By Erin Heidenreich, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
Although it has been a few months since we made resolutions to be healthier in the New Year, remember that each time we eat is an opportunity for better health. This year, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s theme for March’s National Nutrition Month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” a reminder that we all have the tools to incorporate healthier foods into our daily lives.
Taking it just one meal or even one bite at a time can help us make progress toward healthier behaviors and habits for ourselves and our families. One easy way to make small changes is to swap out common ingredients with more nutrient-dense alternatives.
10 Easy Swaps that Make a Difference!
You may have heard of some of these swaps, or perhaps they are a little bit out of your comfort zone. Regardless, take the leap forward to try something new! Small steps in the right direction will make a big impact on your health.
Traditionally flavored yogurt -> SWAP FOR Plain yogurt with fruit
Flavoring your yogurt with whole fruit is a great way to decrease added sugars and increase antioxidants and fiber. Bonus: Try Greek yogurt to increase your protein intake.
Couscous -> SWAP FOR Quinoa
Try incorporating a whole grain superfood such as quinoa, which contains all nine essential amino acids, is high in fiber and naturally gluten free. Try it as a side dish or in a grain-based salad such as tabbouleh.
Bread Crumbs -> SWAP FOR Oatmeal
Coat your chicken with instant oatmeal for a crunchy crust or use oats to hold together meatloaf or meatballs. The high fiber content in oatmeal has been shown to decrease cholesterol and spikes in blood sugar.
Salt shaker -> SWAP FOR Fresh herbs
Try adding fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary or parsley to your dishes for a punch of flavor without the added sodium.
Croutons -> SWAP FOR Nuts and Seeds
Try using toasted almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds on your salad. Give it a crunch and a serving of healthy fats and fiber. Adding these healthy fats to your salad can help to better absorb the nutrients, specifically the fat-soluble vitamins from the fruit and vegetables.
Traditional Peanut Butter -> SWAP FOR Natural Peanut Butter
Traditional peanut butter contains added oils and sugars for taste and shelf stability. Skip the added ingredients and chose a natural peanut butter. Look at the ingredient label for a brand with just peanuts and salt. You won’t miss much on flavor but this simple swap will cut back on added sugars and unhealthy fats.
Soda -> SWAP FOR Seltzer
Keep the carbonation, lose the sugar. Purchase a flavored seltzer or add lemon juice for a refreshing drink.
Standard Soy Sauce -> SWAP FOR Low Sodium Soy Sauce
A simple swap that lowers your sodium intake can decrease your risk of heart disease. Use this option while cooking at home, or when eating out. Most restaurants have this option too — just ask!
Potato Chips -> SWAP FOR Air Popped Popcorn
Popcorn is a great low-fat, high-fiber snack. You can eat three cups of air-popped popcorn for less than 100 calories. Try adding different spices such as garlic, chili powder or cinnamon for unique flavors. Bonus: Try popping it at home using the whole corn kernels and an air popper.
Iceberg Lettuce -> SWAP FOR Dark Leafy Greens
To increase the nutrient density of your salad, pick darker leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach or kale, which are higher in iron, vitamin C and antioxidants. Romaine lettuce and spinach have a less bitter flavor than some dark leafy greens and are great to mix in with iceberg lettuce if you or your family members are hesitant to make a full switch.
Happy eating! Check out our healthy eating page to learn how Healthy Monadnock partners are working to make it easier for EVERYONE to make healthy choices in the places they live, learn, work and play.