty and convenient. But the not-so-sweet truth is they contain a lot of added sugars. 
There is an easy alternative. Grab a plain yoghurt instead, and add a handful of fruit, nuts & seeds. It’s that simple to make your own flavoured yoghurt!

Switch breakfast drinks for homemade smoothies 
Think Up&Go is a nutritious option? Have a look at the sugar content. Pre-packaged drinks designed for breakfast are full of the sugar, which can set you up for sweet cravings all day.

If you prefer a liquid breakfast, whip up a smoothie instead. A handful of leafy greens, a banana or some berries and your milk of choice is all you need for brekkie. You can add a source of protein such as nut butter or protein powder to make it more filling.

Switch breakfast cereals for homemade muesli
Breakfast cereals might be convenient, but many are full of sugar. Even the seemingly healthy options like quick cook oats and muesli mixes sneak lots of sugar in. 

To get around this, make your own. Replace flavoured oats with plain oats and add cocoa and some banana slices for a chocolatey treat. 

You can also make your own muesli blend. Use your favourite nuts and seeds, mix them in with oats or quinoa flakes, and add flavours like cocoa and cinnamon. Pour some milk over to serve. 

Switch flavoured coffee for regular coffee options
Everyone was excited when Starbucks came to town. But many of the fancy coffee-based drinks are packed full of added sugar. Even a mocha adds extra sugar thanks to the chocolate powder. 

If you love coffee, you don’t have to give it up. But opt for low-sugar options like lattes or flat whites. The only sugar in these are the naturally occurring sugars in the milk.

If you would like to hear more amazing nutrition tips from Caroline, check out my podcast interview with her.

Time to make a change

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