When it comes to eating better/healthier, a lot of it starts at the grocery store. What you stock in your pantry and refrigerator lays a good foundation to your eating habits, which can translate to your overall health and wellness.
Here are 10 healthy ingredient swaps you can incorporate into your everyday life.
Use corn tortilla when possible : Corn tortilla is a great vehicle for meat, beans, and veggies, and salsa in a taco. Additionally, you can use corn tortilla for enchilada, tostada, oven baked corn chips and chilaquiles.
Corn tortillas are made with whole-grains compared to flour tortillas. Generally, corn tortilla is higher in fiber, lower in fat, and less calories (as they are smaller in size compared to flour tortillas).
Swap croutons with nuts, seeds, or chickpea “bacon bits”: Croutons adds a nice crunch to salads and soups. Instead of traditional croutons, why not switch things up with nuts, seeds, or chickpea “bacon bits” for added nutrients. You can also sprinkle nuts and seeds to your morning cereal, oatmeal, or trail mix.
Lentil and bean based pasta does have a bean/lentil aftertaste and can be tricky to cook with, esp if you are new. Other great alternatives are whole wheat and whole grain variety. The goal is to pick something that is less refined and nutritious in terms of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals…and something you enjoy!
Go for dark leafy greens for iceberg lettuce
Whether you are making a salad, saute, on a sandwich or a wrap - opt for dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, collard greens for the most nutritional bang. Comparatively, iceberg lettuce doesn’t have much nutritional value but if you are new to eating greens, iceberg lettuce perfect because of it’s mild, sweet flavor and a pleasant crunch.
Some of my favorite salad recipes:
Experiment more with plain, unflavored yogurt
Plain/unflavored yogurt is a nutritious and versatile food to keep on hand. They are both full of probiotics (good for you bacteria), protein and many other nutrients.
Comparatively, Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and has more protein but regular yogurt packs more calcium. They are also great to cook and bake with in the kitchen. I love using yogurt as a substitute for buttermilk and sour cream in salad dressings, dips, and toppings for tacos and chili. Make lightened up chicken or potato salad with yogurt instead of mayonnaise…or use yogurt in baked goods such as cake, muffins, and more.
Choose more low-sodium, reduced sodium canned products/broths
Canned products are very convenient to have on hand as they are economical, shelf stable, and versatile. I always keep some canned beans, broths, and canned tomatoes but opt for low-sodium and reduced sodium variety when possible.
Cook often with fresh and dried herbs/spices
Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, they also provide powerful antioxidants, and have a range of other health benefits. Fresh herbs are best added at the end of cooking or after cooking while dried herbs can be added earlier to better develop their flavor. Use herbs and spices in small quantities (or as needed) so they stay fresh and aromatic.
Seasoning blends and packets contain a lot of added sodium so always check the label before purchasing. Also, try making your own seasoning blend so have control on how much salt goes into the blend. Instead of garlic and onion salt, get garlic and onion powder and always season with salt and sugar to taste.
Hydrate with plain water, infused water, or sparkling water
I am not trying to be a sugar-police here but calories from sugary beverages adds up very quickly. Whether it’s soda, flavored beverage, cocktail, or coffee/tea drinks, be mindful of the amount of sugar in your beverage. Drinking sugar sweetened beverage is a big part of our social life and dining out but it just a habit/mindset.
It is okay to ask for water instead of soda when you order a combo meal (even if it’s cheaper to get soda sometimes)!
Stock up on sparkling water if you are into carbonated beverage, make infused water with lemon slices, cucumber, berries, mint etc. Carry a water bottle with you when possible.
Choose a healthy breakfast cereal
Cereal is a breakfast staple because it’s convenient, satisfying, and nourishing if chosen correctly. Look out for cereal that are high in fiber and protein without a lot of added sugars. Few things to look out for
No more than 10 grams of total sugar per serving on the nutrition label
At least 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein in each serving
Look for words like 100 percent whole wheat, wheat bran, or another variety like rye
Oats are inexpensive, nutritious, and versatile option for breakfast. If warm oatmeal isn’t your thing, maybe give yogurt parfait with granola and berries a try? Homemade granola is really easy to make and you can customize dried fruits, nuts, and spices to your liking.
Go Lean on Ground Meat
At the grocery store, you can buy ground meat/poultry based on fat content. For example, regular ground beef is 70 to 85 percent lean, which provides 13 grams of fat in three ounces of 70 percent lean ground beef. Lean ground beef is 90 to 95 percent lean providing 10 grams of fat in three ounces of 90 percent lean ground beef.
You can get up to 98% lean chicken and turkey, which is the leanest variety. Lean meat can be dry to cook with depending on the recipe. I like to grind my chicken when I have time with chicken breast and chicken thigh so it’s a good mix.