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8 Healthy Swaps for Everyday Food and Drinks

Health + Wellness
Kale chips. Jarvna / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Sugary cereals, white bread, soda, granola bars, and energy drinks are examples of foods and beverages that many people consume daily.


Although these items may be convenient and tasty, they can harm your health if consumed regularly.

Fortunately, healthier substitutes for many of these items are easy to buy or make at home.

Here are 8 healthy swaps for everyday food and drinks.

1. Coffee Creamer

Creamer gives coffee a smooth, sweet taste and comes in a variety of scrumptious flavors, such as pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha.

Yet, it's typically packed with added sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup — a sweetener linked to several negative health effects like an increased risk of weight gain.

Plus, many coffee creamers contain artificial colors, preservatives, and thickeners like carrageenan.

Substitutes are surprisingly easy to make.

For a dairy-free, limited-ingredient creamer alternative that's low in added sugar, use this simple but delicious recipe:

  • One 13.5-ounce (400-ml) can of whole or reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract

Simply place the ingredients in a bottle or glass mason jar and shake well. Keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze in ice cube trays for long-term storage.

If you want to experiment with other flavors, try adding a dash of cinnamon or coconut extract. For a seasonal twist, add a spoonful of pumpkin purée and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice.

Shake your creamer well before using it.

2. Soda

The negative health effects of soda and other sugary beverages have been confirmed through years of scientific research.

For example, soda is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of symptoms that include high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar.

Although many people think that switching to diet soda is the best option, it may also increase your risk of conditions like metabolic syndrome and stroke.

If you drink soda regularly, consider trying these other fizzy drinks instead:

  • Infused sparkling water. Toss slices of your favorite fruits into a bottle of sparkling water for a flavorful, healthy soda substitute.
  • Sparkling green tea. If you're craving a caffeine fix, sparkling green tea brands like SOUND or Minna contain far less sugar than soda. You can also make your own using this recipe.
  • Kombucha. For a kick of subtle sweetness with the added health benefits of probiotics, grab a low sugar kombucha. Brew Dr.'s Clear Mind and Ginger Turmeric flavors contain only 10 grams of sugar per 14-ounce (415-ml) serving.

Keep in mind that plain water is your best bet for staying hydrated throughout the day.

3. Sugary Cereal

A bowl of cereal is a staple breakfast for many people. While some options are better than others, most cereals tend to be high in sugar and low in filling macronutrients like protein and fiber.

What's more, sugary cereals marketed to children are often packed with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial food dyes like Red 40 — which may be associated with behavioral issues in sensitive children.

For a healthier alternative, choose one of the following high protein, high fiber breakfasts:

  • Oatmeal. Oatmeal is a natural cereal alternative that's high in fiber and protein. Try to use plain, rolled, or steel-cut oats and nutritious toppings like berries, nuts, unsweetened coconut, and nut butter.
  • Chia pudding. For a slightly sweet but fiber-packed meal that's kid-friendly, try this delicious, high protein chia pudding recipe.
  • Yogurt parfait. Layer whole or 2% plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries, unsweetened coconut, and crushed almonds for a filling breakfast option.

What's more, homemade muesli or granola recipes are easy to find online.

4. Granola Bars

Granola bars are a go-to snack choice for many people. Yet, most popular granola bars are filled with added sugars and other sweet ingredients, such as chocolate chips or candy coatings.

All the same, several brands manufacture healthy choices. Thunderbird, RX, Purely Elizabeth, and Autumn's Gold granola bars are a few examples that use whole foods and pack plenty of protein and fiber.

Additionally, you can try out a homemade granola bar recipe, such as this one. It's low in added sugar and uses healthy ingredients like nuts, oats, seeds, coconut, and dried fruit.

5. Energy Drinks 

People seeking a quick boost to power them through their day often turn to energy drinks.

While these drinks can increase concentration and focus, most harbor massive amounts of added sugar and stimulants. If consumed in excess, these beverages may cause several health issues, such as rapid heartbeat and kidney damage.

