Though it might come as a surprise to know, eating healthy can often be the most important step to take towards a healthy lifestyle. Getting healthy isn’t just about exercise or eating right; it’s important that both factor into your life if you’re truly determined to get healthier.
A lot of the time people either underestimate the food aspect of a healthy lifestyle— as if it’s not as important as working out. Other times people take it too far to the extreme with rigorous diets and limiting meals, which does more harm than good.
However, there’s not actually all that much that goes into eating healthy, and making the change may be much more simple than you would originally think. At its core, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through what you eat is all about finding healthy swaps for foods that you enjoy.
If you find the right alternative choices, you can keep all of the flavors that you love in your routine with much less unnecessary fats, sugars, and calories involved. A general, go-to swap you can make is to “eat clean,” or steer towards natural foods rather than processed ones.
On a more specific level, though, we’ve got some great swap ideas for you to try out in order to have a healthier lifestyle.
First and foremost, you’ve got to try swapping honey for sugar. Honey is composed of fructose and glucose, just like sugar, but the molecules are floating around rather than bound together. Honey has more fructose than glucose, however, which makes it sweeter than sugar.
Because it tastes sweeter, people often use honey in more moderation than sugar. This means that honey is typically healthier, because though there are more calories in a tablespoon of honey than of sugar, people consume it in healthier quantities.
Both are best in smaller quantities, of course, but honey is more natural than sugar and has a higher moisture count. Honey is 18% water, and 2% of it is made up of minerals, vitamins, pollen, and protein.
Though these are just trace amounts, it does contribute more to your health than regular refined sugar.
Honey and sugar are both commonly used sweeteners, and both carbohydrates. Honey, however, contains more nutrients and is less processed. It contains amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. Raw or dark honey can have even more of these than light honey.
These aren’t the only benefits of honey, however. It can also ease coughs in children, and is a better relief for symptoms of bronchitis than placebos in a study performed in 2017. Honey is definitely better than no treatment at all.
It may also assist in reducing symptoms of seasonal allergies, and specifically pollen allergies. This could be because of the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in honey, or because introducing small amounts of an allergen to the immune system can help the body build up a tolerance for it. In this case, honey’s trace amounts of pollen can potentially do so.
Honey can even have topical benefits for chronic pains, ulcers, and burns. Raw honey specifically can help provide relief for those with seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that causes an itchy and flaky scalp. When applied, honey reduced the hair loss involved with this condition and helped to prevent relapses.
It is also easier on the digestive system than sugar due to its composition. Honey has already been broken down by bees, while sugar has to be broken down in the stomach.
Sugar can present problems for the health of your gut, as well as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, cavities, and other health issues.
You can certainly have too much of either sweetener, but honey’s benefits outweigh those of sugar.
Nuts are a great source of protein, and a simple one, too. They’re great to eat while in a rush or on the go, filling in small portions, and plant-based, so they’re great for vegetarians and vegans.
But nuts are a great alternative to other protein-rich foods such as meat even for those who do eat meat. Protein helps to build strength in bones, muscles, and skin, so it’s super important to get the proper amount.
Almonds, specifically, are a great choice in order to include more protein in your diet. They also contain antioxidants, just like honey, and so are very good for your body.
Walnuts are another great source of protein, as well as heart-healthy fats. Some studies have shown they are related to a reduced risk of heart disease, and many people also include them in recipes with ground meats to further increase the amount of protein.
After all, nuts can’t completely replace all protein in your diet, so it’s important to get it from other sources as well. However, nuts and seeds are much healthier for you than meat.
Meat has been found to increase cardiovascular disease by 60%, while regular consumption of nuts and seeds reduced it by 40%. Many people point to the fats present in meat as less healthy than those present in nuts, but studies such as these suggest that it goes deeper.
Pistachios are also great, because one serving contains the same amount of protein as one egg. They also have a high amount of amino acids that our body needs for building more protein and other necessary functions.
Cashews, pine nuts, brazil nuts, peanuts (which contain the most protein per serving), and hazelnuts, are all also great sources of protein that are also delicious! While you can’t live just on nuts and needs, they’re also great to include in more complex dishes.
