17 Healthy Substitutions for a Healthy Diet

Christine Zalnieraite

2022 May 05

11 min read

When it comes to overall general health where there is no issue of a congenital or chronic condition, it would be fair to say that the vast majority of issues that people tend to experience over the course of their lives is related to their diet and the food they eat.

Common health issues such as obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes are all massively linked to the foods and nutrients (or lack of) that you are putting into your body every single day. And these issues are very common as statistics show:

  • More than 70 million adults in the USA are classed as obese (35 million women and 35 million men). A further 99 million are overweight (54 million men and 45 million women).
  • Over 37 million Americans have diabetes and in approximately 90-95% of them, it is type 2 diabetes.
  • 40% – 93 million – Americans have high levels of cholesterol.

If you have been told by a doctor or other healthcare professional that you need to start making changes to your lifestyle or you simply feel like the time is right to start taking your health more seriously, then your diet is the most obvious place to look.

The Basics

basic food substitutions

Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how difficult it can be. You can’t eat things you normally love and you need to cut down on portion size. You need to be conscious of every bite and understand more about the nutritional value of every food.

You need to start out with a positive mindset and that you can still enjoy a varied diet and maintain a good healthy balance of nutrition. The important thing to remember when trying to change your diet is the fact that healthy eating does not have to mean boring or flavorless eating. It isn’t all about fresh fruit and salad leaves.

The aim is to achieve a calorie deficit over a period of time – usually a day – and this can be done by building a healthy plate with the correct portions of the correct food groups, as well as controlling your snacking.

A tasty snack isn’t just the kinds of fatty, sugary, overly salty junk foods that you may have been tempted by too many times before. Healthy fats are just as tasty as the saturated fat that is found in junk food, And you can satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to sugar. it’s all about seeking out the products that are deemed to be healthier and more acceptable to nutritional experts.

One of the easiest things to start doing is making healthy substitutions for foods that aren’t necessarily classed as healthy or beneficial.

Here is a guide to some of the best food substitutions that you can make regularly without sacrificing any flavour or satisfaction. These simple food substitutions will not only bring with them plenty of health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, but they will also broaden your culinary horizons and introduce you to much more great food than you have been used to up to this point!

  1. Eat whole eggs not just the egg whites

One of the trendiest foods people quote for losing weight is egg white omelet. This is a low fat, low-calorie dish and it is so often quoted as being “diet food” because of this. However, there is so much more nutrition in the egg yolk. The yolk also contains a fat-fighting nutrient called choline, so you are much better off having whole eggs and cooking them in a healthy way like poaching or light scrambling them.

  1. Replace jam/jelly with mashed avocado

Instead of reaching for the sweet sugary jam to spread on your toast, swap things around and use some avocado. It obviously doesn’t replicate the flavours, but it is a massively healthy food swap that has a creamy texture and is packed full of healthy nutrients. It is easy to upgrade the flavor of avocado without adding calories. Try some hot sauce or mix in some taco seasoning. Look on Instagram for some amazing inspiration for ways to serve avocado toast.

  1. Replace cheese with fresh veggies

Instead of throwing cheese into an omelet, grab a handful of fresh vegetables and you automatically make your meal healthier with fewer calories. You don’t need us to tell just how important fresh fruit and vegetables are, not only for things like heart health but also for more fiber. For a cheesy flavor in other dishes, try adding some nutritional yeast flakes.

  1. Switch to a non-dairy milk

Organic whole milk is a hearty ingredient, but it contains too much fat for a truly healthy diet. Instead, try to experiment with some of the popular milk alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, peanut milk or any of the different types of milk that you will see on supermarket shelves these days. Almond milk is now so common that coffee chains usually offer it along with soya milk and most non-dairy milks can be used in the same way as dairy milk in everything from breakfast cereal to banana ice cream.

  1. Switch to brown bread

White bread is a classic that tastes nostalgic, but it really doesn’t have much nutritional value. The same can be said for white rice and brown rice. Nutrient deficient white rice and white bread don’t do anything for a good diet, but their whole-grain counterparts are simple food substitutions that can help a person to eat healthier. Avoid refined carbs in favor of good carbs.

  1. Choose low sodium soy sauce

Soy sauce is an easy way to make a bland rice recipe taste better, but it has a high salt content. A simple way to get around this is to opt for a low sodium version. Thankfully, these are very easy to find in supermarkets so you won’t have any trouble.

  1. Replace ground beef with ground turkey

Turkey is super low in calories, and it is also delicious when you know what to do with it! Red meat is one of the worst foods for heart health, so making the switch to turkey for things like homemade burgers and chilli can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

  1. Replace vegetable oil with olive oil

You would be surprised by how many calories there are in vegetable oil portions that aren’t that big. You can get around this by switching to olive oil in your cooking. You don’t need to use as much, and it is lower in calories to start with. A win/win situation with this food substitution! Also, where you can, use a spray oil. A little goes a long way.

