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Ridiculously Easy Food Swaps for a Healthier Lifestyle

posted: 02/23/17
by: Blythe Copeland
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"Eating healthy" can feel like a vague, overwhelming, and nearly impossible goal -- until you break it down into small steps. One simple swap: Choose whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and wheat wraps instead of lower fiber white bread versions. Study up on nutrition labels, so you can accurately judge which products are best for your family (are you focusing on lowering fat, moving away from artificial sweeteners, or buying organic?). And then make these five other super-simple swaps to jump start your healthy eating plan.

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Whole, fresh fruit is one of the easiest and most versatile swaps you can make across a variety of meals and recipes. Use strawberries in place of a sprinkle of sugar on your morning cereal, blueberries instead of chocolate chips in pancakes, and apples topped with cheese or peanut butter (instead of crackers) as an afternoon snack. Grab an orange or an apple instead of juice -- the whole fruit version has more fiber and a lot less sugar -- and replace your nightly scoop of ice cream with raspberries and whipped cream (look for a canned version made with real cream and minimal sugar).

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Having trouble giving up your soda or sweet tea habit? Work on replacing regular or diet versions with sparkling water or seltzer. Adjusting to the taste of a sugarless drink can take some time, but cutting the sweetener can save you hundreds of calories with each drink. Seltzer and flavored sparkling water also work as a tasty fizzy base for homemade cocktails, and even tweaking them with a splash of juice is better than a traditional soda. (Try mixing half a glass of seltzer with a little lemonade, and using frozen raspberries as pretty, tasty ice cubes.)

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If yogurt is already part of your daily menu, choose healthier options by switching to low-fat from whole milk, or choosing plain instead of artificially sweetened. Plain Greek yogurt also works as a stand-in for sour cream on baked potatoes, in dips, or in baked goods, adding a tangy taste without sacrificing the thick, rich qualities of sour cream. Mix cereal and bananas with yogurt instead of milk for a protein-rich parfait, or top it with mini chocolate chips and a swirl of melted peanut butter for an indulgent-tasting dessert.

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Ground meat isn't an unhealthy food, of course, but if you're using fattier ground beef -- instead of leaner versions, or ground turkey or chicken -- you can cut the fat content of your meal while sneaking in extra nutrition by adding diced or shredded veggies. Use half as much ground beef as you usually would in meatloaf, pasta sauce, or lasagna, and replace the rest with carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers (or a mix of your other favorite vegetables); add black beans to taco filling or burger. (Bonus: This will stretch your grocery budget further, too.)

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Trying to cut back on sugar and salt? Turn to your spice cabinet, where savory herbs and spices can give your food more flavor without the calories and sodium. Add pumpkin pie spice and canned pumpkin to baked oatmeal, nutmeg and vanilla to French toast instead of syrup, and cinnamon to coffee. Trade sodium-heavy seasoning packets that come in your favorite rice mixes or meal kits for your own blends of fajita, chili, creole, dry rub, cajun, herb mix, or poultry seasonings. And replace store-bought salad dressings with fast and simple DIY versions based on olive oil, vinegars, and other pantry staples.