Switch It Up | 6 Healthy Food Swaps for Everyday Options

Switch It Up | 6 Healthy Food Swaps for Everyday Options

Craving a crunchy, sweet, salty snack, but trying to stick to a healthy diet? Here are six (6) food swap options that are satisfying and delicious.

Published: July 19, 2022

Topics: Nutrition, Wellness

Author: Carolina Schneider, MS, RD

How can you be the best boxer you can be? The answer could lie on your plate. The foods you eat regularly play a major role in how you perform in the ring and how well you recover. Most importantly, the foods you eat set the stage for long-term health (or illness). This is why it’s never too early to improve your daily eating habits. Overwhelmed by the thought of changing your diet? We have good news – small changes can go a long way. Here are six easy healthy food swaps you can make today.

Healthy Food Swaps

1. Refined Grains > Whole Grains

Switch Refined Grains For Whole Grains

Whole grains are different from refined grains as they contain the entire grain, including the bran and germ, where all of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals are found. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ, and stripped of most of their B vitamins, minerals, such as iron and magnesium, vitamin E, and fiber. This means refined grains are far less nutritious and may spike blood sugar levels due to a lack of fiber. Whole grains are a heart-healthy swap that support weight management and blood sugar maintenance. Here are some easy switches you can make to replace refined grains in your diet:

  • White rice → brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, farro

  • White bread, bagel, or tortilla → whole wheat or sprouted bread, bagel, or tortilla

  • White, all-purpose flour → whole wheat, oat, buckwheat, spelt, or quinoa flour

  • Traditional pasta → whole wheat, chickpea, black bean, lentil, quinoa, or brown rice pasta

  • Grits or rice pudding → oats (oatmeal or overnight oats), quinoa, or buckwheat breakfast bowls

2. Added Sugars > Natural Sugars

Switch Added Sugars For Natural Sugars

Added sugars are associated with an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. They are found in a variety of foods and beverages, including baked goods, pastries, frozen desserts, and even in foods deemed as “healthy,” such as granola, energy bars, flavored yogurt, cereals, iced tea, and fruit juices. Natural sugars, on the other hand, are found in fruits and come accompanied by several nutrients beneficial to health. Here are some ideas for how to swap out foods with added sugars for ones with natural sugars:

  • White sugar → date syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, teas, flavored coffee) → naturally sweetened soda alternatives, sparkling flavored water, unsweetened teas, sugar-free coffee flavoring

  • Flavored yogurt → plain yogurt with fresh fruits

  • Sugary granola bars (more than 5 grams per serving) → homemade granola bars or energy balls

  • High-sugar breakfast cereals → whole grain or sprouted cereal

  • Candy or milk chocolate → dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher)

3. High-Fat Animal Protein > Lean Meats or Plant-Based Protein

Switch High-Fat Animal Protein For Lean Meats or Plant-Based Protein

Animal proteins are a major source of saturated fats, which contribute to weight gain and increased cholesterol levels. This in turn increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Opting for leaner cuts of meat and incorporating more plant-based proteins is a great way to lower saturated fat intake and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. Here are some options for adding more lean meats and plant-based proteins to your diet in place of high-fat animal proteins:

  • Deli meats → whole-cut meat (rotisserie chicken or whole turkey)

  • Red meat → poultry (lean chicken or turkey), fish, seafood

  • Chicken or tuna salad → chickpea salad

  • Whole egg → egg whites

  • Plant-based proteins: tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, lentils, chickpeas

4. Salty, Highly Processed Snacks > Multigrain and Veggie Snacks

Switch Salty, Highly Processed Snacks For Multigrain and Veggie Snacks

Who doesn’t love a movie-time or fight night, savory snack? Unfortunately, oftentimes these come paired with loads of salt and oils, which is not a desirable combination for health. If you still crave that crunch, here are several healthier swaps you can make that will keep you satisfied and won’t wreak havoc on your health:

  • Potato chips → legume-based chips (made from beans or chickpeas) or veggie chips (made from cauliflower or sweet potato)

  • Tortilla chips → multigrain tortilla chips

  • Veggie puffs → cauliflower-based snacks, kale chips, sweet potato chips

  • Plain crackers → whole grain crackers (make sure “whole grain” is the first ingredient) or multi-seed crackers

  • Buttery ‘movie popcorn’ → air-popped, lightly salted popcorn

  • Other healthy snack options: nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, edamame

5. Fried Foods > Baked or Air-Fried Foods

Switch Fried Foods For Baked or Air-Fried Foods

Fried foods are high in sodium and saturated fats, which can promote plaque buildup in arteries, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease. Better alternatives include air-frying or oven-baking commonly fried foods. Here are some ideas for you:

  • French fries → air-fried potato strips or oven-baked potato wedges

  • Deep-fried chicken → air-fried or oven-baked chicken

  • Fried dumplings → air-fried, pan-fried, or boiled dumplings

  • Onion rings → oven-baked onion rings

  • Deep-fried falafel → air-fried or oven-baked falafel

  • Fried crab cakes → air-fried or oven-baked crab cakes

  • Fried fish → pan-fried or oven-baked fish

6. High-Fat Spreads, Dips, and Condiments > Nutrient-Dense Options

Switch High-Fat Spreads, Dips, and Condiments For Nutrient-Dense Options

Foods such as margarine, sour cream, and mayonnaise are staple items in many households. However, these foods are some of the highest in saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. To still achieve that creaminess in your recipes and snacks, here are some healthier alternatives:

  • Butter or margarine → olive oil, avocado spread, hummus

  • Cream cheese → dairy-free cream cheese, hummus, low-fat cottage cheese

  • Mayonnaise → hummus, avocado spread, mustard

  • Sour cream → Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, silken tofu, dairy-free sour cream

  • Ranch dip → yogurt-based dips, black bean dip, hummus

Key Takeaways

The foods we consume on a daily basis have a tremendous impact on our health and wellness. For boxers, it is no different. Fueling the body with nutritious foods is one way to improve performance in the ring and lead a healthy lifestyle. Making small dietary changes that can be sustained over time is an effective way to improve overall eating habits. Start with these six (6) healthy food swaps to substitute nutrient-poor foods with health-promoting ones.

And if you're switching up your boxer's diet, why not switch up your at-home boxing routine and try a new workout?

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Carolina Schneider, MS, RD is a registered dietitian specializing in plant-based nutrition and wellness. She is passionate about evidence-based nutrition and educating individuals on how to eat well for good health.

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