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20 Healthy Swaps To Make This Year

It’s so much easier to adapt a healthy lifestyle than people think, and as a registered dietitian, I'm here to show you how! Here are 20 swaps you can make to improve your overall health, body composition, and performance. I challenge you to choose at least one to make this year!!

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1. Swap Out Egg White Substitute For - Whole Eggs

Yes, eat the yolks!! Yolks are packed with vitamin D, vitamin A, and antioxidants that boost eye health (lutein & zeaxanthin). You miss out on all of these benefits eating only the whites – not to mention those bottled substitutes are highly processed. Ditch the egg white substitute and use whole eggs instead.

2. Swap Out Flavored Oatmeal Packets For – Plain Rolled Oats

If you’re short on time, those flavored oatmeal packets might seem like the easiest solution. However, it’s just as easy to make rolled oats by cooking in a microwave for 2 minutes with water or milk. You’ll boost the fiber content and plain oats contain no added sugar. After heating your oats, mix in peanut butter, almond butter, a touch of honey, cinnamon, or fresh fruit to boost the flavor and sweeten naturally! If you have more than a few minutes, steel cut oats are another great option.

3. Swap Out Burritos For – Burrito Bowls

Just by removing the flour tortilla, you'll save 300 calories, 10g fat, and 690mg sodium (based on Chipotle's Nutrition Calculator). Plus, if you get a burrito WITH rice in it, you way overdo the carbs...ending up with nearly 90 grams of carbs – that’s 6 carb servings!!! Opt for ordering a brown rice bowl instead.

4. Swap Out Gummy Candy & Dried Fruits Sweetened With Sugar For - Fruit Leathers

Choose brands that have no sugar added - such as Trader Joe’s or Kind Pressed Fruit, which also have chia seeds, providing more fiber and anti-inflammatory omega 3s.

5. Swap Out Fat Free Flavored Yogurts For - Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

Fat-free flavored yogurts boast about being low calorie, but they are typically loaded with sugar. And if they’re “sugar-free”, it’s because they used overly sweet, overly processed artificial sweeteners - which can have adverse side effects. Swap for Greek or Skyr style yogurts for higher protein, and don’t be scared about a little fat in your yogurt. Try using plain yogurt and sweeten naturally with a touch of honey or fresh fruit. All dairy yogurt, even plain, will have a little sugar (typically around 6-8g per serving) because of the lactose, so don’t get confused when you see sugar in plain yogurt!

6. Swap Out White Pasta For – Spiralized Veggie Noodles

Spiralized veggies have become a hot trend over the last few years – and for good reason! They’re an excellent way to cut back on refined carbohydrates and calories while getting in more nutrients and fiber. Spiralizers are available in so many different shapes and sizes, from handheld to kitchenaid attachments. You can even find some veggies like zucchini and sweet potatoes already spiralized for you in the produce section at places like Whole Foods, Target, and other health markets.

7. Swap Out Juicing For - Blending

When you juice fruits and veggies, you remove all of the pulp, skin, and basically full fiber content which is what makes fruits and veggies so great for weight management. You’re left with lots of water, sugar, and some (definitely not all) vitamin content. Skip juicing and go for a way more filling smoothie instead. Make your own at home to watch the sugar content (places like Jamba Juice often add frozen yogurt or fruit juices that leave you with a crazy amount of sugar!) – here’s a guide to healthy smoothie making for more recipes and tips.

8. Swap Out Specialty Coffee Drinks For – Coffee Or Americanos

Fancy coffee drinks such as mochas and macchiatos contain a ridiculous amount of sugar. A Grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks has 33 grams of sugar...that's 11 teaspoons of sugar!!! Opt for black coffee or americanos – and add a touch of milk and sugar if you need it. One sugar packet contains 4 grams of sugar – a huge win compared to 33 grams in a macchiato! If you typically do flavored lattes, start small by simply asking for low-fat milk and half the syrup, eventually working towards just one pump of syrup, and then none at all. Read more on cutting back on drinking calories here.

9. Swap Out Processed Protein Bars For – Whole Food Bars

Protein bars, such as Quest, are now sold just about everywhere and falsely market themselves as being a "clean" product. They boast about containing no added sugar, however, they contain more sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners (sucralose, a man-made chemical sweetener a.k.a. Splenda) than just about any bar I’ve ever seen. Consumers believe they are consuming a healthy protein bar, when truly this is an extremely highly processed food-like product. Opt for a fruit and nut-based alternative with real food ingredients such as Kize Concepts or Lara bars. The sugar and fiber in these bars comes naturally from honey and fruit, and healthy fats from nuts and seeds.

