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9 Smart, Creative Ingredient Swaps for Easier Healthy Eating

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By Carly Paige, NLC

Wondering how you can eat a little more empowered without totally changing your diet?

Healthy doesn’t have to be hard. I believe that simple changes can lead to big transformation when it comes to increasing energy, adding vibrancy to skin, and boosting health from the inside out. The key is making those small changes consistent.

RELATED: 3 Simple Health Hacks for Better Sleep

I’ve rounded up my top 10 favorite nutritious swaps that you can make on the fly and then start incorporating into your cooking on a regular basis. Each will get you plenty of (healthy) bang for your buck.

9 Smart Ingredient Swaps

Instead of: Half-and-half
Use: Coconut milk or cashew cream

If you’re looking to minimize dairy in your diet, swap heavy cream and half-and-half with full-fat coconut milk or cashew cream for a similar creamy texture that’s filled with healthy fats. Just remember to watch the portion size, since both are calorie-dense. Try it out with my recipe for Gnocchi with Basil Cashew Cream Sauce.

Instead of: Mayonnaise
Use: Tahini, hummus, or avocado

There’s nothing like a delicious scoop of chicken or tuna salad from the deli, but chances are that salad is mostly mayo. Make your own version at home and swap the mayo for tahini, hummus, or avocado, all of which provide a similar flavorful, creamy effect. Try it out with my recipe for “No Tuna” Chickpea Salad.

Instead of: Cheese
Use: Nutritional yeast

I love this “superfood” because it’s a fabulous source of B vitamins and has a nutty, cheese-like flavor. Sprinkle it on veggies, stir it into dressings, or use it in this recipe for 15-Minute Pumpkin Mac and Cheese.

RELATED: Can Cheese Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

ingredient swaps

Instead of: Sugar
Use: Cinnamon

Hear me out on this one. Sprinkle cinnamon into your morning cup of joe or on top of a warming bowl of oatmeal, and you won’t even miss the sweetness of sugar. The sweet spice adds yummy flavor without raising blood sugar levels, and it’s full of antioxidants.

Instead of: Brown sugar
Use: Coconut sugar

For baking, try using coconut sugar, which is a little nutty in flavor and is low-glycemic, meaning it won’t lead to as much of an energy crash. Try it out in this Cranberry Apple Crisp with Almond Crumble.

RELATED: A Guide to Sugar Substitutes

Instead of: White flour
Use: Equal parts almond and oat flour

All-purpose white flour is highly processed, which removes virtually all of its nutrients. A good substitute is equal parts almond flour (higher in protein and healthy fats!) and oat flour (higher in fiber!). Try it out in this gluten-free recipe for Superfood Chunky Monkey Banana Bread.

Instead of: Cocoa powder
Use: Cacao powder

Cocoa powder is processed with heat, destroying many of the natural nutrients of the cocoa bean along the way. Swap for raw cacao powder, which is processed via a cold-press method that allows the chocolate to retain its powerful antioxidants and other nutrients like iron. Maybe you’re interested in a Double Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie Muffins, for instance?

ingredient swaps

Instead of: Olive oil for roasting
Use: Avocado oil

This one isn’t an either-or scenario, since olive oil is about as healthy as it gets when it comes to nutrient-dense foods. When it comes to oils, though, mixing it up will add flavor and nutrient diversity to your diet. Avocado oil has a higher smoke point, so try using it for roasting (while keeping your olive oil for the saute pan).

Instead of: Eggs
Use: Flax eggs

Eggs are super healthy, so if they’re part of your diet, keep them in it! But if you’re trying to work more plant-based meals into your routine, try this swap: To make a flax egg, combine one tablespoon ground flaxseed with three tablespoons water in a small bowl. Set aside for a few minutes until gummy. See what flax eggs can do with this Moroccan-Spiced Cauliflower Quinoa Burger recipe.

(Photos: Shutterstock)


ingredient swapsCarly Paige is a Nutritious Life Certified health coach and cooking Instructor who is fiercely passionate about making health simple (both on and off your plate) to increase confidence and energy from within. She believes that healthy doesn’t have to be hard with the right tools, resources, and accountability. FitLiving Eats (both the website and coaching practice) aims to help guide others towards a more nutritious lifestyle through healthy recipes and sustainable habits. Check out Carly’s virtual kitchen at fitlivingeats.com and stay up-to-date by following her on Instagram at @fitlivingeats!

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