Many of us used to hunt down healthier options in speciality shops or markets, but these days you can find many of our favorites anywhere! As a health conscious family, we do our best to find healthy products in stores and use healthy substitutions in everyday cooking. As a health conscious family with four kids, we have to be intentional about finding products and substitutions that they will actually eat! It’s not always easy, but there are many examples of substitutions that have become the norm in our household.
Reduce (and/or Improve) Fat Intake
You probably know that a diet containing too much fat can lead to weight gain as well as increasing your risk of developing tons of health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions. Yuck!
If you’re wondering about those “good fats” you may have heard about, then good for you! You’re absolutely right that fat is an essential part of a healthy diet; it’s just a matter of which fats you choose to consume and how much of it. Portion control is a big factor here, but we’re also going to share a couple of our go-to substitutions we use when a recipe calls for tons of added fat.
EVOO & Avocado Oil
Oils are super common in cooking and baking, but did you know they also help us absorb important nutrients? Plus, if you choose the right ones, they are also a prime source of healthy fats.
Avocado oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) are both great sources of healthy fat as they are primarily made up of oleic acid, a beneficial monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. They are also an awesome source of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
In our household, we tend to prefer avocado oil. It has a higher smoking point so it’s a bit more forgiving to use in stovetop cooking and the mild flavor makes it an easy replacement in baking when you don’t want to overpower other flavors. EVOO is great for low heat cooking and as a base for salad dressings, but make sure the bottle specifically says “extra virgin” since the refined versions are stripped of many of the benefits.
Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream
Low-fat greek yogurt is a stellar alternative to sour cream in dips, dressings, and toppings. It always works as a substitution in cooking and baking, but you’ll most likely want to use a full fat version. Not to worry- even full fat greek yogurt is an improvement over sour cream since it still contains fewer calories, not to mention just half the fat and double the protein.
Avocado Instead of Mayonnaise
Mashed avocado is the perfect replacement for mayo as it has about a quarter of the calories and tastes a million times better! We regularly use it instead of mayo in tuna salad and chicken salad. It’s also a delicious spread for toast and sandwiches, and you can puree it to use in salad dressings.
Replace Low-Quality Carbs
Oh, carbs. The ultimate comfort food that we are constantly told to avoid due to empty calories and low-quality carbohydrates. Pasta, rice, and bread may be high in carbs and lack major nutritional benefits, but not to worry! There are many ways to keep these staples in the rotation without giving up on health. There are SO many readily available options here, but these are our favorites!
We actually have two substitutions for generic pasta in our pantry: Edamame pasta and Barilla Protein+ pasta for the more “opinionated” kiddos. We are big on finding healthy options that our kids actually like, because we don’t want them to develop an aversion to healthy choices. Plus, it’s important to us that we don’t waste food, which we will expand on in a future blog about our Leftovers Rule!
We love edamame pasta because of the neutral flavor, similar texture, and kick-butt health benefits. Plus (get ready for this…) each serving contains 24g of protein. Holy cow! That’s more than three times the protein you’ll get from typical pasta. It also contains 12g of fiber (normal pasta has about 2g), half the carbs, and almost 50% of your recommended daily iron.
For pickier eaters, Barilla Protein+ pasta really is a no brainer. The taste is the same, the texture is the same. Basically, unless you’re a pasta connoisseur, you won’t be able to tell the difference! Each serving contains 10g of protein from lentils, chickpeas, and peas- about 30% more than the regular Barilla pasta. It’s also a bit lower in carbs and a bit higher in fiber.
When it comes to rice, we keep it simple with microwavable organic quinoa and brown rice packets from Costco. Quinoa contains a mere fraction of the calories and carbs compared to rice, and mixing it with brown rice means you get closer to the familiar texture of rice while still avoiding refined carbohydrates. They’re also both gluten-free and a great source of fiber and minerals.
We don’t eat much bread, but the kiddos definitely do. Every Sunday evening you will find them prepping their school lunches for the week, and sandwiches are always going to be the quintessential option. While us adults choose Ezekial Bread for its zero sugar and sprouted grains, the kids don’t like the texture. What’s a parent to do?
It’s simple: Dave’s. Killer. Bread.
We would say that Dave’s Killer Bread is the best thing since sliced bread but… well you know. It is sliced bread. These miracle workers somehow created a bread that contains five whole grains but is still soft, white, and isn’t made with bleached flour. No weird textures or colors to give away the fact that it’s healthy means the kids are all about it. Awesome!
Eat More Protein
If there isn’t enough protein in your diet, increasing your protein intake will benefit your healthy lifestyle in many ways. Benefits include helping you feel full longer, supporting muscular development, boosting your metabolism, and so much more! Here are a couple easy ways to give you an extra protein boost.
Bison might be less common than beef, but its popularity is definitely growing! We use bison instead of, or mixed with, ground beef because it contains less calories and fat, but also because it contains more protein. Some of our favorite recipes with bison are tacos and lasagna! It’s a super easy substitution to introduce because you don’t have to adjust how you prepare it. Just season and cook it the same as you would ground beef.
Simple soups made with bone broth, or even drinking it as-is, is an excellent way to boost protein without consuming tons of calories. It’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals and contains collagen which promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Whole eggs are high in protein and super healthy (in moderation), but egg whites are basically ALL protein with just a fraction of the calories. One whole egg contains about 6g of protein and around 80 calories. While removing the yolk takes away a couple grams of protein, it also takes away 75% of the calories! When it comes to low calorie, high protein foods, egg whites can’t be beat. Unless you’re making scrambled eggs in which case you probably will want to beat them… ha!
You can add spinach to almost ANYTHING! Spinach probably wouldn’t be high on the list of favorite foods for our kids, but you can sneak it in almost anywhere. Add it to smoothies, dips, casseroles, eggs, and so much more, and most people won’t even notice. Spinach has enormous nutritional value and it’s minimal flavor makes it a perfect secret weapon for kids and finicky eaters alike.
Making healthy choices when it comes to diet can sometimes feel overwhelming. We’ve put this list together with our practical day-to-day life in mind, making simple swaps readily accessible for daily use. Don’t underestimate their power – these simple healthy alternatives can have huge benefits on your health!