Do you want to improve your diet and be healthier? These ingredient swaps will guide you in the right direction. They’re easy to find and won’t completely ruin your favorite recipe, I promise!
Easy Ingredient Swaps For Your Health
Remember, there is nothing more important than cooking at home using fresh ingredients for the overall good health of your family. What you have available in your kitchen is what you will eat, so keep your pantry and fridge as a haven of healthy options. With so many dangerous preservatives, oils, GMOS and chemicals in our food system, it is crucial to start making more natural choices. The benefits: a healthier family and healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
You don’t have to sacrifice taste if you switch to healthier ingredients. In fact, you will be adding more flavor and your food will taste way better using natural products that are also good for you. Remember also it is a slow process. You cannot expect to have a 100% clean eating kitchen in a month or two. Little by little you can inform yourself and make better choices.
Start with my top five favorite super easy ingredient swaps. Then, keep reading for more swaps to make once you’re comfortable with those.
10 Ingredient Swaps You Need To Make Now
If you can only make a few swaps, start with these below. What I did was switch one ingredient at a time not to get overwhelmed with so many changes. In a few months I was already eating healthier and feeling so much better. My goal is to stay away from processed foods and use more natural and healthier alternatives.
One little note before we jump in: I did use affiliate links for my favorite recommendations. If you buy through them, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!
1.- Sea salt instead of refined salt.
The difference? Sea Salt comes from natural evaporated seawater under the sun. It contains natural potassium, calcium, and other minerals that gives great flavor. The minerals are also readily used by the body as there are naturally occurring. Table salt is heated to extreme temperatures and refined with chemicals. Potassium and sodium iodide added for iodized salt. Dextrose, sodium bicarbonate and sodium are also added for color. My choice: Celtic Sea Salt. Another sea salt I like to use is Himalayan Pink Salt.
2.-Butter instead of margarine.
Real butter is actually good for you! Butter does not contribute to heart disease, it is high in vitamin A, necessary for thyroid and adrenal health Real butter also contains anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries and cancer. Butter is high in important fatty acids for brain development. Butter is actually associated with a lower risk of obesity and lowers heart attack risks compared to margarine.
Margarine is made from vegetable oils extracted from seeds by a chemical process, deodorized and altered. Margarine is one of the most altered foods in our diets. It is not natural and most likely comes from GMO crops.
My choice of butter: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. Made from grass fed cows and natural with only two ingredients: cream and salt. Want a simple and delicious recipe using real butter? Please see my Perfect Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe and start baking from scratch using quality ingredients.
3.-Dates instead of sugar.
If you make smoothies and bake regularly, Dates are a fantastic way to sweeten your favorite treats! Everyone knows sugar is bad for your health and the less sugar you eat, the better. Dates come from nature and are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Dates help relief constipation, intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, and even abdominal cancer. So next time you make a smoothie or bake some cupcakes like my Super Healthy Banana Cupcakes, try substituting dates for refined sugar. For smoothies, just a couple of dates will do the trick. Please also see my Green Smoothie Recipe.
4.- Quinoa instead of rice.
This is one of my favorite healthy swaps. At home, we only eat rice occasionally. Whenever possible, we substitute it for nutritional and delicious Quinoa. Quinoa has more fiber and 50% more protein than even brown rice. It also has also more iron, folate, vitamin B2 and zinc. Even considering the healthiest type of rice which is brown, it still undergoes a refining process and recent studies are concerned about high arsenic levels.
I have a friend who can’t stand the texture of rice, but she loves quinoa. So, you may even find that your picky eaters prefer it. If you want to try some quinoa recipes, please see my Molded Quinoa With Ground Beef Filing or Chicken Quinoa Chaufa recipes.
5.- Whole grains instead of refined.
Refined grains lose important nutrients during the grinding process, such as vitamin E, which is essential to our health. Choosing whole grains will also add fiber, iron and B vitamins to your diet. When I first started switching to whole grains, I used to buy any type of whole grain product. Please don’t be fooled by the advertising on the package. The words “natural” and “made with whole grains” do not mean the product is a healthy choice.
When choosing a whole grain option look for the words “made with 100% whole grains”. Always look at the ingredients: the first ingredient should be a whole grain such as whole wheat flour or whole oats. Remember ingredients are listed in order of quantity. My whole grain picks King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat Flour, Alvarado Multi Grain Bread and 100% Whole Wheat Penne Rigate. Checkout my Homemade Mini Brownies recipe, made with 100% whole wheat flour.
6-Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
If a recipe calls for sour cream, swap in Greek yogurt instead. Not only is it richer and creamier overall than sour cream, but it’s also higher in protein and lower in cholesterol. It also packs a more powerful calcium punch than most sour cream brands.
It’s easy to swap in chilled recipes, such as dips and marinades. For cooked recipes, though, Brod & Taylor has an easy conversion chart. Check out my favorite easy yogurt ideas for healthy snacks for more ways to use it!
7-Honey or real maple syrup instead of sugar
I know we talked about using dates in place of sugar above, and that’s still my favorite way to go. However, if that doesn’t work for you (perhaps you’re allergic), both raw honey and real maple syrup make better alternatives than refined sugar. Note two important words there: “raw” and “real.”
