15 food swaps for better health

Do you feel excited about making a New Year’s resolution on January 1st, only to find yourself losing interest as the weeks go by – only to give up entirely by February?

Relax, you’re not alone. Studies show it actually takes 66 days to form a habit, such as eating fruit at lunch or running for 15 minutes a day.

There are many ways to break a habit but research shows that it’s easier to start something new rather than stop cold turkey. In other words, you need to replace that habit with a more positive one.
 

FOOD SWAPS FOR HEALTHY EATING 

If one of your goals for this year is health and nutrition related, then our dietitians have got you covered. From weight loss to lowering your cholesterol, no matter your health goal, there are some simple and clever food swaps that you can easily factor into your everyday routine until it becomes a habit.

1. GUT HEALTH
Research continues to discover the benefits of a well-balanced gut microbiome, linking happy gut bugs to everything from mood to weight loss. Looking after your gut does not require expensive probiotics or prebiotics. A quick and easy budget friendly food fix is to simply swap from refined grains to wholegrains. The fibres in wholegrains provide both probiotics and prebiotics to create a diverse gut microbiota, which is what you need for good gut health. Legumes are also important for our healthy gut bugs.
 
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Food swap tips:
  • Instead of white pasta and rice go for wholemeal, wholegrain or legume varieties.
  • Try swapping meat for legumes several times a week or more
  • Choose high-fibre alternatives in some food. For example try making your own wholegrain pizza base, or substitute with wholegrain pita bread

2. JOINT HEALTH 
If those niggly aches and pains are getting you down, the good news is your diet can make a big difference to your joints. Your best bet to help reduce inflammation in your body is to eat more plants, especially those that contain omega-3. Omega-3 has been shown to reduce signs of chronic inflammation. Plant-based sources include walnuts, chia, hemp and flax seeds.

Food swap tips:
  • Swap creamy salad dressings for a homemade dressing based on extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • Include a tablespoon or two of high fibre chia seeds, hemp seeds or ground flax seeds instead of bran
  • Pack a small zip-lock bag of unsalted nuts, seeds and dried fruits (dates, apricots, apples) for a healthy snack on the go, instead of biscuits or cake

3. BRAIN HEALTH
Keen to nourish your noggin? Avoid junk food as research indicates it essentially shrinks your brain. On the flip side, eating more plant foods helps us grow new brain cells which enhances learning and memory. Brain foods to add to the shopping trolley include plenty of colourful fruits (especially berries) and dark green vegetables, nuts (especially walnuts), and seeds (chia, flax, hemp).

Food swap tips:
  • Go for a side of salad instead of fries at your favourite restaurant—ask for dressing on the side
  • Top your breakfast cereal with sweet blueberries or raspberries instead of honey or brown sugar
  • If you are on the run, look for healthier take-away options like brown rice sushi (pass up on the tempura/deep-fried options), wholegrain pitas/wraps, or stir-fries with loads of veggies

4. CHOLESTEROL
When it comes to cholesterol lowering, the most effective dietary strategies are to replace saturated and trans fats (bad fats) with unsaturated fats (healthy fats), and increase your intake of plant sterols. It’s well documented that plant sterols can stop cholesterol from being absorbed by our bodies but what foods contain them?

Food swap tips:
  • For snacking swap a packet of chips for unsalted raw nuts or a piece of fruit
  • For spreads, instead of butter choose avocado, hummus, tahini or peanut butter
  • When garnishing soups and curries, or topping nachos, swap sour cream for reduced-fat Greek yoghurt

5. WEIGHT LOSS
If losing a couple of kilos is your goal, rather than obsessing about what to cut out, focus on crowding your plate with fresh, colourful plant foods. It’s a quick trick that doesn’t require a lot of thinking and naturally reduces the highly processed foods you may be eating.

Food swap tips:
  • On pasta, swap creamy or cheesy sauces for tomato or vegetable based sauces
  • Drink water instead of soft drinks and fruit juice and try substituting full cream dairy milk with soy or almond varieties with no added sugar. Plant based milks typically have less fat and kilojoules and are usually fortified with calcium so you don't miss out on this important nutrient.
  • In recipes, try using a natural sweetener instead of sugar. Most of them have no kilojoules and you need much less to get a similar sweet taste. 

Looking to eat more plant-based meals in 2020? Check out So Good’s 28 Day Challenge; a free guide full of delicious and nutritious weekly recipe ideas, tips to support your physical and mental wellbeing and helpful templates to make it easy for you to track your plant-based journey. Find out more.

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