Plus, they’re great to snack on! Lots of typical, grocery store snacks can be highly processed and very unhealthy, so having healthy snack options stocked up in your pantry so that you’re no longer tempted by junk food would be a great idea, especially considering there are actually a lot of really healthy snack options out there.
Many people opt for several snacks throughout the day rather than three large meals, as it can help keep you manage your appetite, but eating smaller portions won’t help if what you’re eating is unhealthy or processed. It can actually have the opposite of the desired effect.
Most snacks are unhealthy However, there are a lot of delicious healthy snack alternatives for you to find, if you just know where to look.
Processed snacks are, by and large, best avoided. Instead of cheese puffs and processed cheesy snacks, go for string cheese or popcorn. And instead of regular french fries, which have been linked to many health concerns, consider baked sweet potato fries— they have many more nutritious ingredients.
Chips are a lot of people’s favorite snack, but a healthy lifestyle swap is kale chips and baked vegetable chips! These come with the satisfying crunch and savory taste of a good chip, but none of the unhealthy, processed ingredients.
Regular chips come with too much salt, saturated fats, and starch, as well as little to no nutrients. But for this better option, all you have to do is toss ripped up kale or a thinly sliced vegetable of your choice— sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, etc —with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stick them in the oven until they’re baked to crispy perfection.
Sliced vegetables can also be a good chip alternative when not baked— if you’ve made or bought some dip, salsa, hummus, or guac, don’t go for the tortilla chips. Sliced vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers are all a great party snack when paired with dip.
Cucumbers are also a great alternative to crackers, which— when made with white flour —give your body calories with no nutrients attached. Cucumbers can be just as crunchy and satisfying to eat, but without that added concern for how they weigh on your health.
They contain healthy nutrients and fibers, and can also be paired with many different other foods, just as crackers can. The aforementioned dip, of course, but cucumbers could easily be transformed into a gourmet appetizer depending on what ingredients you chose to add. Not to mention the fact that they’re plenty delicious and refreshing on their own.
And speaking of refreshing, fruits are also a great healthy food to snack on, not just vegetables. Consider getting rid of the fruity candy in your pantry and stocking up on actual, fresh fruit instead— it’s much better for you, and has less unnecessary sugar added to it.
Continuing on the sweeter side of things, if you do want to indulge in some candy, dark chocolate squares are much better for you than chocolate bars. These will give you the rich flavor you love, plenty of antioxidants, and they get their flavor from actual cacao beans. Dark chocolate can help with your blood pressure, blood sugar, and lipids.
Instead of the store bought stuff, you should also try and make your own ice cream! When you control what ingredients go into your food, there’s a much lower risk of consuming unhealthy ingredients, and there are plenty of healthy homemade ice cream recipes out there. Banana, in particular, can help with getting the texture just right.
You should also buy— or make —plain yogurt rather than flavored, since the latter contains added sugars and often artificial flavors. If you purchase some plain yogurt, you can always add other stuff to it later on, such as granola and fresh fruit.
It’s also easier than you might think to bake a healthy swap for cookies, and sometimes you won’t even need to bake them! Cookies are high in both sugar and calories, and you don’t need them when there are healthier options that taste just as good.
A healthy lifestyle in the food department really hinges on you doing research and finding recipes that fit your needs and still taste amazing. Oats, nuts, almond flour— all of these can be great staples to make a cookie substitute. You can also throw in fruit or dark chocolate as needed for extra sweetness.
And speaking of sweet, here’s a tasty treat that you won’t even have to bake yourself— Simple Botanics Squares. Made in flavors Honey Nut and Chocolate Chip Honey Nut, these grab and go snacks also act as a dessert because of how delicious they are.
These squares are made from natural ingredients, and both flavors are only 190 calories per serving. The serving size is one bar, though you can buy a box of twelve individually packaged Simple Squares for just $23.99.
They’re also non-GMO, as well as free of dairy, soy, gluten, and refined sugar, so they’re perfect for those with dietary restrictions.
Even if you have all the options in the world, however, Simple Botanics Squares are a great choice for those who are looking to make healthy lifestyle swaps to the snacks they’re eating.
Of course the occasional junk food or unhealthy snack won’t be the end of the world, it’s always best to be mindful about the contents of the food you eat. You want to be sure that you’re always getting the maximum amount of nutrients possible, and these alternative choices may help you do just that!