Eat Better for the New Year: 7 Healthy Food Swaps

With New Year’s approaching, it’s time to start thinking about our resolutions. Even if your goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s never too late to start leading a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. By swapping out some of your usual foods for healthier options, you can save a boatload on harmful fats and sugars found in our favorite foods. Start the New Year feeling better and having the energy to perform your best by making these healthy food swaps. Not to mention, these swaps are easy to incorporate into a meal plan. You can eat healthier, while still making your taste buds happy.

1. Swap margarine for butter

Butter, margarine

Source: iStock

Butter has gotten a bad rap for its high fat content in the past, so margarine was made in a lab as a “healthier alternative” to butter, which has been a dietary staple for centuries. But margarine actually is a highly processed food whose primary ingredient is vegetable oil, as well as emulsifiers, colorants, and other artificial ingredients. These artificial ingredients can be highly toxic to our bodies and digestive tracts. Even though margarine is lower in fat, it is “chemical gunk.”

2. Swap sour cream for Greek yogurt

These foods both have similar consistencies and taste, yet Greek yogurt is a far better option than sour cream. Why? One cup of Greek yogurt has 133 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 8 grams of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of reduced-fat sour cream has 416 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates. In addition, Greek yogurt contains 71% of your daily allowance of B-12 and half of your daily recommended protein. Even if you’re using smaller amounts than 1 cup, Greek yogurt has lower fat, higher protein, less sugar, and higher vitamin content compared to sour cream.

3. Swap rice for quinoa

white quinoa

Source: iStock

Even if you are eating brown rice, which is far healthier than white rice, quinoa still surpasses both in the fight for the healthiest grain. One cup of brown rice contains 14 grams of fiber, while quinoa has 21 grams, keeping you fuller for longer. One cup of brown rice has 5 grams of protein, while quinoa has 8.1 grams. Quinoa is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all the protein-forming amino acids. Quinoa also has higher levels of B vitamins, iron, riboflavin, folate, and zinc.

4. Swap mayo for mashed avocado

Avocado is having a moment and for good reason. When making a sandwich, you can hardly live without that thick slab of mayo. Yet avocado provides the same consistency but without the junk. Mayo is high in cholesterol, bad fats, and carbs. In fact, 1 tablespoon of mayo contains 115 calories, while ¼ an avocado contains 80. Avocado contains no cholesterol, low sodium, low carbs and sugar, higher protein, and higher potassium.

5. Swap iceberg for spinach or kale

Darker greens have the highest level of nutrients. Studies have shown that the darker lettuce leaves have more antioxidants and nutrients than light-colored lettuce because “darker leaves are able to absorb more light and, in turn, synthesize more vitamins,” according to Greatist. Opt for spinach, kale, Swiss chard, arugula, red leaf, or romaine next time you’re making a salad.

6. Swap juice for fruit-infused drinks


Source: iStock

Is orange juice your go-to when you wake up in the morning? You may want to reconsider. If you are an avid juice drinker, opt for fruit-infused water instead. Simply slice up your favorite fruit (even lemon works great!) and drop into a glass of water. Not only do they have an immense amount of flavor, but they cut calories and sugar in half. One glass of orange juice contains 240 calories, while orange-infused water contains less than 31 calories. Plus, fruit-infused water will keep you much more hydrated. Tip? Squeeze the fruit into the water for added flavor.

7. Swap steak for chicken

Red meat is OK in moderation. In fact, recent studies have shown the link between red meat and early death. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted this study and were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Red meats have bad cholesterol and saturated fats compared to lean meats, like chicken and turkey. If you love your red meat, eat it once a week instead of three. Opt for grilled chicken with delicious herb seasoning and a side of potatoes instead of a chunk of steak. Your heart will thank you.

Here’s a tip: Don’t opt for a low-fat version of anything. Low-fat versions often contain bad cholesterol, chemically engineered additives, and harmful fats that can negatively affect our heart and overall health. It is best to eat the full-fat version of, say, your favorite salad dressings but decrease the portion size.

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