Some studies say that filtered honey is just as good as raw. However, I always say the closer to nature you can get, the better. Just make sure you’re getting it from a reliable local source, and never feed it to kids under age one.
As for maple syrup, if you’re grabbing a bottle off the grocery store shelf on sale for $2, it’s not real. Authentic maple syrup costs a lot more, but it’s definitely a worthwhile splurge. Trust me, once you’ve tasted the real stuff, you’ll never want to go back! The fake stuff is just corn syrup, refined sugar, and some artificial flavors & coloring- all of which are on our “ick” list. Here are a few great options:
8-Flax or chia seeds instead of eggs in baked goods for vegans
Eggs are actually really healthy, so I don’t personally swap them out in my recipes. However, if you’re vegan, obviously they’re on the “no no” list. Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to give up your favorite cookie or brownie recipe. Just swap out the eggs with either flax or chia seeds!
Jenny Dunklee, the author of The Lazy Vegan Baker, told SELF magazine that mixing the seeds with water |creates this very gloopy, gel-like mixture that binds the batter together pretty well. She added that it has a texture similar to egg whites. Either one will work, and they’re both high in Omega-3 fatty acids. So, try experimenting with both to see which you prefer.
9- Cauliflower instead of potatoes, pizza crust, and more
Cauliflower is one of the easiest ingredient swaps to try right away, since you can use it for SO many things. Use it in place of popcorn for movie nights, to create crust for healthier pizzas, and even as a substitute for chicken! It’s low in calories and high in calcium.
If your family loves eating mashed potatoes as a side, try replacing it with mashed cauliflower one night. They either won’t notice, or they’ll say it’s the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever made. It’s up to you if you want to let them in on your secret!
Check out my post, “15 OMG I Didn’t Know I Could Make This With Cauliflower” for more amazing ways to use the veggie as a healthy food swap.
10-Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
Any time you’re craving chocolate, reach for the dark stuff. Keep this tip in mind: the lighter (in color) the chocolate, the farther it is from its natural state. Milk chocolate is highly processed and only contains about 10% cocoa. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, contains at least 35% (it can’t qualify as “dark” with anything less), and all the way up to 100%. The more cocoa it contains, the higher it is in antioxidants.
Now, most of us can’t really stomach the taste of pure 100% dark chocolate. However, 70-80% is actually quite good! You just have to let your taste buds get used to it. Try starting with around 50% and working your way up. Follow my tips on how to tell if you’re eating real chocolate (and check out some of the other benefits).
More Healthy Food Swaps to Make
While those are probably the easiest and healthiest ingredient swaps to make right away, once you get started with clean eating you won’t want to stop. So, here are some more amazing ideas to try!
- Coconut flour instead of all-purpose white flour
- Homemade olive oil & vinegar dressing instead of store-bought dressings
- Banana “nice cream” instead of processed grocery store ice cream.
- Almond & coconut flour instead of cornmeal (try it in these paleo cornbread muffins)
- Lettuce as wraps instead of tortilla shells. Go with something like kale, endive, or even romaine. Pretty much anything but iceberg, which has very little to no nutritional value. That said if iceberg lettuce is all you have it’s fine in a pinch.
- Zucchini noodles instead of pasta
- Pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned) instead of most oils (here’s a handy chart)
- Real melted butter instead of vegetable oil in cakes (see how here)
- Avocado instead of mayo (check out my favorite avocado hacks for more ways to use the superfood)
- Seasoned yogurt instead of heavy gravy on meats (see how here)
- Homemade overnight oats with real fruit instead of processed artificially flavored storebought microwave oatmeal (like the kind that comes in a little single-serving bag)
- If you drink alcohol, choose wine instead of beer. Check out my wine smoothies for some fun adults-only recipes!
- Sparkling water flavored with real fruit instead of diet soda (or any soda, really).
- Air-popped popcorn instead of microwave popcorn or chips.
- Almond butter instead of peanut butter. It has more Omegas. If you prefer PB, go with a good organic brand with no sugar added.
- Real onion instead of onion salt. The same goes for garlic and celery salt.
- Dip crunchy veggies instead of tortilla chips into your guacamole and other dips.
- Lean beef plus pureed veggies instead of full-fat beef in your burgers.
- Oats instead of breadcrumbs.
- Ground chicken or turkey instead of ground beef in tacos, burgers, meatballs, and even meatloaf.
You don’t have to go to extremes to eat healthily!
Remember, you don’t have to go to extremes and make all of these ingredient swaps at once. Learning to eat healthily is a lifelong marathon, not a sprint. When my son was born about 4 years ago is when I really started researching and investigating nutrition. I wanted to give him the best possible start to life. But you cannot learn about nutrition in just a few months.
Now years after investigating food and nutrition, we are in a much healthier and informed place. Little by little we are still improving in the ingredients we use for everyday cooking and we still have a long way to go. There is always something to improve and learn.
I am not an extremist and we do eat out on the weekends. Our rule is that when we are out we feel free to eat whatever we want, but at home, we try and eat as healthy as we can. I hope these ingredient swaps helped you get inspired and start eating healthier. It is really worth it.
Interested in making better choices for breakfast and snacks also? Check out my 5 Worst Breakfast Foods For Kids Plus DIY Healthier Options post and 5 Processed Kids Snacks You Should Avoid.
Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API