When I began learning about healthy eating so I could help my daughter Katie with her upset stomach, it took me awhile to understand that we could still have most of the delicious meals and treats we were currently having. I simply needed to swap out ingredients with healthier ones*. Who wants to say goodbye to chocolate chip cookies and milkshakes? I think you’d agree, life would be so boring without them! 😛
One of the best things you can do to raise a healthy you and a healthy family is to be intentional about the every day food items you purchase at the grocery store. Let me explain, because I mean something very specific here…not simply buy less processed foods.
When it comes to eating food that is good to our body, the type and quality of ingredient/s make all the difference. It can be the difference of mediocre health to good health. I used to think any oil is oil and any peanut butter is peanut butter. But, this just isn’t the case. Have you ever stood in front of 30 different types of olive oils or nut butters stewing over which one to get? You see, manufacturers are making them all appear equal or even worse, making one appear “natural” when it just isn’t so. It takes some digging to find which one is the real deal and will help keep you feeling great. (This is what I hope I can help with! I’m not a textbook, but I know a thing or two about food. :P)
It takes buying food items with intention that can alter the way our body thrives. When I use the word intention, I mean knowing why this product is better/purer/more whole than the one right next to it.
On a side note, I am not talking about buying the most expensive product of each food item. This isn’t sustainable (for most of us) or healthy. In fact, sometimes the most expensive item of a particular food product can be just as processed as the cheapest. In this case, you’d be paying that high price for the label/brand….
If ever paying more for a healthier food item, it should be because of the quality/freshness/unprocessed characteristics. For example, an item I buy that is more expensive is unrefined coconut sugar. This is my substitute for white sugar. How does this work for us because of the higher price? Well, because we don’t use it all that often. I used to bake with cups full of white sugar. This just isn’t the case anymore, so this coconut sugar sticks around quite awhile before needing to buy more. In addition, it totally doesn’t effect me negatively like white sugar does. Totally worth it.
Dr. Mark Hyman says, “While weight loss is important, what’s more important is the quality of food you put in your body. Food is information that quickly changes your metabolism and genes.” It’s the oil in the engine. 🙂
I thought I’d tackle 7 food items that you can know are healthy swaps, and should be ones you place in your pantry and fridge compared to the others. I also want to share why they are the better alternatives. Let’s go!
1.) Brown rice instead of white rice
Brown rice is a whole grain. This means it includes all parts of the grain. White rice is a refined grain, meaning part of the grain has been removed (bran and germ). The bran and germ parts of the grain are the most nutritious parts of the grain, which leaves white rice calorie rich/”empty calories” and increases blood sugar levels. Stick with the foods that give you nutrients.
There are lots of different shapes and sizes of brown rice. Find which you like best and keep this stocked in your pantry and get rid of the fake stuff.
2.) Homemade Sweet Potato Fries instead of fast-food french fries
Sweet potatoes are high in nutrients and make for great homemade chips and fries! Unlike sweet potatoes, regular potatoes are much less nutrient dense and are completely altered when turned into a french fry. They are deep fried in highly refined oil at very high temperatures, causing them to be depleted of all nutrients. It also causes creates a a carcinogenic and neuro-toxic agent called acrylamide. This kind of processing leaves them overloaded with disease-promoting fats and calories.
Have a chip or french fry craving? Keep sweet potatoes on hand so you can enjoy these instead!
3.) Unrefined coconut sugar instead of white sugar/cane sugar/table sugar
Coconut sugar is a great alternative to white sugar. They are equal substitutes and can be used interchangeably. I haven’t been able to tell a difference in the way they taste, but I have been able to recognize how my blood sugar levels don’t go off kilter when I consume the coconut sugar. It is much less processed than white sugar. White sugar is the highest processed sugar on the market. You see, the more processed and refined a food item is, the more it will throw your body out of wack (like, sugar rush, then crash).
Tip of the day: One of the crucial keys to health and maintaining health is keeping blood sugar levels stable as much as possible. This is just as true for kids as it is for adults.
The processing of white sugar includes so many steps that it no longer resembles anything of the sugar cane or sugar beet plant it originally came from. In fact, one of the last steps in its processing is bleaching. 😮
Ditch the white stuff (and artificial) for a sweetener that is low processed and can still be recognized as coming from earth.
4.) Whole grain pasta instead of refined pasta
Rice, pasta, bread, and baking flour should all come from whole grains. So, my description here is going to be much like the others. The reason you want your pastas to be whole grain is because buying them enriched or refined takes away the nutrients that originally came from the plant source. It also throws around your blood sugar levels because it goes quickly into the blood stream without any fiber. All of our pastas are made with either brown rice flour, quinoa, or 100% whole durum wheat flour. Check your ingredient’s labels!
Not all whole grain pasta tastes the same. Some has a much stronger taste than others. Find what brand works for you and your family. This change was an adjustment for us because we didn’t love it at first. It was different. But now, refined pasta is unfulfilling and unusual for us and we would choose whole grain over refined at any opportunity. It’s all about the habits you create and what you’re used to….
5.) Whole grain bread instead of white or wheat bread
Conventional grocery stores make it difficult to find whole grain bread…from my experience, most of them don’t even have any! Nearly all of the wheat bread you see at the store is either artificially colored brown or mostly made with white flour with a pinch of whole wheat just so they can claim the “wheat bread”/”whole wheat” title.
Again, read above about whole grain pasta and brown rice to understand the importance of consuming whole grain vs. refined grain.
Some conventional grocery stores will stock local bakery whole grain bread. You’ll want to look at the ingredients it takes to make the bread: whole wheat flour, yeast, water, salt, etc. are typical ingredients. The best options for whole grain bread is to find a local bakery that makes whole wheat bread or if you’re really savvy in the kitchen, make your own. (I will include my recipe soon). And if those options won’t work for your family, find the best option at your grocery store. No shame in this. (We do all of the above).
One of the tricks to staying healthy when consuming whole grains is to not only consume it in its whole form, but to also be sure to eat a variety.
6.) Unrefined oils instead of refined oils
When purchasing unrefined oils, you’re buying them in a more natural/original state that allows you to benefit from the all nutrients the oils have to offer. Buying them refined, like Canola and corn oil, not only shorts you of important nutrients, but is increasing the risk of disease when used over time.
Some of our favorite unrefined oils are avocado oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, and cold-pressed olive oil. I substitute any recipe that calls for vegetable oil with avocado oil or coconut oil. Simple.
7.) Pure nut butters instead of highly processed nut butters
Switching to pure nut butters is a simple switch because the ingredient’s labels are easy to read. And, it makes me happy to see how pure nut butters aren’t more expensive. Yes, there are some brands that are, but I can almost always find regularly priced PB in its purest form.
Check your ingredient’s labels to make sure you’re getting the real stuff. It should read the nut it contains and maybe some salt. That’s it. No added sugars or oils. The big name nut butters are highly processed. Let’s spoon on the healthy fats found in nuts for our kid’s sandwiches instead of the trans fats and added sugars.
Are these swaps easy enough!? Comment below what healthy food swaps you’ve made that have impacted your health. We’d love to hear your story! <3
*I also began focusing my meals and snacks around the plant food instead of the meat, oil, cheese, or sugar.
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