Substitutes for Unhealthy Food

This article is the last issue of the series on healthy food habits. Click here to read the fourth issue:Building a Healthy Lifestyle third issue: The Rise of Organic Food  , the second issue: The Importance of a Healthy Life  and the first issue: Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Consuming healthy food that provides the right amount of nutrition in every single meal could be a challenge. With the need of balancing several personal and professional commitments, remembering to eat right might seem like an impossible task. However, replacing some of the regular pantry staples with their healthier counterparts could provide a butterfly effect in switching to a healthy lifestyle. Junk foods are preferred due to a variety of reasons– they are easier to cook and tastier to eat. However, keeping healthier food swaps can make life easier. One thing that comes to the mind as soon as we think of healthy food options is the fear of missing out on the delectable aspect of the cuisines. A myth buster to this idea could be the fact that some of the correct food swaps could end up being even more flavourful than the more preferred unhealthy alternatives. Another key myth buster for the mantra to a healthy lifestyle is that it does not essentially mean eliminating certain favourites. Balancing the diet and opting for healthier alternative more often can go a long way in building better habits that lead to a better lifestyle.

A few common myth-busters and enlightening ideas for the switch to a healthier lifestyle by swapping junk food with healthy food substitutes could be the following ideas. White rice might not be essentially unhealthy but it is indeed high in calorie and carbs content as compared to quinoa. In addition to having a lower carb and calorie intake, quinoa benefits the body by providing an additional boost of minerals like iron, zinc, proteins and fiber. Quinoa belongs to the same biological family as beets and spinach. The parent plant of it is goosefoot, and it is actually a seed with added qualities like that of a grain. The most surprising aspect of this replacement is that it is a tastier substitute to rice and fits into the category of being cooked as multiple dishes. Looking into its nutritional aspect, a cooked cup of about 8 ounces of quinoa offers 8 grams of protein to the body. In addition to that, it provides a high fiber content of 5 grams per cup. Another essential contribution of quinoa to the body is that it provides essential minerals like zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Slow cooked vegetarian quinoa soup and quinoa meatballs could be delectable recipes for this superfood substitute for rice.

The replacement of butter, ghee and vegetable oil with coconut oil is a switch that can change one’s food habits for the better. However, this replacement would not make a significant difference if the cumulative calorie intake is unexamined. Majority of fats and oils contribute to 100-200 calories per tablespoon. Coconut oil has an upper-hand in providing a more nutritious meal because of its “medium-chain triglycerides” (MCT) that provides energy faster by metabolizing food faster. Substituting sour cream with Greek yogurt is a known healthy mantra. Further, since both these products taste almost the same,  replacing sour cream with flavoured Greek yogurt while having tacos would not even make the slightest difference. The benefits of Greek yogurt are many. It is high in probiotic content that contains good bacteria that aids in better digestion and improves immunity to foreign antibodies. It also contains a high quantity of protein that is a must in a nutritious meal.

Substituting one’s favourite potato chips with popcorn would not be an unwise decision for health-freaks. Popcorn has rightly earned the title of the healthiest snack in the world. 4.5 cups of popcorns that have been air-popped would contain lesser calories than a single-serving of potato chips as they contain only 31 calories in a cup. A single serving of potato chips of about 28 grams would contain 149 calories, about 15 grams of carbohydrates and 9.5 grams of fat. Replacing chips with popcorn would not mean missing out on delectable snacking option as popcorns can be easily customized into one’s favourite flavours with a power packed boost of fiber and proteins. Replacing croutons with almonds could be another wise decision. Almonds are packed with nutrition, 13 minerals and vitamins containing magnesium, potassium calcium, vitamin E, proteins and fiber.

Replacement of staple food with substitutes could be a game-changer in the switch to a nutritious and balanced diet. Replacement of flour with whole wheat flour or coconut flour is a globally chosen flour alternative. As compared to several other nut-flours available in the marker, coconut flour is a low-carb alternative that contains 11 times the fiber that is there in wheat flour and also contains much higher quantity of proteins. The texture of coconut flour is breezy, lighter and that makes it an amazing substrate for baking and pastry-making.

Switching from sugar to plant-based sugar alternative called Stevia could be yet another option to add to the list of healthy sweeteners. It is a health secret from the 16th century and has been used in tea ever since. Stevia is 200-300 times sweeter as compared to granulated sugar available in the market so the dosage that one adds to coffee, oatmeal, tea while using it is drastically reduced. The most surprising fact about Stevia is that it does not contain nearly as many calories as does sugar.

The replacement of table salt with Himalayan pink salt is yet another known healthy alternative. The source for the above mentioned is from a seabed near the Himalayas from where it is mined. Apart from containing regular amounts of sodium chloride, it also contains 84 trace minerals and elements. Also, it undergoes lesser amount of processing than our regular table salt does and has larger crystals with lesser sodium content per tea-spoon with a saltier taste.

Substituting chocolate chips with cocoa nibs could be a delectable switch and also healthy at the same time. Cocoa nibs contain antioxidants, minerals like iron, magnesium, fibers, and function as mood-lifters and cognitive memory improvers. Replacement of mayonnaise with mustard and Ranch dressing with olive oil and vinegar are yet another alternative healthy salad dressing options. Mustard, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are all low calorie options.

Swapping processed and preserved peanut butter with untreated almond butter and milk with almond milk could go a long way in promoting a nutritious yet healthy lifestyle. Presence of hydrogenated vegetable oils and high calorie sugar in peanut butter might not seem the best option as opposed to a more nutritious unprocessed almond butter. Moreover, almond butter is packed with minerals, vitamins, fiber and less amount of saturated fats and sugar in each serving. Similarly, changing from soda to tea and sports drink to coconut water are age-old healthy beverage options. Market-available soda has about 37 grams of added sugar amounts and 155 calories in a 12 ounce cup with almost zero nutritional value. A cup of tea that would be packed with anti-oxidants would be a healthier option to quench one’s thirst as compared to soda that reportedly causes weak teeth, bones and causes heart health issues at the same time.

Changing one’s diet all at once might seem like an impossible task but taking one step at a time in substituting unhealthy diet elements with better tasting healthy options could act as an incentive to take a step in enforcing the healthy mantras in one’s lifestyle.

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