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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Officials at the highest levels are discussing the possibility of caving in on controlling the coronavirus and instead letting it run rampant throughout the United States until we reach "herd immunity," the point where the virus effectively runs out of people to infect. More than 6,200 scientists, health professionals, and research organizations say this is inhumane and have signed a memorandum rejecting herd immunity as a legitimate strategy.
Herd Immunity’s Unacceptable Toll<p>Resumption of normal life in the United States under a herd immunity approach would result in an enormous death toll by all estimates. Former CDC director Tom Frieden <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tom-frieden-herd-immunity-wrong-solution-coronavirus/2020/10/16/acb4ae8a-0fe6-11eb-8074-0e943a91bf08_story.html" target="_blank">estimates</a> that another 500,000 people would have to die to achieve 60 percent herd immunity. "And that's the best-case scenario," Frieden wrote in a <em>Washington Post</em> op-ed. "The number of deaths to get there could be twice as high."</p><p>Frieden said that is the best-case scenario because no one really knows if the <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/herd-immunity-and-coronavirus/art-20486808" target="_blank">actual percentage needed</a> to see the virus peter out is to have it <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/521834-covid-19-vaccine-barriers-efficacy-availability-and-acceptability" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">infect</a> more like <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/08/31/herd-immunity-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">65, 70,</a> or even <a href="https://www.vox.com/21451282/herd-immunity-explained-covid-19-pandemic" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">75 percent</a> of the population. Even if immunity could be miraculously achieved at 50 percent, an estimate <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-020-00451-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">published</a> in <em>Nature Reviews Immunology</em> places the range of sacrifice somewhere between 500,000 and 2.1 million deaths.</p><p>That makes it little wonder that Anthony Fauci, the most respected scientist advising the Trump administration on the pandemic, called herd immunity for the coronavirus "total nonsense." Fauci is backed up by the likes of National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, who said herd immunity is a "dangerous" and "fringe" component of epidemiology. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Health <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/10/20/nation/scores-mass-scientists-doctors-sign-open-letter-against-herd-immunity-proposal/?outputType=amp" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called</a> herd immunity "junk science."</p><p>The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, <a href="https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---12-october-2020" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said this month</a> that the only acceptable form of "herd immunity" is achieved through vaccination. "Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it," the secretary general said. "Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic... Allowing a dangerous virus that we don't fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It's not an option."</p>
Herd Immunity Is the National De Facto Strategy<p>Somehow, none of that has culled herd immunity from being considered as a legitimate approach for fighting COVID-19. Rather, the Great Barrington Declaration has much in common with the Trump administration's approach to the coronavirus, which has led to more people dying from COVID-19 in the United States than in any other nation on Earth.</p><p>A de facto herd immunity approach is the only thing that can explain the push by governors of so many states to <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/derrick-jackson/the-push-to-relax-covid-19-protections-exposes-age-old-racial-wounds" target="_blank">reopen</a> bars, restaurants, beaches, bowling alleys, and gyms in states even as the virus has raged and case numbers have been increasing. It is the only thing that can explain the federal designation of meatpackers as essential workers and state demands that teachers go back into classrooms despite outbreaks and deaths related to those professions.</p><p>It also explains how so many of the nation's most respected scientific voices have been silenced. Despite the virus's current "uncontrolled spread" in 34 states and Puerto Rico, according to October 21 <a href="https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tracking</a> by CovidExistStrategy.org, the White House has pushed aside Fauci, Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.</p><p>In their place, the administration has handed the pandemic podium to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-den-of-dissent-inside-the-white-house-task-force-as-coronavirus-surges/2020/10/19/7ff8ee6a-0a6e-11eb-859b-f9c27abe638d_story.html?utm_campaign=wp_to_your_health&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_tyh&wpmk=1&pwapi_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJjb29raWVuYW1lIjoid3BfY3J0aWQiLCJpc3MiOiJDYXJ0YSIsImNvb2tpZXZhbHVlIjoiNWE1ZDQ3N2M5YmJjMGYyNmNiMTViMmI0IiwidGFnIjoiNWY4ZGZhZmQ5ZDJmZGEwZWZiNGViMzQyIiwidXJsIjoiaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cud2FzaGluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY29tL3BvbGl0aWNzL3RydW1wcy1kZW4tb2YtZGlzc2VudC1pbnNpZGUtdGhlLXdoaXRlLWhvdXNlLXRhc2stZm9yY2UtYXMtY29yb25hdmlydXMtc3VyZ2VzLzIwMjAvMTAvMTkvN2ZmOGVlNmEtMGE2ZS0xMWViLTg1OWItZjljMjdhYmU2MzhkX3N0b3J5Lmh0bWw_dXRtX2NhbXBhaWduPXdwX3RvX3lvdXJfaGVhbHRoJnV0bV9tZWRpdW09ZW1haWwmdXRtX3NvdXJjZT1uZXdzbGV0dGVyJndwaXNyYz1ubF90eWgmd3Btaz0xIn0.MyoXrwQD-PwWqdbb70_JfrI_fxHO0be_O_tpTTMXBgE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Scott Atlas</a>, a radiologist and conservative pundit with <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/derrick-jackson/public-wants-science-based-policies-for-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">no background</a> in infectious disease science or epidemiology in measuring disease prevalence. Inhumanely ignoring the more than half of U.S. adults having a pre-existing condition that could compromise them for COVID-19, he blithely praises herd immunity, <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/derrick-jackson/public-wants-science-based-policies-for-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">saying,</a> "We can allow a lot of people to get infected. Those who are not at risk to die or have a serious hospital-requiring illness, we should be fine with letting them get infected."