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August 21, 2020

by Alyssa Rimmer

20 Healthy Food Swaps for All Your Favorites

Looking to make some changes in your diet? Here's a list of the 20 best healthy food swaps you can make for all of your favorite foods – including snacks, sweets, drinks, condiments, and more!

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Over my years of healthy eating and exploring new foods, I've made some pretty awesome discoveries. Not just products that I've grown to love, but also healthy alternatives to some of my favorite foods.

As I know many of you are also on a journey to making better food choices, I thought it would be helpful to create a master list of sorts. A list that you can come back to over and over again that shares all the best healthy food swaps and covers pretty much every type of junk food you can think of!

We'll be breaking this post down into sections so that you can easily navigate to what you're looking for.

For our healthy food swaps, here are the categories we've got:

  • Snacks
  • Sweets
  • Drinks
  • Condiments
  • Staples

I'll also share why I think these swaps make sense, plus will include any pertinent recipes for you to try.

20 Healthy Food Swaps to Try Right Now

I want to also quickly share one thing: I'm not saying that any of the foods we're swapping for are inherently bad or that you shouldn't ever eat them. This post is more designed to help you find delicious alternatives if you're trying to make healthier choices.

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Snacks


Snacks are the natural first place to start since many snack foods aren't that healthy. Most of the time they're fried in not so great oils, are full of salt and even flavor additives. I've found some great alternatives to some of my favorite snacks, and think you'll really enjoy them!

1. Crackers…but healthy!

If you love snacking on crackers and hummus or cheese and crackers, make a simple change by selecting a healthier cracker! Most crackers are made with refined oils, flours, hidden sugars, and additives. But there are some brands that give you that same cracker consistency without the junk.

2. Popcorn instead of chips

I know this isn't a 1:1 substitute, but you can still get that satisfying crunch and salt from popcorn that you do from chips. Plus, with popcorn, you can make tons of different flavors! I love Lesser Evil Snacks popcorn, but I also have a favorite homemade version on my YouTube Channel.

3. Get more nutrients with Protein Bars!

Rather than grabbing a granola bar for your next snack, stock your pantry with protein bars instead. They're usually lower in sugar, higher in fiber, and higher in protein meaning they'll keep you more fueled for longer.

4. Fries…but baked!

We all love a good french fry, right? To get that craving satisfied, try making french fries at home! You can either use an air fryer, or you can bake them up in your oven. They probably won't be quite as crispy, but they're still tasty and much healthier!

Facebook logoTwitter logoPinterest logoThese NO BAKE Banana Snickers Bites are a healthy sweet treat that tastes like candy

Sweets


If you've got a sweet tooth like me, this section is for you! We're talking about healthy swaps to some of my favorite – and the more classic – sweet treats. The good news? It's 100% possible to still enjoy candy, chocolate, and other desserts while eating something healthy.

For chocolate, darker is better!

I love chocolate anything, and if that also sounds like you, just be sure that you're choosing dark chocolate. I look for chocolate that is 70% or higher in cacao – it's less sugar, more fiber, and more antioxidants.

Gummy candy gets a makeover!

From gummy bears, sour patch kids, Swedish fish, and even peach rings, there's a brand making healthier options: Smart Sweets. They're zero sugar, high fiber, and a great option if you love this type of candy!

Cacao nibs are you new chocolate chips!

Whether you're baking, stirring them into ice cream or oatmeal, or even topping your smoothie bowl, cacao nibs give you that same chocolatey flavor, without the added sugar and oils. They're 100% pure, taste amazing and add just a slight chocolate hint to whatever you're eating.

A healthy ice cream is possible!

You've probably seen it before, but for any ice cream lover looking to get their ice cream fix and still keep things healthy, make banana ice cream! Banana ice cream (or “nice” cream as its called), is made with a base of bananas and is much lower in sugar than traditional ice cream. It can also be flavored in a bunch of different ways!

Facebook logoTwitter logoPinterest logoSparkling Blackberry Lemonade

Drinks


Next on our list of healthy food swaps is in the drink category! Drinks is an area that many of us might forget about – but that can also be full of sugar and empty calories. Here are my suggestions for healthy drink swaps:

Skip the juice & eat whole instead.

