Ever wondered if your eating habits are healthy or why you are finding it hard to shake than unwanted weight? I’ve certainly wondered about this! And still do from time to time, even as a dietitian. The truth is, that it can be really hard for some people to eat healthily. With so many food choices out there tempting you or claiming to be healthy, it can be a challenge to know what is going to help improve your health or hinder it. Making small changes in your diet can have a big impact on your health. If you’re looking to make healthier choices, here are some easy swaps to try. These substitutes will help you cut down on unhealthy ingredients without sacrificing flavour or satisfaction. Give them a try and see if these healthy food swaps fit into your routine!
Healthy Food Swaps For Each Meal Of The Day
For some, it’s the most important meal of the day, but for others, it is often skipped. Personally, I cannot go without breakfast, nor would I want to. I wake up hungry and looking forward to breaking the fast! I recommend everyone should try to have breakfast daily, even something small. But it is important to make sure it’s balanced and nutritious, as after all, it will be the meal that starts off your day! Whether you are wanting to lose weight, or just have something filling and substantial to get you going, it is important to choose the right foods to keep you feeling energised and sustain your energy until your next meal. By making some simple, healthy food swaps, you will notice the difference in no time.
Healthy Breakfast Food Swaps
|Swap these||For these|
|Sweet sugary cereals eg. Honey Nut Crunch||High fibre cereal eg. Oats, Bran Flakes|
|Granola (high in fat and sugar)||Homemade or low-fat, low-sugar granola|
|Fried eggs||Boiled or poached eggs|
|Hollandaise sauce||Creme frais with lemon, half a stock cube (chicken or veg) and capers (optional)|
|Fried beef sausages||Grilled vegetarian (low fat) or chicken sausage|
|Bacon||Avocado (not a direct substitute, but a healthier option)|
|White toast||Wholegrain, seeded or rye toast, bagel thins|
|Flavoured yoghurt||Greek (plain) yoghurt with cinnamon|
|Juice||Homemade fruit smoothie|
|Cafe latte, vanilla latte||Skinny cappuccino, flat white or filter coffee with a splash of milk (lightest option)|
Extra Breakfast Suggestions
On those rushed days when you choose to have a quick bowl of simple cereal, try mixing it up a bit along with adding a piece of fruit to make it a bit more nutritious. Before reaching for that box of Honey Nut Crunch, opt for Fruit n Fibre bran flakes with a handful of rolled oats. The bran flakes are high in fibre, and the oats will make them more filling. If unsweetened cornflakes are your preference, then try using fewer cornflakes and mixing this with a tablespoon of nuts and seeds, a handful of raw rolled oats or low-fat, low-sugar granola. Lastly, top your bowl with some fresh, whole fruit such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, or kiwi and banana.
As for the milk, skim or semi-skim will save on calories (and has the same, if not more calcium than whole, full-fat milk). For those who prefer plant-based, opt for unsweetened plant milk options and check the food label for added salt, sugar and total calories if you want to keep it light. If you don’t like milk, plain Greek yoghurt is a great substitute that is high in protein.
Lunch is one of those meals I never plan for (unless I’m going out for lunch with family or friends). Breakfast gets me through the morning and now I’m on a roll with work, and suddenly lunchtime comes out of nowhere. Okay, sometimes it’s a welcomed break and I’m starving, but the planning on what to eat seldom crosses my mind. Is it like that for you? When it is not planned, I find myself grabbing something random from the fridge, shop or restaurant. And in the past, it often wasn’t the healthiest option available, and usually the most convenient option. Compared to most, it was considered healthy – I wasn’t grabbing a burger and chips. But the fact that it was not homemade meant there were likely a few hidden unhealthy elements in the meal that I would choose to be blissfully unaware of.
Healthy Lunch Food Swaps
|Swap these||For these|
|White bread, rolls, bagels or wraps||Wholegrain, seeded or rye bread, rolls, bagels or wraps|
|Salami or Proscuitto||Turkey ham|
|Mayonnaise||Yogannaise (plain yoghurt mixed with a little mustard and lemon juice), or Dijon/wholegrain mustard on its own|
|Chicken thighs or wings||Chicken breast|
|Fried chicken||Grilled chicken|
|Beef burger||Venison or veggie burger (make sure it’s low in saturated fats)|
|Side of fries/chips||Baked potato, wedges, salad or vegetables|
|Potato or pasta salad||Green or Greek salad|
|Tuna or chicken sandwich||Tuna or chicken salad|
Extra Lunch Suggestions
Whether you are on the go and need to grab a quick something for lunch; have a packed lunch with you or are eating at home, it’s important to try and pick your lunch choice wisely. It is easy to choose the easy option, but often these choices are not the healthiest option. Most takeaway and restaurant meals are high in calories, saturated fats, salt and sometimes sugar, which you need to watch out for. Try choosing a restaurant that offers some healthy selections.
