Sometimes eating healthier is easier than you think! Simply swap in these 10 ingredients for 10 not-so-good-for-you foods, and clean eating will be a breeze.
Top 10 Healthy Ingredient Swaps
1. Cauliflower rice for processed grains
There’s nothing wrong with quinoa or whole-grain brown rice, but if you’re trying to avoid processed grains like white rice and white flour (and the gluten, too) and/or up your intake of veggies, cauliflower is the way to go. Plus, this detox-friendly, anti-inflammatory and low-cal veggie, like the other Brassica vegetables, has a ton of health benefits like vitamin C, vitamin K, protein, and minerals [source].
2. Avocado for mayo
Every sandwich or wrap needs something to moisten it and hold everything together, and the nutrient-dense avocado does the job just as well as mayo—but with the added benefit of omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber [source]. Hummus would work here, too!
3. Homemade nut butters for processed peanut butter
Many of us think of peanut butter as a health food and rely on it for easy sandwiches and quick snacks. But, perhaps because it’s been around forever, we don’t often look at its list of ingredients. Peanut butter can be totally fine in moderation, but try to stay away from store-bought versions that contain salt, lots of sugar, and various additives. Even better, make your own version of nut butters at home, so you can control what goes into it—and keep it clean!
4. Maple syrup for refined sugar
Obviously you don’t want to be guzzling gallons of the stuff (okay, that actually sounds kind of good), but a high-quality maple syrup can be a nutritionally beneficial substitute when you need to sweeten something. While sugar is highly processed and only provides simple carbs, maple syrup (the real stuff!) is considered a natural, unrefined food that has a lower glycemic index—meaning it makes less of a glucose impact by not spiking your blood sugar as much when it hits your bloodstream.
Maple sugar provides manganese, B vitamins, and antioxidants [source]. It still contains glucose, but at least there’s some goodness in there, too!
5. Coconut oil for butter or other oils
We’re pretty obsessed with coconut oil, and for good reason. Not only does it have a ton of beauty applications [source], it’s a superfood that can be subbed in for oil or butter in baking and sautéing.
The saturated fats found in coconut oil, which are medium chain triglycerides, are thought to be a little better for heart health when compared to other fats, especially butter [source]. (Although, like the glucose in maple syrup, you really want to minimize your daily intake of saturated fats.) It’s also a great alternative for those who don’t eat dairy.
6. Sweet potatoes for potatoes
Potatoes are actually good for you in moderation. It’s what you put on them that makes the difference for health and clean eating. But if you’re avoiding starches and want to get more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, sweet potatoes are the way to go.
7. Dark chocolate for milk chocolate
Chocolate’s goodness is corrupted by the sugar, milk, and additives in milk chocolate. Instead, opt for a high cacao-percentage dark chocolate that will provide minerals like magnesium, antioxidants, and healthier fats, fewer carbs, less sugar, and a little more fiber [source].
8. Infused water for fruit juice
We all know to drink more water, especially when we’re actively trying to eat clean. Water helps us flush out toxins and keeps our bodies functioning like they should; while beverages like fruit juice (even freshly squeezed) contain water, the sugar in them—even if it’s naturally occurring—usually isn’t worth it because the fruit fiber has been removed.
Instead of fruit juice, keep a carafe of fruit-infused water in the fridge to get the flavor and nutrients without the calories and sugar. Stick to eating the whole fruit or using it in a smoothie when you get your fruit fix. That way, you won’t get blood sugar spikes because you’re getting the fiber, too.
9. Spaghetti squash or zoodles for pasta
Everyone loves pasta, and some whole grain varieties aren’t necessarily bad for you, but more veggies is always a good thing—especially if you’re avoiding processed grains. Sub in spaghetti squash strands or zucchini noodles for a healthier spin on pasta, and top with marinara, pesto, olive oil, or balsamic vinegar.
10. Greek yogurt for yogurt or sour cream
The protein alone in Greek yogurt should be enough to make you a convert! Greek yogurt is slightly thicker and tangier than regular yogurt. If that bothers you, simply stir it up, add some fruit, a dash of honey, or maple syrup, and it’ll taste more familiar. I use plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on burrito bowls. You can sub it in for a snack or in cooking, creamy salad dressings, smoothies, and baking.22