There’s so much more to food than calories—carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, all of which play important roles in our health. But it’s a well known fact our bodies only need a certain number of calories each day, therefore it’s important to get the most nutrients we can from the foods we eat. As a lover of everything from cheeseburgers burgers to kale salads, I’m always on the lookout for simple food swaps that give me more nutritional bang for my buck—whether that’s cutting calories, upping protein, or getting in some extra B-vitamins. To help you do the same, here are 10 of my favorite simple substitutions for healthier eating:
1. Instead of using butter in baked goods… Use avocado Avocados can increase the nutritional value of baked goods by contributing nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, along with heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Avocados work particularly well in cookie, cake, and muffin recipes in one-to-one substitution for butter.
2. Instead of white rice… Use brown rice Milling and polishing brown rice to make it white removes most of the B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, and all of the fiber. In addition to providing more nutrients, brown rice is slower to digest, which is better for your blood sugar.
3. Instead of traditional bread crumbs… Use Panko bread crumbs Panko varieties are crispier and contain less sodium and fewer calories. When pan-frying, these also seem to soak up less cooking oil than the traditional types.
4. Instead of sour cream… Use plain Greek yogurt Add a dollop to tacos and baked potatoes, or use it as a base for a creamy dip. Greek yogurt will provide the same creamy, tangy goodness with significantly more protein and less fat than sour cream.
5. Instead of potato chips… Choose vegetable chips Ounce-for-ounce, root vegetable chips have more fiber and vitamins than standard potato chips. Just keep in mind they provide about the same calories and fat so enjoy them in moderation.
6. Instead of croutons… Sprinkle roasted chickpeas on your salad Crutons add little more than empty carbs and calories to a bowl of greens, and packaged varieties typically contain additives, like preservatives and flavorings. Homemade roasted chickpeas are packed with protein and fiber, contain less fat and fewer calories, and are great to have on hand if you like a salad with crunch.
7. Instead of a hamburger bun… Use a 100% whole grain deli flat Also referred to as “deli thins”, these slim buns will give you the satisfaction of biting into a juicy burger with fewer calories and refined carbohydrates. If you can’t find them in the grocery store, you can make your own by slicing off some of the “fluff” from a standard burger bun.
8. Instead of a bagel… Grab a 100% whole wheat english muffin Or try two thin slices of pumpernickel toast. These alternatives mean fewer calories and refined carbs and more nutrients from whole grains. I highly recommend topping them with a pice of smoked salmon, a little cream cheese, and capers for a healthier version of bagels with lox.
9. Instead of milk chocolate… Have dark chocolate Touted for containing more health-boosting antioxidants, dark chocolate also has about half the sugar of it’s lighter counterpart, and it will still satisfy your sweet tooth.
10. Instead of granola and milk… Have plain yogurt topped with granola Crunchy and sweet, granola makes a better yogurt topping than cereal when you’re counting calories. Granola is typically made with honey, maple syrup, or other types of added sugar, and you’ll use less if you sprinkle it over yogurt. And compared moo-juice, yogurt contains 5 more grams of protein per cup, which will keep you satiated longer.