  1. Decide on homemade salad dressing

If you look at the label of a supermarket salad bottled dressing, you will be amazed by how many unnecessary additives and things like excess sugar there are. Cut a lot of these calories out by making your own salad dressing at home. All you need to do is a quick Google search and you will find plenty of recipes that are only a few healthy ingredients but still pack a big flavour punch. When you make your own you control exactly what is included and avoid the added sugar and preservatives so common in processed foods.

  1. Replace burritos with bowls

If you love Mexican food, you can enjoy all the ingredients in a bow and forego the flour tortilla or corn tortilla. This way, you still get all of the valuable nutrients of the vegetables and rice, but without the calories of the nutrient-void white bread

  1. Make the switch to sweet potatoes

French fries are everyone’s guilty pleasure, but they don’t have to be quite so guilty if you choose to use sweet potatoes instead. They are much more nutritionally healthy because they are low on the glycemic index and also have an incredibly high vitamin A content. Sweet potatoes are just as tasty as mashed potatoes long as you avoid throwing in a knob of butter or some sour cream. A blob of Greek yogurt will work just as well to make a creamy mash. ,

Another potato switch that you can make is to cut out potato chips in favor of vegetable chips. Things like beets and parsnips make for great crunchy chips.

  1. Change your dairy habits

We have already spoken about making changes with the milk that you drink, but you should also look to make changes with your other dairy. Stay away from things like heavy cream and full fat cream cheese, and use low fat cheese options instead.

There are plenty to choose from on supermarket shelves. You also might want to consider switching to things like greek yogurt. There is more protein in plain greek yogurt than regular yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt can be a wonderfully healthy alternative to something like sour cream. All you need to do is add a few fresh herbs and spices to fill it with flavour.

Also with yogurts, be sure to check the label if you choose a fruit version, even if you opt for Greek yogurt. Sweetened fruit can significantly add to the calorie count.

  1. Be careful with your sauces

There are so many hidden calories in condiments and sauces, you don’t want to make a healthy meal full of things like dark leafy greens, zucchini noodles or cauliflower mash only to ruin it nutritionally with bad sauces.

Make sure that you pay attention to the labels and find tomato sauce that isn’t too sugary, for example. Unsweetened applesauce is also another great find.

  1. Always Choose Dark Chocolate

If you find that you can’t keep from craving chocolate, then at least make it a more acceptable craving by always opting for the dark chocolate. Things like dark chocolate chips are nutrionallty better than milk or white because they contain lots of antioxidants.

As food swaps go, swapping milk chocolate chips for dark one isn’t the worst thing in the world!

  1. Bake smart

Baking traditionally uses a lot of butter and sugar but you will find so many recipes for your favorite baked goods if you look online. For example, coconut oil, creamed coconut, apple sauce or mashed banana can be used instead of fat in many recipes. Wholegrain cereals can be a substitute for breadcrumbs. Greek yogurt can replace milk and oil. Honey or agave syrup can replace sugar and there are many lower calorie flour options than regular white flour. And did you know that garbanzo beans water (known as aquafaba) can substitute for egg whites?

  1. Try To Add Lots Of Flavour To Food Swaps

The number one complaint that people have when making food swaps is that the new versions don’t taste as good as the old versions. Do your best to make this a myth by adding lots of your own flavour into your food.

Things like lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, taco seasoning and chia seeds can really make a big difference. You are basically trying to replace the added sugar of the corn syrup that we have all become addicted to in junk food with ingredients that are much better for your heart health.

  1. Eat Meals That Are Good For Bone Health

Try to concentrate on your bone health by enjoying meals like chicken broth, lasagna noodles, garbanzo beans, a quick healthy stir fry, baked goods made with whole wheat flour (like a whole grain English muffin) and mashed bananas that have a lovely creamy texture.

  1. Focus On Portion Control

Once you have made all of these great food substitutions to get more fiber and nutrients into your diet, the next step is portion control. Make the effort to only have a few slices of pizza rather the whole thing, or cut your chicken tenders into thin strips rather than eating a whole basket etc.

Substitutions are about being smart. Try to set out to find new flavors to enjoy rather than trying to simply replicate the unhealthy foods you usually eat. Make clever swaps to improve your diet. Remember that you are making these food substitutions for the sake of your blood sugar and other health factors and when your blood sugar levels are normal, you are able to live a happy, normal life.

Written by

Christine Zalnieraite

Christine is a registered and licensed dietitian (RD, LD) with more than eight years of professional experience. Christine is an expert in dietetics that includes human nutrition and the regulation of the proper individual diet. She alters patient's nutrition based on their medical condition and individual needs. Education: Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Food Safety and two Bachelors of Science - Bachelor in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, and Human Nutrition and Food Safety. Also, she continues to deepen her knowledge in Ph.D. studies of Medical Science and Dietetics.

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