We all know that whole-wheat flour is better for us than processed, white one. We also know that starting your day with the right breakfast can keep you fuller far longer than eating a pack of biscuits for example.
Simple dietary swaps can bring about the difference in feeling and looking your best.
What are some of these?
- Oatmeal instead of flour
You’re making chicken nuggets from scratch and have to add flour and breadcrumbs? Use oats instead. Baking a cake? Grab a pack of regular oats and blend them in the food processor to get the same result as using flour. Oats are a great way to sustain your energy levels higher for longer. Let’s also mention how much healthier they are than processed flour. Whenever I come across a recipe online, be it for cookies or an apple pie, I’d substitute flour for oats. And it feels that much better knowing you’re upping your fiber intake all the while satisfying your sweet tooth.
- Coconut oil instead of butter
Coconut oil has had some mixed reviews. Some say it isn’t much healthier than its dairy equivalent. Others swear the opposite. Until recently, I was a big fan of regular butter saying nothing can compare to the real thing. And a couple of months ago, I bought my very first bio organic coconut oil in a jar determined to only use it when the need calls for a vegan cake; because you know, friends and their kids and allergies. But I used it one fine day when making pancakes as I was out of butter and didn’t feel like popping to the store specifically to get just butter. It added this brilliant taste to them and the pancakes turned out so much lighter and easily digestible that we ended up eating more of them. Since then I’ve completely replaced using butter in recipes calling for it. Coconut oil has healthy saturated fats called medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently than most other fats like butter. It provides a quick physical and mental energy boost.
- Nut butter instead of regular butter
If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of using coconut oil, why not simply replace regular butter with nut butter? It can do wonders for your health as well. Nuts are packed with nutrients and protein, a very important dietary ingredient especially when working out. Swap regular butter on your toast with nut butter of your choice. I personally prefer peanut butter but you can get or make different nut varieties like almond butter or cashew one which I also highly recommend. If you’re baking and a recipe calls for butter, just add some nut butter instead for maximum nutrients.
- Homemade nut butter instead of store-bought one
Speaking of nut butter, isn’t it better to make your own than buying it from the store containing who-knows-what ingredients? I usually get raw nuts and roast them myself. Add the roasted nuts in a blender or a food processor and add a little salt and coconut or olive oil if you prefer and blend until the mixture is smooth. Or omit the oils completely. Store in an airtight container or a jar in a cool place for a week. Well at least that’s the longest I’ve managed to keep mine from prying little hands. Because it is really that delicious.
- Unsweetened coconut flakes instead of chocolate chips
I have a sweet tooth and there are times of the month where nothing can replace chocolate whether in the form of chips or on its own. But the other times I use coconut flakes. These add a sweet but not over empowering sugary taste to cakes and cookies or breakfast oatmeal and are a ton healthier than chocolate chips.
- Honey instead of sugar
Sugar – the worst evil of our times. I remember when I was a little kid no one cared how much sugar we kids consumed. We would beg our mum to make sugary donuts and dip them in sugar afterwards just to get our fix. Well, times have changed. Not sure if it’s because we grew up knowing that the rest of our food didn’t contain as much sugar as they do now. Either way, I always feel uneasy when I see a family member consume way too much sugar in a day. And you know little people like sweet things like cookies. So I do a simple swap with honey. Honey is still sweet, sure, but if you get the natural varieties, it’s bound to have more benefits than sugar which has…none. Raw honey has immune-boosting and anti-cancer properties but over-processing it destroys these benefits. So please, don’t feel greedy to get the more expensive raw kind than the one that’s super cheap and less beneficial as a result. Replace it everywhere you would use sugar and enjoy the added antioxidants in your diet.
- Dried fruit instead of sugar
Another good swap for sugar is dried fruit. Dried fruit are high in fibre and antioxidants and namely, polyphenols. The latter improve blood flow, digestive health and decrease your risk of many diseases. Raisins, dates or figs-all a good replacement in cooking or baking. I would soak them in a little water beforehand and use the juice and the fruit. Of course, you can use them as they are or blend them in a food processor. The benefits remain.
- Seeds instead of croutons
I was a massive fan of adding croutons in salads until I discovered various seeds. My personal favourite is chia seeds. Chia seeds are the modern day superfood and it’s a little shameful they were only recognized as such considering their ancient history. Chia seeds have an impressive amount of fiber and minerals like calcium and magnesium along with the very important B vitamins. Packed with antioxidants, they’re surely something to add to vegetable and fruit salads, yogurt, rice and even cakes and cookies. Sunflower seeds are my second favourite. They fill you up far longer than croutons which in reality are just toasted or fried bread in oil.
- Vegetable chips for crisps
Snacking time is never so easy. Here’s a recipe for a feel-good snack though: roasted veggies cut in the form of crisps. Take your pick: carrots, kale, sweet potato, zucchini… Sprinkle with a little sea salt and olive oil and bake to perfection. You know they are a lot healthier than the ‘potato’ ones you get from the store where potato is definitely not the main ingredient, considering it’s present in them at all. Feel free to count these veggie snacks as one of your five-a-day.
- Green tea instead of coffee
Ok, that doesn’t qualify for food but had to be included in my maximum nutrition list. I used to be the kind of person who couldn’t wake up before having my coffee in the morning. Followed by many other coffees throughout the day. While a cup of coffee a day has many benefits, drink more than that one cup and your energy levels are in trouble. Like all good things, coffee has to be enjoyed in moderation. Too many cups of coffee a day and you feel agitated and anxious. Plus, it’s dehydrating. Green tea, on the other hand, has many antioxidants and instead of zapping your energy like drinking too much coffee does, it energizes you. Why not give it a go the next time you reach for your cuppa?
These are all the food (and drink) swaps I could think of from personal experience that I’ve experimented with the past year. Like most swaps, we learn of something new in due time.
What are some of your favourite food swaps that make you feel and look your best and that you now can’t live without?