I’ve seen a lot of “healthy food swap” posts and I’m going to be honest – they all made me cringe.
I saw a lot of things like “use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream” and “order a black coffee instead of one with cream and sugar”. A lot of these “healthy” swaps seemed more centered around calorie restriction that it did around actual health.
So, I decided to let you guys know what my idea of healthy food swaps looks like and if you’re looking for someone to tell you to eat only egg whites instead of the whole egg to lose weight then this isn’t the list for you!
Here’s 10 healthy and easy food swaps to better your health:
1. Ceylon cinnamon instead of Cassia cinnamon
A lot of people don’t realize that there are two types of cinnamon – Ceylon and Cassia. Unknowingly, most people purchase Cassia cinnamon since it’s cheaper, but it’s cheaper for good reason.
Cassia cinnamon does have the same health benefits as Ceylon cinnamon but it also contains a very high amount of the plant compound coumarin which is toxic to the nervous system, liver and kidneys.
Ceylon cinnamon doesn’t contain any coumarin and is safe to ingest in high doses.
2. Coconut oil instead of vegetable oils
Vegetable oils were once considered healthy, but this is outdated and could not be further from the truth.
Not only are vegetable oils industrially processed, bleached and deodorized before they can even be remotely suitable for consumption, they’re also rich in polyunsatuated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are unstable and susceptible to oxidation, especially when exposed to heat and oxygen. Our bodies are usually about 98.6 degrees and full of oxygen so just consuming them is harmful but they’re even more harmful when used for cooking.
Polyunsaturated fats also promote oxidative stress, inflammation, bad cholesterol and heart disease.
Coconut oil boosts the metabolism, is good for digestion, supports immunity and balances blood sugar. It’s also completely safe to cook with.
3. Grass-fed meat and dairy instead of conventional meat and dairy
Grass-fed animal products come from cows that are raised on grass pastures and get to enjoy the sunshine and eat various grasses, herbs and other forage. This is not only better for the cows (grain-fed cows are usually kept in overcrowded small stalls with limited space) but also better for the humans that consume their meat and dairy products.
Grass-fed meat and dairy are similar to their organic counterparts in that they don’t contain antibiotics or added hormones but they also don’t contain high levels of the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that grain-fed meat and dairy do.
Grass-fed meat and dairy is higher in vitamins and antioxidants especially vitamins A and E, glutathione and caretenoids.
4. Butter instead of margerine
Margarine is marketed as a healthier alternative to butter, but you’re much better off using the real thing.
Margarine is made from vegetable oils which we now know are detrimental to our health. It also contains additives, emulsifiers and colouring agents that are used to alter the texture and appearance of the final product.
One of the main reasons that people choose margarine over butter is because they think that it will help with weight loss but this is false. Since the body has a hard time breaking down vegetable oils due to their processed nature, most of it ends up being deposited into our fat cells.
Grass-fed butter on the other hand is rich in antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins, especially fat soluble vitamins K2, D, A, and E.
5. Maple syrup or honey instead of stevia
Stevia is a plant based sweetener that has been very popular in recent years as a sugar substitute. Stevia in its natural form has a very bitter taste but is processed to extract only the sweet part of the herb.
There are two problems with Stevia. The first is that when when consumed, our body tastes the sweetness and prepares to take glucose into the cells by raising the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin. When no glucose enters our system, our body has to raise blood sugar by producing cortisol and adrenaline in order to utilize stored glucose or create glucose from our tissues. This is stressful to the body and usually results in more frequent sugar cravings since the body isn’t getting the fuel (glucose) that it needs.
The second problem is that it contains stevia glycoside molecules which are 250-300x sweeter than sugar. Over time, our tastebuds become accustomed to this level of sweetness and other forms of sugar don’t taste sweet enough to us anymore.
Raw honey and pure maple syrup are still the two best sugar substitutes. Raw honey is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and is full of antioxidants, minerals, amino acids and live enzymes. Maple syrup has a low score on the glycemic index, contains 24 antioxidants, and is a great source of zinc and manganese.
6. Glyphosate-free foods instead of conventional
If you haven’t heard of glyphosate, it’s the most commonly used herbicide in the world and has been classified by the World Health Organization as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
If that doesn’t have you convinced that this herbicide isn’t safe, maybe this fact will: in 2020 a company named Bayer-Monsanto was sued for 10.9 billion dollars due to its glyphosate-based herbicide being linked to cancer in thousands of people.
Unfortunately, a lot of our food contains traces of glyphosate. The worst offenders are oats, granola, wheat, beans, lentils, chickpeas and hummus.
The Environmental Working Group did their own testing on several different foods for glyphosate levels. You can see the results for hummus and chickpeas here and for oats and granola here.
A good way to avoid glyphosate is to only buy organic and non-gmo foods. Unfortunately, glyphosate has even been found in organic foods at lower levels so your best bet at avoiding it is to find foods labelled “glyphosate free”. The only brand I have found here in Canada with that label is One Degree Organics.
7. Pastured eggs instead of conventional eggs
Pastured eggs are from chickens that are able to roam free on open pastures. This is as close as it gets to the natural living conditions of chickens.
A lot of people assume that cage free or free range chickens have the same living conditions as pastured ones but this isn’t true. Cage free chickens are not in cages but are usually kept in overcrowded coops or hen houses and never see the outdoors. Free-range chickens have access to the outdoors for part of the day but usually choose to stay indoors where their food is kept.
Organic eggs are usually from free range chickens that are never treated with antibiotics which is a better option than conventional eggs but pastured is the gold standard.
Pastured eggs are not only the most ethical option but are also the most nutritious. Since pastured chickens are able to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and eat plants and bugs they are healthier overall. Pastured eggs contain a higher concentration on vitamins A, D, E, and omega-3s.
8. Sea salt instead of himalayan salt
Pink himalayan salt has become very popular and while it does contain a lot of beneficial minerals it also has some pretty big downfalls.
For one, it’s pink colour comes from iron oxide which is basically rust. It also contains the heavy metals tin, cadmium, lead and mercury and the radioactive substances polonium, radium and uranium.
Choosing white sea salt will still add trace minerals to your diet without the risk of heavy metal exposure.
9. Whole foods vitamins instead of synthetic ones
Vitamins from real, whole foods are superior to the synthetic ones found in the majority of supplements for a few reasons.
They are more bioavailable than synthetic ones, meaning our body is able to absorb them better. Our body doesn’t even recognize some synthetic vitamins and treats them as toxins which is hard on our kidneys and our liver.
Vitamins from food come with enzymes, minerals, lipids, protein and nutrients which help our body digest and use them. Synthetic vitamins don’t contain these and a lot of the time are excreted before the body can absorb them. Even worse, fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K are usually highly concentrated and are not utilized and excreted properly. This causes them to build up, be stored in the liver and eventually become toxic.
While it’s best to get as many vitamins as you can from actual food, sometimes strategic supplementation is needed. In this case, try to find a high quality whole food supplement or consult a naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner.
10. Homemade treats instead of store bought ones
While it’s super convenient to just grab something sweet at the grocery store when you want to treat yourself, it’s much healthier to make something at home instead.
Not only do store bought treats contain higher amounts of refined sugar, they usually also contain vegetable oils, artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, additives and high-fructose corn syrup.
When you make your own treats at home you have total control over what goes into them and you’re able to avoid all of the chemicals in store bought ones.
One of my go-tos is cookies made with all organic ingredients. You can refrigerate or freeze the dough and you’ll always have a sweet treat that you can bake instead of grabbing something less healthy at the grocery store.
Do you have any healthy food swaps that you would like to add? Write them in the comments below!