6 Food Swaps to Make ASAP for Healthier Eating

August 25th, 2015

The secret to a healthier diet? It’s all in the details. No need to surrender a love for everything deep fried. Have your fried chicken and eat it, too. Just ditch the canola oil.

Fortunately, many Americans are wising up and getting more conscious about making healthier choices than the ones we’ve become known for. It’s easier than people think. Here are six easy (and tasty) swaps to make to achieve a more wholesome diet.

Canola oil → pure olive or coconut oil

As it turns out, deep frying isn’t so unhealthy after all. In fact, according to Mark Sisson, it may even be healthier than pan frying with less oil. The bad news is canola oil is commonly used for frying at restaurants and in homes. This is not the best option since it’s highly processed, and the crop it comes from—rapeseed (no, not grapeseed)—is typically GMO and treated with pesticides. Opt for coconut oil when frying: it has anti-inflammatory effects and its medium-chain triglycerides can increase the body’s energy expenditure.

For a cheaper option, try pure olive oil. Although it has a reputation of not being ideal for frying, it’s quite the opposite—it has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit and can withstand ideal frying temperatures of about 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (it’s best to avoid extra virgin, which has a lower smoke point). Frying temperature matters—any lower than 350 degrees causes oil to seep into food and make it greasy, while higher temperatures could oxidize the oil and potentially form toxic substances.

Processed salad dressing → extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Opting for a salad can feel like a victory, but not so much when the luscious lettuce and veggies are drowning in a pool of store bought salad dressing. Even when dressings are labeled “light,” the flavor lost from cutting the fat is often compensated for with added sugars and sodium. Besides, healthy fats like olive oil can help the body to better absorb nutrients from the vegetables, so don’t shy away from them.

One brand of store bought Italian dressing weighs in at 109 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium per serving of two tablespoons, with 16 ingredients. Instead, try a mixture of two ingredients: One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, which has about 94 calories and 4 milligrams of sodium combined. This balsamic vinaigrette is especially sublime with tomatoes.

Sour cream → Greek yogurt

Okay, sour cream does taste good, but Greek yogurt wins! With its rich creaminess, subtly tart flavor, and probiotic super powers, it’s an excellent replacement for sour cream, which has 193 calories, 80 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of sugar per 100 grams, compared to Greek yogurt’s 87 calories, 47 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of sugar for the same serving size. Sure, Greek yogurt makes a tantalizing breakfast, but it can play an unexpected role in lieu of sour cream in dishes like baked potatoes and dip.

Fruit juice → fresh fruit

Why drink orange juice with additives when a whole orange has full nutrition plus fiber? In general, it’s more beneficial to eat a whole fruit rather than drinking it as juice. Getting plenty of dietary fiber can combat many diseases—even cancer.

Sugary cereal →  brown rice crisps

Eating a bowl of sugary cereal can easily turn into an everyday routine. But starting out each day with a bowl full of high-glycemic refined sugar can add up to obesity and diabetes. Instead, these cacao crisps are organic, vegan, gluten-free, and sweetened with low-glycemic coconut palm sugar, making it a healthy version of a famed crispy “rice” cereal.

Table salt → herbs

Adding sodium to a dish is definitely not the only option to amp up flavor. Using a melange of dried herbs can really take a dish to the next level. And some herbs even have medicinal qualities. Try mint and cilantro for a fresh taste, or sage and rosemary to add depth and savoriness. Feel free to experiment and have fun in the kitchen!

Photo credit: cobalt123 via Flickr

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Dana PobleteDana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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