Did you know that fruit juice is basically just pure sugar? Sure, it's made from fruit, but it doesn't really add much nutrition to your diet. Rather than drinking juice, try eating the actual fruit. I know it's not quite the same, but you'll get the exact same flavor with the extra bonus of fiber which will slow down the glucose conversion and help reduce your blood sugar spike.

Ditch the soda.

We all know soda isn't the best, right? Sure it might taste good, but the healthier option is sparkling water/seltzer. You can get all sorts of flavors these days and you'll still get to enjoy that fizzy drink feeling!

Whip up your own milkshake!

Milkshakes are delicious, there's no question, but they're basically just ice cream blended up to be a drink. Sometimes they have more than 1000 calories per drink! Instead, try making a healthy smoothie or milkshake. Use the flavors that you love in your milkshake and fill it up with fruit, veggies and other fiber-rich, lower sugar options!

At-home lattes are always better.

If you're the type of person who always gets flavored lattes at places like Starbucks, you might be consuming way more calories and sugar than you realize! Instead, make your lattes at home. You can use your sweeteners, choose your spices and also make sure you're using an unsweetened milk option (which many of those places don't do).

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Condiments


The next section in our healthy food swaps list is about condiments. Similar to drinks, condiments might be an area that you don't think much about. But it's also an area that has a huge opportunity for making healthy swaps. Here are just four of my favorites:

Avocado is the new butter.

Avocado has been in the spotlight for years, but it actually makes a great butter replacement, especially on toast. I know they don't taste the same, but with a little sprinkle of flaked sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper? That's just about the tasiest slice of toast you can get! Avocado can actually also replace melted butter in baking – so keep that in mind too!

Swap mayo for hummus.

One of my favorite ways to use hummus is as a mayo substitute. With hummus, you're getting protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins from the chickpeas. And it's incredibly versatile. From your sandwich spread to mixing it into a tuna salad, hummus is delicious. It also comes in bunch of different flavors which keeps things interesting!

Choose healthier oils.

Hydrogenated oils need to go away. They are so unhealthy and still in SO many products!! Rather than cooking or baking with things like canola oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, etc., use a high quality, cold-pressed oil instead. Less refined, more nutrients, easier on your arteries.

  • My picks: avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (try to buy organic for all three)

Less refined sugars are better.

You might have noticed that I almost never use refined sugar in my cooking or baking. That's because it's a) refined and b) completely void of any nutritional value. Instead, I recommend using less refined options like maple syrup, coconut sugar and raw honey. They won't spike your blood sugar quite as high, are lower on the glycemic index, and all three taste delicious!

  • My picks: 100% pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey

Facebook logoTwitter logoPinterest logoavocado alfredo with zucchini noodles

The Staples


As we round out our list of the top 20 healthy food swaps, I want to focus on the staples. These are things that we all eat with regularity and can easily be swapped for healthier alternatives. I like to think of these as options for whenever you want something a little lighter – it doesn't have to be all the time, but keep these on the back burner.

>Swap your sandwich wrap.

Next time you make a sandwich wrap, try swapping the wrap itself for something a little lighter! Whether it's a coconut wrap, nori sheets or a collard wraps, it's an easy way for you to cut back on additives and carbs.

Rice Cakes for Bagels & Bread

Whether it's bread or bagels, a simple swap is to use rice cakes. What I love about rice cakes is you can pile them high with all your favorite toppings and they're not quite as filling. They also make a great healthy snack!

Lighten up your pasta!

I love a good bowl of pasta, don't get me wrong, but pasta is also fairly void of nutritional value. It's essentially straight carbs. Which is totally fine, BUT there's an option that gets you both carbs and protein: bean pasta! And if you want to skip the carbs all together, zucchini noodles are a great option.

Quinoa to close it out!

And lastly, quinoa! Any time you're looking to make a healthy swap for another grain – whether that's rice, buckwheat, etc. – quinoa is a great option. It has the most amount of protein, it's full of vitamins and minerals and it's a cinch to make. Need some inspiration?! Pick from our 200+ quinoa recipes!

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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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