September 17, 2018

Learning healthier eating and lifestyle habits can and should take time. Most people can’t just change everything about the way they eat all at once, and when they try doing it that way, they often don’t last more than a few weeks. That’s what we call being on a diet and I’m not interested in teaching you how to diet. I’m interested in teaching about how to make lifestyle changes. So today, I’m sharing 10 healthier foods to try instead.

Small changes are often the ones that wind up making the biggest difference. Little things, done with consistency and over time, can add up BIG. Try these healthier food swaps to move you towards those little changes that will payoff big.

10 Healthier Foods To Try Instead

1. Try this…nutritional yeast on top of pasta or salads instead of grated cheese | For anyone trying to cut back on dairy, nutritional yeast is my go-to ingredient when I want to sub in a cheesey flavor. Nutritional yeast is a vegetarian, dairy-free supplement and it’s high in both protein and fiber. It’s also rich in vitamin B12 and delivers a  cheesey flavor that I love. Try it on top of pasta dishes, egg or tofu scrambles, popcorn, roasted potatoes or any cooked veggie.

2. Try this…DIY salad dressing instead of store bought | Side step all the additives and unknown ingredients in store bought and mix up your own healthy and delicious salad dressing in a small mason jar with a lid. There are so many options for tasty homemade dressings, but here’s my favorite: 1 teaspoon tahini, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup, 2 tablespoons water, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, pinch of cayenne pepper and pinch of sea salt. Place all ingredients in a small mason jar with a lid and shake until emulsified.

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3. Try this…fruit for dessert instead of cookies or sweets | Fruit is full of nutrition, specifically fiber and powerful antioxidants. Most cookies and other store bought sweets are full of calories but are lacking in nutrition. If you’re like me and you have a sweet tooth, especially after a meal, try managing it in a healthier way with a small bowl of fruit. My favorites are fresh mango sprinkled with chipotle chili powder and a squeeze of lime juice, a frozen blended banana topped with cacao nibs or a bowl of mixed berries.

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4. Try this…homemade cashew milk instead of store bought | If you limit or avoid dairy in your diet, you’ve likely already discovered nut milks like almond or cashew milk. But did you know you can easily make your own at home? Many store-bought nut milks have loads of added ingredients like preservatives. Homemade nut milks are incredibly rich and creamy; once you make the switch, it’s hard to go back to the store bought variety. My favorite is homemade cashew milk because it’s so easy. Just soak 1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews overnight or at least for a few hours. Drain the water from the cashews and add them to a high speed blender along with 1 1/2 cups of fresh water. Blend on high for two or three minutes or until the cashew milk is creamy. No need to strain! Just store it in a covered mason jar in your refrigerator; it’ll last about a week.

5. Try this…an iced coffee with a splash of almond milk instead of a blended coffee milkshake | Blended coffee drinks from your favorite coffee shop are full of so many extra calories and sugar! If you’re ordering them sugar free and adding artificial sweeteners, it’s debatable whether that might even be an unhealthier choice (artificial sweeteners are known to upset gut health and cause digestive symptoms, among other things). It might take your taste buds a minute to make the switch, but next time try an iced coffee with a splash of almond milk (tip: I always pack my own homemade cashew milk when I head to a coffee shop). You’ll eventually get used to having your cold coffee drink without all the sugar, and your body will thank you.

6. Try this…black beans instead of chicken or meat | Even if you aren’t looking to go full-steam vegetarian or vegan, everyone knows that adding more plant based foods into your diet is a healthy habit for you, and it’s good for our planet, too. Doing at least one meat free day per week can add up hugely both for your health and for the environment. Black beans are a great replacement for chicken or meat. They’re full of protein but unlike chicken and meat, they’re also full of fiber which is great for gut health and for keeping you full and satisfied. If you are just introducing beans into your diet, you might experience some digestive symptoms (hello, gas) until your gut gets used to all the fiber beans provide. Start with about 1/2 cup as a serving and then build from there as your gut gets used to all the fiber.

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7. Try this…whole grains instead of crackers or bread | When I’m trying to lose weight, cutting back on processed foods is usually one of my first steps. Since bread is a processed food, that’s usually one of the first things to go, and I replace it with my favorite whole grains. I love a power bowl built around a scoop of cooked farro, quinoa or brown rice, and overnight oats are my favorite quick and easy whole grain breakfast option. Try swapping out your bread for whole grains for a week and watch how your body responds.

8. Try this…roasted sweet potatoes instead of potato chips | Sweet potatoes might be the most perfect food in the world, in my opinion. They are hearty and filling and my sweet tooth feels so satisfied after snacking on a handful of roasted sweet potato cubes. When we add more of nature’s naturally sweet foods into our diets, like cooked sweet potatoes and fruits, we tend to crave less processed and sugary foods. To perfectly roast sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scrub your sweet potatoes but leave the skins on (the Japanese yams are my favorite variety), and cut them into one inch cubes. Place a sheet of unbleached, chlorine-free parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the sweet potatoes on it and roast for about 25 minutes, watching closely. Stir with a wooden spoon and place back in the oven for about 10-15 more minutes, until fork tender. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and any other herbs you’d like.

9. Try this…sprouted grain english muffin instead of pizza crust | For those times when you are just craving a pizza, one of my favorite ways to make a healthier pizza option is to load up an Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain English muffin (these are minimally processed, and sprouted grains have more fiber and protein and are also easier on digestion) with a clean marinara sauce and any leftover cooked veggies I have on hand — mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, etc. A handful of fresh spinach or baby kale works great, too. Just pop the mini pizzas in the oven on 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. You can top it with cheese if you’d like, or to keep it dairy-free, top it with your new best friend, nutritional yeast.

10. Try this…a handful of mixed salad greens as a base for ANY meal | Any health expert will tell you that we all need more vegetables in our diets, and particular the leafy green ones. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, phytonutrients which give them their bright green coloring and many more nutrients. An easy way to get more of them in your diet is to start with a handful of leafy greens (romaine, mixed greens, spinach, arugula) as the base of every meal. If you do this with your lunch and dinner every day, you’re adding at least a serving if not two of leafy green veggies to both of those meals, adding up to two if not four extra leafy green servings a day. Having spaghetti or pasta for dinner? Put a handful of arugula or romaine in your serving bowl first and place the spaghetti or pasta on top. Having soup or chili for lunch? Place a handful of mixed salad greens in your serving bowl first and pour the soup or chili over the top. You won’t even taste them, and you’ll probably begin to enjoy the crunch that they add to your dishes.

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