Ten easy food swaps that make your diet healthier

Distressed diets don’t work, and science agrees. A 2020 study by the medical journal BMJ analyzed 22,000 adults who were overweight or obese who were following one of fourteen popular weight loss programs. The study divided the programs into three categories: low-carb, low-fat, and medium-macronutrient.

The results were clear. Over the course of six months, those who followed the low-fat or low-carb diet lost about ten pounds, and after six months they mostly regained the weight. Those who follow a diet based on macronutrients tend to lose less weight overall.

More and more experts agree that a moderate approach to a healthy lifestyle is the most sustainable and that incorporating small changes into our lifestyle has the best long-term effect.

Last year, dietitian Paula May told Feelgood that diets don’t work.

“Severely restricting calories just doesn’t work,” she says. “It leads to compensatory changes in our physiology that increase appetite and prepare people to regain the weight they have lost.”

Here are the small changes you can make to improve the nutritional content of the food you eat.

1. Replace your processed cereal with porridge

Make your daily bowl of porridge the most important thing in your day.

Eating a bowl of porridge in the morning will keep you full for longer. The soluble fiber in oats has been shown to help lower cholesterol, is gentle on the tummy and is a tooth-friendly form of breakfast cereal.

2. Replace potato chips with nuts

If you’re craving something savory in the afternoon, go for some nuts. It’s got heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and protein—just don’t overdo it. A small handful is enough for a snack and opt for unsalted, unroasted nuts for a healthy option.

3. Replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa solids, and is known for its mineral content. The cocoa plant contains high levels of minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium and zinc, as well as antioxidants, such as flavanols and polyphenols, which can also have health benefits. Since both dark chocolate and milk chocolate also contain cocoa butter and sugar—not as high as the health benefits—it’s always worth choosing the highest percentage of cocoa available.

4. Replace white bread with brown bread

Brown bread is rich in fiber and provides slow-release energy.
Brown bread is rich in fiber and provides slow-release energy.

If you want to stay full longer, find a whole grain alternative for your bread every time. Brown bread is rich in fibre, which means you will be providing slow-release energy to your body every time.

5. Replace juice with whole fruit

Fruit juice often lacks the fiber that fruit provides, so if you drink more than one glass of orange juice per day, for example, it may be beneficial to replace one of them with the whole fruit.

6. Replace frying with boiling or grilling

Choose lean meats as much as possible, and boil, grill or bake them as often as possible.

7. Replace the bandage you buy in the store with a homemade bandage

Store-bought salad dressings can be full of additives and hidden sugars. Make your own vinaigrette by shaking three parts oil with one part acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and storing in a jar in the refrigerator.

8. Replace soft drinks with a cup of coffee

Drinking coffee in moderation can be good for you.
Drinking coffee in moderation can be good for you.

When consumed in moderation, coffee can have significant health benefits, particularly with regard to liver health as studies have shown that moderate amounts of coffee can slow the progression of liver disease.

9. Replace cream sauces with tomatoes or stock ones

Try incorporating fruits and vegetables into sauces, too. Prefer tomato sauces over creamy sauces.

10. Replace meat with fish

Replace meat with fish once or twice a week and try to eat at least one serving of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines, which will contribute to your heart health.

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