Food Swapping Made Easy

By: Stefanie Heath

Something I hear often is how difficult it is to start eating healthy. Like many, I grew up loving the traditional comfort meals and I considered myself a connoisseur in tacos, pizza and macaroni and cheese. As I became a young adult, I found myself not only busting my budget, but my waistline too.

When I started my journey to a healthier lifestyle, I quickly realized that I would need to unlearn many day-to-day behaviors if I wanted to make real change. This included learning new sustainable tactics for meal prep planning, grocery shopping and cooking at home.

One day, I came across an article that discussed the concept of “swapping.” It was at that time that I experienced my “A-HA” moment. I discovered that it was possible to enjoy my familiar favorite meals if I simply swapped out certain ingredients for healthier ones.

Swapping allows you to adapt recipes to suit your taste, time and budget. It’s also another effective way of incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet. With a majority of Americans still not eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, swapping becomes a fun and simple way to eat healthy!

Check out some of my “go to” swaps below!

Cauliflower:

Move over kale, there’s a new “it” vegetable in town. Cauliflower is popping up on home and restaurant menus across the country, and for good reasons. This cruciferous vegetable is cousin to broccoli and loaded with nutrient-dense properties like vitamins C, K and B6. It’s a natural source of fiber and contains antioxidants.

Swaps:

• Cauliflower rice instead of white rice

• Cauliflower buffalo “wings” instead of  chicken wings

• Cauliflower pizza crust instead of traditional pizza dough

Avocado:

Avocado sales have increased dramatically over the last decade and this fruit has a creamy texture that lends itself well for a variety of swaps. Known for containing the ‘good fat’, avocado has been regarded as beneficial to cardiovascular health. Avocado contains beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols that have been discovered to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Did you know avocado is great for eye health too? They contain two phytochemicals called lutein and zeaxanthin that can help minimize damage from ultraviolet light.

Swaps:

• Spread avocado on your sandwich instead of mayo

• Blend avocado in your smoothie instead of milk

• Puree avocado and dollop on your tacos instead of sour cream

Cashew:

This protein-packed nut has created a lot

of buzz in the food world lately. We’ve noticed that cashews are being used to dish up decadent cream sauces and as a meat substitute. When soaked for at least three hours (or boiled on the stove top for 20 minutes), cashew can be blended into a rich and creamy sauce. For your dairy-free family and friends, this magic nut is a game changer. An added bonus is that the cashew nut contains a host of nutrients such as iron, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium and zinc.

Swaps:

• Cashew cream for sauces instead of dairy  milk

• Chopped cashews and mushroom blend instead of beef taco meat

• Cashew parmesan instead of dairy par mesan

Beans:

Black, pinto, kidney, lentil and cannelloni are just a few beans we pass in the grocery store. I eat beans at least once a day and I love how I’m left feeling full and satisfied. Beans are a natural source protein and fiber among other nutrients. The American Heart Association promotes the power of beans to their consumers as a way to keep a healthy heart. The best part about beans is that you can easily sneak them into several recipes adding a punch of nutrition in each meal.

Swaps:

• Black beans in a burrito instead of chicken

• Lentils in chili instead of beef

• Garbanzo beans on a sandwich instead of tuna