If you are choosing a salad, ask for the dressing on the side, and choose a salad that has a lot going for it. Avoid that boring caesar salad which is hardly a nutritious option at all. Why not have a tuna Nicoise salad instead? Opt for a salad loaded with different veg and lean protein options such as grilled chicken, tuna, boiled eggs or salmon. If having a sandwich is your preference, try picking one without cheese, salami and other high-fat processed options. And ask for no mayo if you can. If you are making a sandwich at home using a baguette or bread roll, try to remove as much of the white fluffy filling on the inside. That way you can stuff it with more healthy veg and protein filling. You can also try using lighter cheese options and substituting mayo for plain yoghurt instead.
Unlike lunch which is a bit of an afterthought for me, dinner I look forward to! But, only if I’m prepared and know what to make in advance. I’m pretty good and coming up with a last-minute option and using what’s in my fridge or cupboard, but that sometimes leads to having the same boring go-to meals. And my least favourite part about cooking is thinking about what to make. When I do plan, be it that morning or earlier in the week, my meals tend to be much more thought-out and healthier. And it makes me feel so good and in control. It’s a great feeling! And more so with dinner, than breakfast and lunch, I try to make healthy swaps, so I can enjoy dinner guilt-free without compromising on flavour and fun.
Healthy Dinner Food Swaps
|Swap these||For these|
|White pasta or white long rice||Wholegrain, spinach or chickpea pasta|
|White rice, Pilau rice or egg-fried rice||Basmati, wild, black or wholegrain rice, or steamed/boiled|
|Creamy, high-fat sauces||Tomato-based or veg-based sauces such as my homemade courgette walnut pesto sauce|
|Cream used in creamy sauces such as beef stroganoff and mushroom alfredo||Use Creme Frais, Quark or Light cream cheese instead|
|Fried chicken or fatty meats||Grilled chicken and lean beef or venison|
|Mexican quesadilla or burrito||Naked burrito bowl (no wrap) with extra veg|
|Beef Stroganoff using cream||Baked potato, wedges, salad or vegetables|
|Bolognaise or slow-cooked meat||Use 5% beef, and try using half the amount and substituting with lentils, beans or mushrooms|
|Store-bought or takeaway pizza||Homemade pizza on a tortilla base, with light mozzarella cheese and lots of veggies to make it more filling|
|Takeaway or store-bought chips||Homemade air-fried or oven-baked chips – put the chopped potato in a colander, drizzle with a little oil and toss|
Extra Dinner Suggestions
If you are stuck for options that are healthy when it comes to dinner, stick to what is simple or make healthy food swaps. My simple go-to is baked salmon fillets with baked or steamed broccoli, green beans and asparagus, or sometimes a mix of Mediterranean roast veg. I serve this with crushed new potatoes, couscous or wild rice (and on the odd occasion, homemade air-fried chips). These sides all work well with grilled chicken kebabs or a healthy vegetarian protein option.
Homemade soup is another yummy, easy and light dinner option, provided it’s made light. There is no need to add oil of any type or cream. Try using seasonal veg, and choose a mixed variety. As for protein, add some lentils, beans or grilled chicken into the mix. If you prefer it creamy and can’t go without, opt for Greek yoghurt, light creme Frais, quark or light cream cheese instead.
Make it Carb Clever
Having pasta for dinner, ensure your portion is small so it is not too carb-heavy. Add lots of veg and lean protein to make it more filling. You can try swapping the pasta for courgetti or make it half and half. If you are eating a Mexican meal, avoid having a burrito filled with rice or a cheese quesadilla, and try having a naked (no wrap) bowl instead. If it’s homemade burger night, ditch the chips or bun – you don’t need both. Try using large iceberg lettuce leaves instead of a bun, or have a side salad instead of a side of chips.
The Final Word
It may seem hard to eat healthily when there are so many tasty (but unhealthy) options to buy or make. But it doesn’t need to be. By making some simple, healthy food swaps, you can still make a tasty meal at home that is packed full of goodness, and make sensible food choices when out. By choosing smaller portions, opting for baked, grilled, boiled or steamed options over frying or having salad instead of chips with your meal, you will be making the lighter and healthier choice.