This is a sponsored post brought to you by the AHA. The views, opinions, and positions expressed within this post belong to Wendy Polisi and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.
For a long time, I struggled with eating healthy.
I was forever reading the latest diet book, only to realize that the recommendations just weren’t realistic. Most of them had grocery lists a mile long, and me in the kitchen cooking a different breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
I would start off with high hopes, only to become discouraged by the end of the first week.
With three kids, I needed something that fit with my lifestyle.
It was only when I realized how simple healthy eating could be that things came together for me.
It is true – getting healthy doesn’t have to be complex!
Have You Heard of the AHA’s Healthy For Good Movement?
I love the simplicity of the message which makes healthy living friendly and actionable for us all by just focusing on four key pillars:
(By the way, to join the movement go here. Scroll Down and click “join the movement.”)
Eat Smart – By smart shopping, cooking, and the ever important label reading.
Add Color – One of the easiest ways we can eat healthier is by adding colorful fruits and vegetables to our meals.
Move More – This is easier than you think. I wear a fitness tracker, and it reminds me to move more every day.
Be Well – The often overlooked whole body health to include mindfulness and stress reduction.
The ultimate goal of the initiative is to help people navigate barriers so that they can create and maintain behavior change. Their website doesn’t just tell you what to do. It is jam packed with recipes, videos and great healthy living information that shows you what to do.
What better time to take action than June, which is National Fresh Fruits and Veggie Month?
The truth is that sometimes it only takes a slight shift in your behavior to see a significant impact. My favorite way to do this is with smart food swaps. If you want to know how to make smart food swaps and get healthy for good, check out some of my favorite healthy swaps.
How to Make Smart Food Swaps and Get #Healthy for Good #HealthyforGood Click To Tweet
22 Smart Food Swaps to Get Healthy for Good
1. Swap Microwave Popcorn for Air Popped
Instead of microwave popcorn with trans fats, eat air popped popcorn. (Even oil popped is a better alternative!)
Did you know that many microwave popcorn brands contain up to 5 grams of trans fat?
This is 2 1/2 times recommended daily maximum. Look for a brand that doesn’t have trans fats, or even better, make your popcorn outside of the microwave! (You can learn more about trans fats here.) You always want to read labels – you can learn more about smart label reading here.
Another option is to do DIY Microwave Popcorn at home. Just place the kernels inside a brown paper lunch bag and fold it down a few times. Microwave for two to three minutes. You’ll have microwave popcorn without the chemicals and trans fat.
2. Skip the Muffin for Breakfast and Instead Eat Oatmeal
I have been as guilty as the next person of grabbing a muffin on the go. Sadly, this is not a good option.
Most large muffins you get out can have about a third of the day’s saturated fat and up to 74 grams of refined carbs. (The unhealthy kind!) I don’t know about you, but I never feel my best when I have this type of breakfast.
It turns out that science may back this. In a study review in Physiology & Behavior, it was found that participants experienced decreased cognitive function when they consumed refined carbohydrates and saturated fats at the same time.
3. Ditch the White Rice for Quinoa
I am guessing my long-time readers saw this one coming. Quinoa is easier on your blood sugar levels and also has twice the protein of white rice. In fact, quinoa is often referred to as the perfect protein, because it has all of the amino acids that we need. (An honor typically reserved for animal protein.)
Protein is especially important as we get older. Many experts now believe that it can help to combat muscle loss and weak bones.
4. Skip the Granola on Your Yogurt and Go for Chia Seeds
If you add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to your yogurt, you still get the crunch plus you get 10 grams of fiber. The same amount of granola has just 1 gram! You can learn more about the importance of fiber here.
5. Skip the Pasta and Instead use Zucchini Noodles Or Spaghetti Squash
Zoodles are all the rage and for good reason. Not only are they delicious, but they are a great way to save on calories and refined carbs while increasing the nutrients your meal. A simple switch from whole-grain pasta to Spaghetti squash will save you 130 calories while increasing the fiber and beta carotene in your meal.
Try an easy Zoodle Lo Mein or Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti recipe!
6. Swap Your Potato Chips for Veggies
I love a good crunch as much as the next girl, but there are better ways to get it than potato chips. I used to love crinkle-cut potato chips, but now I get the crunch and save 147 calories per ounce by snacking on crinkle cut carrots. (Plus, carrots are a great way to get more color in my diet.)
7. Skip the Ranch and Go for Hummus
If you are still dipping those veggies into ranch dip, give hummus a try.
