8 Healthy Swaps for Everyday Food and Drinks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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