Sometimes the difference between healthy eating or not is a few simply dietary swaps to take you from a B minus in nutrition to a glowing A+ - and just a warning, some of these simple swaps may surprise you!
Wholemeal to multigrain bread
While wholemeal bread is a very ‘healthy choice’ thanks to its relatively high fibre content, grain based bread has a lower glycaemic index which means that it results in a much more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream which helps to keep up fuller for longer after eating it. The wholegrains in grain bread also offer higher amounts of several key nutrients including Vitamin E, dietary fibre, B group vitamins and essential fats than both high fibre white loaves and wholemeal bread. Look for the densest grain bread you can find and slices that fit into the toaster easily to help control your portion sizes and calorie intake.
Rice crackers to corn cakes
White rice unlike brown rice is a highly refined grain and as such has had much of the positive nutritional properties removed, leaving little other than rapidly digested carbohydrates. With just 10 rice crackers offering as much carbohydrate as 2 small slices of grain bread, wholegrain, low GI corn cakes and crackers are a much better option nutritionally for snacks and light carbohydrate options at lunch.
Potato chips for popcorn
Crunchy, salty potato chips are a food fav of many but unfortunately when it comes to both fat and calories, chips really pack a punch. With a small 50g pack of potato chips offering 200-250 calories and up to 20g of total fat, even if the chips are cooked in ‘good fats’, potato chips are still an energy dense food. Popcorn on the other hand is a diet superstar – with just 8g of total carbohydrates, almost no fat and only 55 calories, plain popcorn is a snacking winner.
Flake breakfast cereal to oats
It is often assumed that every product in the cereal aisle is healthy but unfortunately breakfast cereals can often be masquerading as ‘healthy’, but when you take a closer look they are packed with excessive sugars, refined grains and even salt. Generally speaking, once any grain is processed, whether it is wheat, corn, rye or rice, it not only loses some of the positive nutritional properties, but it also is digested relatively rapidly once consumed. The more quickly a carbohydrate based food is digested, the more rapid the rise in blood glucose levels, which is not ideal for our energy regulation, insulin levels or weight long term. To ensure that you are not going wrong when it comes to your choose of breakfast cereal, look for wholegrain options – options in which you can actually see the grain and of these, the strongest is oats. Low GI, high in soluble fibre and a filling, tasty breakie option, teamed with natural yoghurt or low fat milk and a little vanilla essence or cinnamon and you cannot go wrong.
Fruit yoghurt to Greek yoghurt
Another popular choice of ‘health’ food, many are surprised to hear that a single 200g tub of fruit based yoghurt can contain up to 6 teaspoons of sugar! Without a doubt, the best choice of yoghurt nutritionally is natural or Greek style yoghurt which contains higher quantities of protein, significantly less sugar and calories without losing the positive nutritional properties of being a rich source of calcium, magnesium and low GI energy in the diet. If you prefer your yoghurt sweet, try adding a little fresh fruit, some vanilla essence or cinnamon to keep your added sugar intake low.
Vegetable oil to sesame oil
In the case of oils, vegetable based oils may sound like a healthy option compared to animal based fat and butter but the term ‘vegetable oil’ is generally used to describe a mix of different vegetable oils, a mix that often includes palm oil. Palm oil is a heavily saturated fat which is sourced relatively cheaply by food manufacturers which is the reason that it is frequently used to manufacture processed foods. Choose the healthiest oils simply by seeking out oils that describe their origin such as sesame, olive or rice bran oil to ensure you are getting the health benefits of each of these oils rather than a random mix of both good and bad fats.
Ice cream for gelato
Everyone wants to enjoy dessert occasionally and dessert lover will be pleased to hear that swapping from full fat ice cream which contains roughly 10% fat for gelato which can contain as little as 1% fat and 1/3 fewer calories than ice cream. Even better to know is that fruit based sorbets and gelato can have fewer calories again with as little as 60 calories per serve.
Cheddar cheese for cottage cheese
Regular hard cheese is a nutrient dense food choice but it is also relatively high in fat with a 30g serve of full fat cheese giving as much as 10-12g of fat. To reduce your fat intake but not lose the taste and nutritional benefits that cheese offers, try swapping to cottage cheese occasionally. Cottage cheese is high in protein, packed with key nutrients including calcium but a 30g serve gives less than 1g of fat.
Lollies for dark chocolate
When it comes to treats you can still make healthier options. Lollies of any type are simply just sugar that is easily over consumed and sends blood glucose levels through the roof without any positive nutritional properties. Dark chocolate on the other hand is a nutrient dense food offering antioxidants and more slowly digested energy. Portion control is naturally the key when it comes to any high fat food but a small 20-30g serve of dark chocolate is a million times better than lollies when it comes to enjoying a treat.