Eating healthily is often seen as a big change that people make (or don't make). We hear about carb free diets, 5/2 diets (where you eat normally 5 days a week and fast the other 2) and plenty of other drastic changes to how we normally eat that promise to be healthier. In reality, healthy eating really isn’t that hard, and there is never need to go on a “juice cleanse” - for any reason.
By making simple, gradual substitutions in your meals and snacks you can improve your overall health and, if you want to, lose weight along the way. You don’t even have to give up eating the foods you love (unless you love deep fried stuff, in which case you should probably make it a very occasional treat).
Completely changing what you eat will likely make you miserable and won’t be sustainable in the long run
Simply substituting in healthier options for your meals, on the other hand, is a change that you can carry on with for the rest of your life – and it will have benefits beyond calorie counting, as you will gain other essential nutrients as well as reducing harmful ones.
Of course, some things can’t really be made healthy (like a bag of chips), but there are alternatives as a snack. Home-made cheesy vegemite scrolls, for example, are much better for you than you might think. In fact, one of the big keys to eating healthily is to make as much food as you can at home – that way you know exactly what’s in it, and you control the ingredients.
With the huge variety of different cuisines available in Australia from cultures all over the world, which HelloFresh has an informative page about, it is impossible to come up with substitutions for every meal you could potentially eat. However, here are some more common ones.
Remember, these swaps are not necessarily the absolute healthiest things you can eat; they are just easy substitutions with similar products.
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Use wholemeal flour rather than white
When you bake simply swapping out white flour for wholemeal (or wholegrain or spelt) makes a barely noticeable difference in taste, but it is much better for you. Adding a little more fluid can balance the dryness. Wholemeal flour contains the entire wheat grain, rather than having the bran and germ removed. This means that it contains much more fibre than refined flour – which helps to keep you full for longer.
The same principle applies when you buy bread, pasta or rice. Simply look for the wholemeal alternative, or brown rice in the case of rice. It will be a slight adjustment to get used to the new flavour, but shouldn’t be too much of a change. In fact, you may come to prefer the slightly nutty taste of wholemeal wheat products.
Healthy recipes and snacks from our dietitians
- Healthy snacks: 14 Dietitian approved healthy plant based snacks
- Healthy Mexican Bowls recipe: Mexican Bowls (or Burrito Bowls as some people call them
- Healthy pancakes! Banana, vanilla and cinnamon healthy pancakes recipe
- Healthy food platters: 14 yummy, healthy platter ideas
- Healthy pasta salad: Risoni and broccoli pasta salad recipe
- Delicious healthy snacks: Healthy crunchy nut fruit balls:
- Healthy dips that don't contain additives: Make your own deliciously healthy dip
- Healthy dessert ideas: Coco-date healthy bliss balls recipe
- The healthiest breakfast cereal: What is the healthiest breakfast cereal?
- Healthy and tasty banana, date and chia biscuits: Soft, chewy and full of nutritious ingredients
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Swap to fat-free milk
Fat-free milk has exactly the same nutritional profile as full cream, with one key difference – there’s no fat in it (surprise surprise). That means you get all of the protein, calcium and other vitamins as whole milk, without the 8 grams of fat (including 5 grams of saturated fat) per cup.
There are other kinds of milk substitutes you could make with less sugar, but they also have less of the other nutrients such as calcium and protein than in milk. Besides, the taste change is big enough that the swap to (for example) almond or soy milk is hard to make.
More white meat and fish, less red meat
You don’t have to give up red meat to be healthy, but as a rule Australians eat too much of it. Red meats tend to be much fattier than white meat (poultry, mostly) and seafood. While ideally there would be a reduction in meat eaten overall, swapping out some beef, lamb and pork dinners for chicken, turkey and fish will help your heart.
When you do a pasta or other dish with mince, for example, using chicken or turkey mince rather than beef will reduce the amount of fat in the meal. Chicken steaks and salmon steaks are also a good alternative to beef if you decide to barbecue.
Kangaroo, although a red meat, is also a great alternative to the main red meats. It is far less fatty than most livestock, and is full of protein and other antioxidants.
Avocado instead of mayonnaise
This one won’t have the same flavour, but can work just as well. If you want a creamy spread on a burger or sandwich, avocado will make a delicious replacement for mayonnaise. You can also – as a left field option – experiment with using hummus as a spread to replace mayonnaise as a creamy ingredient and give you a different flavour again.
Olive oil in frying and salad dressing
Rather than using melted butter when you fry foods, olive oil makes a heart-friendly alternative. This is because, while both are very fatty, olive oil is unsaturated fat while the fats in butter are saturated. Olive oil is also great as a salad dressing, especially when mixed with balsamic vinegar. This combination can replace creamy dressings.
Squeeze a lemon into Greek yoghurt to replace sour cream
Greek yoghurt can be a good snack on its own (as long as you don’t buy the sugar filled flavoured versions) and makes a healthy breakfast choice with oats and fruit. It can also be used, along with some fresh lemon juice, as a substitute for sour cream in cooking. If you want a dip you can also use it to make tzatziki!
If you make some or all of these substitutions, you will be well on your way to a healthier diet without having to suffer through tasteless, joyless meals. After all, you still need to be able to take pleasure in what you eat!