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Easy Food Swaps for a Healthier Diet

By: Hila Aran MSc., RDN

One of my favorite things about cooking is that there are endless opportunities to be creative. Depending on how creative you allow yourself to be, you can create many variations of one simple dish. I started experimenting with foods not only to make a wider selection of foods, but have also been wanting to make healthier versions of foods. Here are some secret food swaps you can make in your kitchen to enjoy healthier dishes:

Brown rice in, heavy cream out

Heavy cream is often used as a base stock or finish, and acts as a thickener adding not just silky-smooth richness and texture, but a good bit of unhealthy calories. For a healthier food choice, consider swapping with brown rice. In order to do so, cook the rice in broth and puree with low-fat milk. The rice will become a rich, nutty cream that not only acts as a thickener but also provides vitamins, minerals and fiber. A perfect food swap for dishes such as broccoli cheese soup, tomato-basil soup or clam chowder.

Egg whites in, Whole egg out

Most of the calories in an egg are found in the yolk. Consider swapping two egg whites for one large whole egg in your cooking or baking process or even at your next breakfast.

Fruit puree in, oil out

This swap is one of my favorites and most commonly used food swaps! A great way to cut back on calories from fat, all you have to so is swap ½ cup baby food or fruit puree + half cup oil for every one cup of oil. I find this swap especially helpful when baking muffins and breads.

Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal in, bread crumbs out

Most American don’t meet their daily need for fiber. With this easy substitute you can add fiber to your diet easily. I use this swap option especially when making soft and fluffy meatballs. You just can’t tell the difference!

Beans in, flour out

Swapping out flour for a can of drained, rinsed black beans in baked goods such as brownies is a great way to cut out gluten (if you are looking to do so) as well as squeeze in an extra dose of protein. Swap one cup of flour for one cup of black bean puree.

Avocado puree in, butter out

This is a perfect swap, especially when making sweets. Although they’re both fats and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature, they are very different kinds of fat. Avocado is a smarter choice of fat as it is an unsaturated fat. Another healthy option is to use ripe banana mash. Bananas act the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes and are a good source of nutrients such as potassium and fiber. In order to swap, use one cup of avocado puree or banana mash as a replacement for a cup of butter or oil that is called for in a recipe.

Vegetables in, Pasta out

This swap is perfect if you are trying to keep your carbohydrate intake low. I will admit it, it may take a few bites to get used to it, but with the right sauce is a delicious and nutritious food option. Swap thin strips of sautéed zucchini or oven baked spaghetti squash for pasta. This swap will save you calories and help you fulfill your daily needs for fruits and vegetables.

Greek yogurt in, Mayonnaise out

Such an easy swap and always turns out great. Substitute Mayo for Greek yogurt when making tuna or chicken salad. This swap will not only save you calories and fat, but will provide you with more protein provide. All you have to do is add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Swap away! Eat healthier and Enjoy!



snack bar

Energy Bars As A Snack: The Good, The Bad And Everything In-Between…

Energy bars, granola bars, health bars, power bars, and the list goes on and on.
A variety of companies make such bars, and each one is called something different. Confused? We don’t blame you. This blog is intended to put a stop to the confusion and guide you to make a healthy snack choice, especially when it comes to snack bars.

Having an organized meal routine throughout the day is important for both children and adults. Balancing healthy and nutritious snacks not only helps us consume the recommended daily values of important nutrients, but also keeps us from becoming hungry to the point at which we may become vulnerable to overeat during our next meal. The key is to carefully and thoughtfully include snacks as part of our daily intake. I like to think of a “smart” snack as one that includes more than one food group. For example, a combination of protein and grains such as a yogurt with granola, or a vegetable with protein such as baby carrots dipped in Hummus. One of the difficulties I encounter with clients when it comes to snacks is the claim that they require advance planning and preparation. This makes choosing energy bars as a snack an “easy” alternative on hectic days. Every now and then, it is perfectly fine to choose an energy bar for a snack, but here is how to do it wisely:

Look for a type of bar that fits your needs:
This is especially important if you have a food allergy restriction, food intolerance, or a medical condition. Some bars may contain certain ingredients you may need to keep away from, and some are loaded with specific nutrients such as protein or carbohydrates to provide extra calories.

Read the label and understand the serving size:
Energy bars are often very caloric. The range of calories differs largely based on the manufacturer and on the intention of the product: a diet product or for example, one that is intended for an athlete. Calories can range anywhere from 60 calories to a few hundred calories in a single bar! In addition, some packages include two bars per package and some are single bars. If you read the label wrong you might end up consuming twice the amount of calories you intended.

Beware of the list of ingredients:
Often times, I find myself discussing the ingredients of prepared foods with clients and we come to the conclusion that one has to make the choice of which guidelines are important to follow. I jokingly say; “if we choose to avoid eating everything we will end up eating lettuce and lettuce only”. Try to choose an item with a list of ingredients as short as possible. Choose those that are natural, and you are familiar with. I often try to stick with the “10 ingredients or less” rule and find it very helpful.

It’s a world of snack bars choices out there. Follow these guidelines to make a healthier snack choice starting today, and don’t forget to pay attention to your needs when it comes to a snack. Ask yourself “What is it that I am need of right now?”, “What will satisfy me?” If here and there it’s a snack bar, then so be it.
Make the smart choice for you and enjoy!