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Healthy Food Swaps

April 27, 2017

I’m not the healthiest person on the planet.  I’ve repeatedly admitted my love of all things sweet.  However, I like to think I do a fairly good job of eating somewhat healthy foods the majority of the time.  I do believe in balance and not depriving oneself because if I tell myself something is completely off limits then I just find myself wanting it even more.  The “always want what you can’t have” mentality I suppose.  It’s difficult to cook “healthy” meals for a family who doesn’t share the same desire to avoid certain foods.  Pasta for example.   I like pasta, but that’s one thing I could eat a lot less of and be completely happy.  I’d rather skip the noodles and have a glass of wine instead.  My family on the other hand would never dream of eating zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with their marinara sauce.  So, I’ve learned a few simple swaps that I have been able to incorporate in our daily meals…some of which we all eat and others I swap out just for me.  Making a few simple swaps makes me feel better about indulging in delicious treats like this and this and this!

I already briefly touched on this swap, but it’s one I use quite a bit because it’s easy for me to make whole wheat pasta noodles for the boys, and then quickly spiralize a zucchini for myself.  I have and love this spiralizer.  A lot of people boil their zucchini noddles, but I find that makes them very soggy.   I prefer the crunchy texture of raw zoodles, and by the time I pour the hot spaghetti sauce over them they soften just enough for my liking.

Spaghetti squash is also another delicious swap for standard pasta.  I use this one less often simply because it requires me to really plan and think about cooking the squash in advance…and I usually don’t have my act together to do that. It’s really not that hard, it just means I have to throw it in the oven earlier then I would normally start dinner so that it’s fully cooked and ready when it’s time to eat.

Sour Cream:
We have been using plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream for a long time, and NO one has complained about it.  That’s a huge win for this household and our picky eaters!

I have been using whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour on most things I bake for a while, but it was definitely one of those swaps I could tell a difference in.  Things weren’t as fluffy or airy as they were with regular white flour.  But, that all changed when I discovered whole wheat pastry flour!  I love this stuff!  It’s so finely ground and it’s really hard to tell a difference between this flour and all purpose.

Oil / Butter:
There are several good swaps for vegetable/canola oil.  For baking, applesauce is a popular swap.  I also often use extra light olive oil in place of vegetable oil.  It has a very mild flavor, if any flavor at all and is great for muffins, pancakes, breads, etc where you definitely don’t want an olive taste coming through.  Of course regular extra virgin olive oil is great for cooking.  Other oil swaps I love for cooking are coconut oil, sesame oil, and avocado oil.  I love this avocado oil spray instead of Pam!

Brown rice is an easy substitution for regular white rice.  The downside of brown rice is that it takes a lot longer to cook.  Usually about 40-45 min on the stovetop.  I have been using my Instant Pot a lot lately to make brown rice in 22 min!  Such a time saver if I don’t have time to wait.  Another grain I use in place of rice is quinoa.  Quinoa has a nutty flavor, which I love, but my husband isn’t such a fan.  So, if I’m subbing rice for quinoa in something, I usually make sure there are lots of spices to help mask the flavor.  Mexican casserole type dishes are great!  If I’m in a rush, I like this brown rice/quinoa blend.  It’s pre-cooked, so I can throw it in a casserole quickly and move on with my day!   I’ve also seen it available at Target.  A 3rd sub for rice is cauliflower.  This one requires a little more prep work because you have to cut/wash the cauliflower then run it through the food processor or grate it by hand.  A few weeks ago I happened to see pre-grated cauliflower in the produce section of Hy-Vee!  Oh happy day!  So much of a time saver!  Now it’s so much easier to make this simple swap, especially if I’m preparing cauliflower rice just for myself.

Whole wheat bread is delicious!  This is one thing my boys eat and love.  I can’t even remember the last time I purchased regular white bread (with the exception of hamburger buns).  Aldi and Sprouts both have a good organic whole grain bread that isn’t terrible expensive.  We don’t go through it super fast, so I keep it in the freezer and that helps the freshness since there are no preservatives.

Sometimes for a quick lunch, I’ll whip up some tuna salad, but using so much mayonnaise does not exactly make a healthy meal.  If I have an avocado handy, I’ll mash it up and use much less mayo, if any at all.  I also like to use dijon mustard to help less the amount of mayo I use.  I love dijon and avocado in egg salad as well.  When I do use mayonnaise, I have been loving this avocado mayo!

Popcorn can be a great healthy snack, but the microwave kind is junk.  Along with lots of added calories and fat, most microwave popcorns contain chemicals in the ingredients as well as in the bags themselves.  When exposed to high heat (i.e. the microwave), the grease-repelling chemicals that line the popcorn bag, can leach into your popcorn.  Yuck!  We have this air popper and the boys love to much on freshly popped popcorn with a little salt and real butter.  Another treat is to cook popcorn on the stovetop with a little bit of coconut oil!  Delish!

This is one of those swaps that I do on my own in this household.  No one else seems to share my love of nut milks, but I LOVE almond, coconut, and cashew milks!  LOVE!  I mostly use them for smoothies, but every now and then I’ll use them for baking and no one has caught onto me yet. 😉  My current fave for making smoothies and chai tea lattes is Silk Unsweetened Coconut & Almond.  Only 35 calories per cup!

Short and sweet…sweet potatoes have a higher amount of antioxidants and nutrients then regular russet potatoes.  So, while I don’t see anything wrong in having regular white potatoes from time to time, swapping them for sweet potatoes in beef stew, roast, or just as a baked potato, would give your meal an added nutritional boost.

Regular table salt tastes good, but that’s about it.  It doesn’t do much nutritionally for your body.  Switching it for celtic sea salt is such an easy swap, and another one that no one has rebelled against at Casa de French.  Celtic sea salt contains lots and lots of trace minerals.  Our bodies need some salt to maintain sufficient sodium levels and ensure there is proper fluid balance in our cells.  Sea salt contains natural electrolytes which are important for our health.  Not getting enough salt in your diet could actually hurt your digestive health by throwing off your production of stomach acid.  If you want to get really fancy, you could get pink himalayan sea salt, which contains all of the 84 elements found in our bodies.  Celtic sea salt contains around 60 elements.  It is grayish in color and is often moist to the touch.

Cocoa powder:
Trading out your regular Hershey’s cocoa powder for the more natural cacao powder will be nutritionally beneficial without sacrificing on flavor.  Regular cocoa powder is made by roasting the beans at a high temperature, which in turn lowers the overall nutritional value.  Cacao powder is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cocoa beans, thereby maintaining the natural, nutritional value.  Those studies you’ve heard of that claim chocolate is good for you are not referring to the chocolate bar at the checkout counter.   Sorry.  They are referring to natural cacao powder.  Cacao is high is antioxidants and contains several minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, manganese, and copper.  And the best part is…you can’t taste the difference!

What are some of the healthy food swaps you make?

Niki French

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I'm Niki, founder of Midwestern Mama. This lifestyle blog is a place where I get to share things I am passionate about with people like you! I love fashion, home decor, DIY's and easy meals, among other things. I'm so glad you're here! Read More


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