</p><p>He <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/521688-birx-confronted-pence-about-atlas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pooh-poohs</a> expanded testing, saying, "you are destroying the workforce." Twitter recently took down one of Atlas's tweets for falsely claiming, "Masks work? NO" and then lying that the WHO says widespread mask use is "not supported." The first sentence of the WHO's <a href="https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">webpage</a> on masks says, "Masks are a key measure to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and save lives."</p><p>Atlas denies that the White House has a "wide-open strategy of achieving herd immunity." But there's little doubt that the White House is wide open to the idea. Last week, Atlas <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/trump-adviser-calls-nbc-town-hall-brazen-display-of-media-duplicity" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appeared</a> on Fox News <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-touts-document-calling-for-herd-immunity-approach-to-covid-19-crisis-11603051550" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to say</a> the thrust of the Great Barrington Declaration "is exactly aligned with the president." That was seconded by a senior administration official who <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/covid-herd-immunity/2020/10/10/3910251c-0a60-11eb-859b-f9c27abe638d_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told reporters</a> in a conference call that the Great Barrington Declaration "is endorsing what the president's policy has been for months."</p><p>The freezing out of scientists on the Coronavirus Task Force reached deep space levels this week (a metaphoric minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit), with multiple buckets of ice dumped on Fauci. Atlas diminished Fauci as "just one person" on the force, offering only a "limited approach." President Trump called Fauci a "disaster," <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-fauci-campaign-biden/2020/10/19/30b2fe58-1226-11eb-82af-864652063d61_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">claiming,</a> "People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong."</p>
Many Thousands of Lives Can Still Be Saved<p>Atlas's malpractice already merits his dismissal. He should be forced to step down because his disregard for science will surely lead to incalculable disaster if a herd immunity approach becomes official government policy. Calls for his ouster have already begun even from inside the task force. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-den-of-dissent-inside-the-white-house-task-force-as-coronavirus-surges/2020/10/19/7ff8ee6a-0a6e-11eb-859b-f9c27abe638d_story.html" target="_blank">According</a> to the <em>Washington Post</em>, Birx went to Vice President Mike Pence to suggest removing Atlas. All Pence reportedly did was ask Birx and Atlas to work out their problems on their own.</p><p>There is no time left for such discord within the task force and for discordant messages to come from the White House on how people should protect themselves from COVID-19. The thousands of scientists and public health professionals who signed the John Snow Memorandum say "it is critical to act decisively and urgently," to launch a "robust" response on the level of New Zealand, Vietnam, or Japan—all of which have shown success in containing the virus and keeping the numbers of cases and deaths relatively low.</p><p>The approach that has been proven effective starts with face coverings and social distancing and reducing the temptation we all will feel during the oncoming winter holidays to have extended family gatherings. Researchers from MIT and the Vancouver School of Economics <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.27.20115139v6.full.pdf" target="_blank">estimate</a> in a working paper that, if the United States had established a national mask mandate in mid-March, between 19,000 and 47,000 lives could have been saved by the end of May. Now that the nation's death toll approaches a quarter million lives lost, and is <a href="https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america?view=total-deaths&tab=trend" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">projected</a> to reach nearly 400,000 by February 1, according to the Institutes for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the institute estimates we could avoid 74,000 new deaths with universal mask use.</p><p>Importantly, masks protect others, including the most vulnerable among us. This week, the <em>Washington Post</em> reported how coronavirus outbreaks among college students partying in unmasked packs in LaCrosse, Wisconsin was found to have <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/21/la-crosse-wisconsin-covid-outbreak-nursing-home-deaths/?utm_campaign=wp_to_your_health&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_tyh&wpmk=1&pwapi_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJjb29raWVuYW1lIjoid3BfY3J0aWQiLCJpc3MiOiJDYXJ0YSIsImNvb2tpZXZhbHVlIjoiNWE1ZDQ3N2M5YmJjMGYyNmNiMTViMmI0IiwidGFnIjoiNWY5MWU3YjU5ZDJmZGEwZWZiNTE3OGNmIiwidXJsIjoiaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cud2FzaGluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY29tL2hlYWx0aC8yMDIwLzEwLzIxL2xhLWNyb3NzZS13aXNjb25zaW4tY292aWQtb3V0YnJlYWstbnVyc2luZy1ob21lLWRlYXRocy8_dXRtX2NhbXBhaWduPXdwX3RvX3lvdXJfaGVhbHRoJnV0bV9tZWRpdW09ZW1haWwmdXRtX3NvdXJjZT1uZXdzbGV0dGVyJndwaXNyYz1ubF90eWgmd3Btaz0xIn0.6Ep-AvkJkNqGTE08UsekVlNWR01vYzQe-qg5BPruSQM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">led to 19 deaths so far of people over the age of 60</a>. Before that, the city had gone without a single pandemic death in its nursing homes.</p><p>That is on the heels of the wedding in Millinocket, Maine that resulted in an outbreak that <a href="https://bangordailynews.com/2020/09/19/news/eight-deaths-now-tied-to-millinocket-area-wedding-outbreak-including-seven-at-nursing-home/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">killed eight elderly people</a>, none of whom attended the event, and the 500,000-person Sturgis, South Dakota motorcycle rally that is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/17/sturgis-rally-spread/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">now tied</a> to the massive coronavirus outbreak in the Upper Midwest and Mountain States. The Germain IZA Institute of Labor Economics estimates that the illness generated from the rally <a href="https://www.iza.org/publications/dp/13670/the-contagion-externality-of-a-superspreading-event-the-sturgis-motorcycle-rally-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will cost</a> the nation $12.2 billion in health care costs.</p><p>Atlas and the proponents of the Great Barrington Declaration have not yet said why this is just fine. That is why they must be unmasked for the charlatans that they are.</p>
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