Many unsweetened, caffeinated beverages make excellent stand-ins for energy drinks, perking you up without unwanted side effects.

These include green tea, black tea, oolong tea, yerba mate, and coffee.

In fact, they may offer other benefits as well. For example, green tea is packed with antioxidants that may boost heart health and help lower blood sugar levels.

To stay alert and focused, you can also make other lifestyle changes, such as getting more sleep, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress. This way, you won't have to rely on stimulants.

6. Chips

With their salty taste and crunchy texture, chips are a highly satisfying snack.

However, fresh, sliced vegetables like cucumber, carrots, celery, radishes, and daikon also provide a satisfying crunch. What's more, they're loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Pair your veggies with a nutrient-dense dip like guacamole, hummus, or black bean dip for a filling, flavorful snack.

Here are a few more healthy chip substitutes:

  • Kale chips. Low in calories but packed with nutrients, kale chips come in various flavors. You can also make your own cheesy kale chips by following this recipe.
  • Beet chips. Beets are brightly colored vegetables that offer several benefits, such as reducing inflammation and boosting heart health. They're delicious when made into nutrient-dense, crunchy chips.
  • Roasted chickpeas. Chickpeas are loaded with fiber and magnesium — a mineral that's important for blood sugar control and nerve function. Follow this recipe to make crispy chickpeas for a perfect chip alternative.

You can also make plantains, zucchinis, parsnips, eggplant, carrots, and radishes into nutritious chips in the oven.

Additionally, by roasting thin slices of potato or sweet potato, you can craft a healthier alternative to store-bought potato chips, which are often high in calories, oils, and salt.

7. White Bread 

Lots of people prefer the soft, pillowy texture of white bread over heartier breads like whole wheat or rye. Yet, like all refined grain products, white bread offers little nutritional value, as it's low in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

As such, swapping it with more nutritious options can improve your health.

If you're looking for a healthier bread, choose a whole grain, sprouted type, such as Ezekiel bread. It's high in protein and fiber, and the sprouting process may increase the availability of certain nutrients and reduce the bread's effect on your blood sugar levels.

Plus, you can choose from many delicious, grain-free alternatives, including:

  • Sweet potato toast. Thin, toasted slices of sweet potato make an excellent substitute for white bread. Sweet potato toast is not only highly nutritious but also versatile, as it can be topped with almost any ingredient.
  • Swiss chard or lettuce wraps. Wrapping sandwich ingredients in a leaf of Swiss chard or romaine lettuce can significantly reduce your calorie intake. Plus, these leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Portobello mushroom caps. Portobello mushrooms are packed with nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, and selenium. Furthermore, they're low in calories.

Butternut squash toast, cauliflower bread, flax bread, and 100% rye bread are other healthy options that you can use in place of white bread.

8. Candy

Enjoying an occasional sweet treat is perfectly healthy. Nonetheless, eating sugary foods like candy too often can increase your risk of conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Still, it's easy to buy or make numerous naturally sweet candy alternatives. These include:

  • Dried fruit. Dried fruits are a concentrated source of sweetness that deliver more nutritional value than candy. Try swapping candy with small amounts of unsweetened dried strawberries, mango, or apples.
  • Energy balls. Homemade energy balls pack a wealth of nutrients. Try this recipe, which balances sweet ingredients with protein-rich ones.
  • Dark-chocolate-covered fruit. Dunking naturally sweet foods like banana slices or strawberries into antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is another healthy way to satisfy your candy cravings.

Smoothies, yogurt parfaits, and fresh fruit with nut butter are some other healthy options if you're looking to cut back on candy.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, making healthy swaps for everyday foods and beverages can be simple and delicious.

Plus, reducing your intake of calorie rich, nutrient poor items by choosing more whole foods can significantly improve your overall health.

Try out some of the tasty alternatives listed above when you're craving a snack or prepping your next meal.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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