10. Swap Out Fried Appetizers For – Fresh Or Baked

Majority of the appetizers offered at restaurants are fried. Mozzarella sticks, crispy calamari, onion rings, cheese fries – all loaded with excess calories and fat. Order a much healthier appetizer by choosing a fruit & cheese plate, hummus and pita (could ask if they have whole wheat pita or ask to add a side of veggies like carrots and cucumbers for dipping!), bruschetta, and at Asian restaurants, edamame.

11. Swap Out Meat At Every Meal For – Plant-Based Protein

This swap doesn’t have to necessarily be an everyday thing, but try choosing a few meals per week to go meatless. Try using beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh to make veggie patties, soups, or stir-fries. Here are some more helpful tips and tricks to getting a vegetarian diet right.

12. Swap Out Milk Chocolate For – Dark Chocolate

Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains antioxidants and has been shown in several studies to have health-promoting benefits. So you get to eat chocolate AND get health benefits?! I mean that’s a total win-win in my book. Swap your milk and white chocolate out for at least 70% dark chocolate - the higher the cacao % the better!

13. Swap Out Salt For – Herbs And Spices

Reduce your sodium intake by ditching the salt shaker and seasoning blends filled with salt (look at the ingredient list to see if salt is included!) and use herbs and spices to flavor dishes. Mrs. Dash has salt-free seasoning blends, otherwise a few favorites I always have on hand include garlic and onion powder, chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, oregano, basil, rosemary, and parsley.

14. Swap Out Ice Cream For – Blended, Frozen Fruit

You’ll be amazed how easy it is to make your own delicious ice cream – just from bananas! Chop up bananas, toss them in your freezer for several hours, then throw them in a blender with ½ tsp vanilla and 1 Tbsp peanut butter. Top with some melted dark chocolate chips on top or crushed nuts. A few other fruits to freeze and blend into ice cream include avocado (add cocoa powder & honey!), peaches, or mango.

15. Swap Out Dining Out For – Cooking At Home

Research has shown that people who cook most of their meals at home consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all. Research has also shown that restaurant calorie counts can be underestimated by as much as 18%, making it that much harder for those trying to lose weight to stay on track. Cooking at home allows you to be in complete control of how much sodium, fat, sugar you add to a dish - as well as control the portion size plated.

16. Swap Out Potato Chips For - Air-Popped Popcorn

Potato chips are high in calories, fat, and sodium. Air-popped popcorn makes for a much healthier alternative as it is typically a low calorie, high fiber snack. Skip the microwave bags that typically contain artificial flavors and butter and opt for air-popped popcorn, like Boom Chicka Pop, instead.

17. Swap Out Soda For – Naturally Flavored Water / La Croix

You know by now the negative impact drinking soda in excess has on your health. A great alternative if you're craving that fizzy taste is naturally flavored water. La Croix is carbonated water that is flavored naturally with fruit - no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, and no added sugar.

18. Swap Out Beer And Margaritas For – Wine Or Vodka Waters/Club Soda

With the exception of antioxidants found in red wine, alcohol really has no nutritional benefit. It can also be detrimental to muscle recovery, so athletes should limit intake to allow their muscles to fully recover, preventing injury and prolonged soreness. Reduce the amount of empty calories and added sugar consumed in mixed drinks by ordering a vodka water or club soda instead. Add a splash of grapefruit juice or fresh lemons and limes to add flavor. Don’t be fooled by tonic water, which contains just as much sugar as soda, and order your cocktail drinks with club soda instead. Reducing your overall intake of alcohol throughout the year would be a huge benefit, as alcohol contains more calories per gram than both carbohydrates and protein.

19. Swap Out Sour Cream For – Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

Plain greek yogurt has a tart taste to it, similar to sour cream, making it a great alternative. It’s lower in fat and much higher in protein. Wherever you would normally use sour cream, swap it out for greek yogurt.

20. Swap Out Butter And Mayo For – Avocado

Spread some creamy avocado on your toast in the morning, or on your afternoon sandwich for a much healthier alternative to butter and mayonnaise. Avocados contain tons of heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and several other nutrients.

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