Beans are great for your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It is believed that fiber slows the body’s absorption of sugar thus improving your insulin sensitivity and keeping your fuller longer. With so many different flavors available, there is something for everyone.
8. Ditch the Mayo for Hummus
Another easy swap? Use a tablespoon of hummus instead of a tablespoon of mayo on your sandwich or wrap, and you’ll save 69 calories.
9. Skip Iceberg Lettuce and Go for Spinach or Kale on Your Sandwiches
One of the easiest and often overlooked ways to add veggies into your diet is on sandwiches and wraps. I like to ask for double veggies and always ask to switch out iceberg lettuce for something like spinach or kale that has more color. (And thus more nutrition.)
I love this video for more inspiration on how to use kale!
10. Skip the Fried Chicken Salad and Go for Grilled
We all know that a Fried Chicken Salad isn’t the best option, but you may be shocked to learn the difference it can make. For example, in some restaurants, a Grilled Chicken Salad can have just 440 calories, while a Fried Chicken Salad can have a whopping 1020 calories.
11. Swap Out Your Dairy Whole Milk for Cashew Milk
Confession: I have never been a big fan of nut milk. That is until I tried Cashew Milk. It is creamier that soy or almond milk, and has a fraction of the calories that you would find in dairy milk. (116 fewer calories a cup than whole milk.) Just make sure you stick with the unsweetened kind to keep the unwanted sugars out of your life.
12. Skip the Queso Dip in Favor of Guacamole
Did you know that a cup of avocado has about 20% of the daily value of potassium and packs a healthy boost of fiber as well? With good unsaturated fats and a bit of magnesium and protein as well, Guacamole is a healthy addition to your diet.
13. Go for Warmed Up Fruit instead of Jam
Not only will you save about 50% of the calories, but you also get a dose of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants with no added sugar. Since heat boosts the sweetness of fruits, this is also a great stand-in for syrup.
14. Skip the Fruit Juice Drinks and Instead Go for Whole Fruits
While fruits are rich in antioxidants and essential to our health, there is a tremendous difference between eating fruit and drinking fruit juice. One Harvard study showed that those who drank fruit juice daily at a 21% increase in the risk of developing diabetes. One cup of OJ has 24g sugar, which is twice the amount found in an orange. Don’t forget – try to eat across the rainbow!
15. Skip the Bottled Green Tea and Brew Your Own
According to a Penn State study, the antioxidants in green tea, especially a compound called EGCG, may be able to limit the amount of starch absorbed from a meal and improve sugar metabolism. However, the bottling process causes the tea to lose 20% of EGCG and they also can have added sugars. A simple swap is to brew your green tea at home. (I do every day!)
16. Go For a Wrap Rather Than a Sandwich
Instead of two pieces of bread, go for a 100 calorie wrap! Not only is it a great way to save calories, but it also makes piling on the veggies so much easier.
17. Swap Out Butter for Avocado
Not only will this save about 75 calories a tablespoon, but you get a boost of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as fiber. Make this swap on your toast, or even the next time you are baking cupcakes or brownies.
By the way, avocados were Skye’s first food! You can read more about avocados for babies, toddlers and new Mom’s here.
18. Ditch White-Flour Pasta for Spelt or Quinoa
Zucchini noodles and Spaghetti Squash are great, but sometimes only pasta will do. If you need a pasta fix, try using Spelt or Quinoa Pasta. Refined carbs in white pasta can cause the blood sugar to spike and then dip. Spelt and Quinoa Pasta offers a better balance of carbs and protein.
19. Use Dates in Place of Sugar
Sometimes you need a little sweetness added to your smoothie, but sugar isn’t the best way to go. Instead, try adding Medjool dates. Just one can offer up to 6% of your daily recommended fiber intake.
20. Skip the Pepperoni and Go for Sausage
Ahhh….Pepperoni. What is not to love? Ah…yeah. It isn’t exactly the most nutritious addition to your pizza.
Next time you are making pizza, opt for Chicken sausage instead of pepperoni. You will still love the flavor and end up saving 85 calories per ounce.
21. Ditch the Traditional Pizza Crust and Go for a Cauliflower Crust
While we are talking pizza, let’s discuss the crust. A great way to up the nutrition and keep the calories and sodium in check is with a cauliflower crust. I was skeptical at first, but once I tried it, I was hooked. Cauliflower is full of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.
Cauliflower, not your thing? Try this Quinoa Pizza Crust.
22. Eating Out? Swap Your Thick Crust for Thin and Double the Veggies
If you are going to order in pizza, stick with a thin crust. This will save you about 50 calories a slice! Skip the extra cheese and instead ask for extra veggies.