What if I told you one of the easiest ways to lose weight is by simply updating your grocery list? It’s true. By simply making a few ingredient substitutions in your recipes, you can slash calories and improve your overall health and wellbeing. In this article, I’ll share four of my favorite healthy food “swaps.”
Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini
If you’re anything like me, eating pasta dishes more than every once in a blue moon makes you feel bloated, uncomfortable, and lethargic—not to mention putting you on the fast track for weight gain. That’s why one of my favorite food “hacks” is substituting spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles (also known as “zoodles”) for traditional pasta noodles. You can swap these veggies for:
By swapping a cup of spaghetti squash for a cup of traditional pasta, you’ll be eating 80% fewer calories and 77% fewer carbohydrates. By swapping a cup of zoodles for a cup of fettuccine, you’ll slash calories by 85% and carbs by 83%, and you’ll save even more by swapping zoodles for lasagna.
Now that’s what I call buon appetito!
Remember a couple of years ago when kale was dubbed the crown jewel of “superfoods”? While indeed a healthy food, the hype surrounding kale has dwindled, and another cruciferous vegetable has supplanted it on the throne: cauliflower.
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and several B vitamins, which are important for optimal brain health and memory. Besides being a potent antioxidant, vitamin C has been shown in some research to provide skin anti-aging effects, help repair damaged, photoaged skin, and even provide wrinkle relief.
In addition, cauliflower is a good source of several other vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, which promotes satiety and enhances weight loss. Plus, like other cruciferous veggies (e.g., broccoli), cauliflower is loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients including indole-3-carbinol, which may help promote healthy estrogen balance, and glucosinolates, which may help improve carbohydrate tolerance and fat metabolism.
Nutritionally speaking, cauliflower has got it going on. But there’s more. Besides being a nutrient powerhouse, cauliflower is incredibly versatile, and that’s why it makes our list of healthy food swaps. It’s an awesome substitute—that tastes delicious—for a slew of more calorie- and carb-dense foods. Here are just some of the possibilities:
• Mashed “faux”-tatoes
• Tater tots
• Pizza crusts
When you sub cauliflower for these starchier carbs, you can slash calories up to 10-fold and cut carbs by 7-fold. With all that in mind, let’s all raise a fork to cauliflower!
Once shunned because of its saturated fat content, coconut oil is now lauded as a “miracle” food. While it may not be the “magic bullet” some would lead you to believe, there may be something to the “coconut craze.” Combined with an overall healthy diet, there are several health benefits that may be enjoyed by regularly consuming virgin coconut oil.
Coconut oil is principally made up of saturated fat (about 92%), with as much as 70% of that being a special type of fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). You see, unlike long chain fatty acids (LCFA), which are the more common fats found in oils, MCTs are easily burned for energy and are far less likely to be stored as fat. MCTs, which are viewed as “functional” fats, have been shown to:
• Suppress appetite
• Increase metabolic rate
• Reduce body weight
• Reduce belly fat
• Improve insulin sensitivity
• Boost brain health and focus
In addition, virgin coconut oil possesses antimicrobial, immunity, and detoxification properties. It’s also a rich source of phytonutrients, polyphenols, and phytosterols, which are potent antioxidants. Finally, despite its content of saturated fat, which has mistakenly been deemed unhealthy, coconut oil has been shown to lead to favorable improvements in markers of metabolic and cardiovascular health.
With all that in mind, it’s a no-brainer that virgin coconut oil would make our list of healthy food swaps, and you can use it for baking, sautéing, roasting, and salad dressings in place of inferior vegetable/seed oils (such as soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, etc.), which may be tied to accelerated aging and unhealthy levels of inflammation when consumed in excess.
Packed with satiating protein and gut-friendly probiotics, Greek yogurt is a renowned health food and top food swap. With twice as much protein and only about one-third the amount of sugar, it’s an obvious substitute for regular yogurt. But one of my top food “hacks” is swapping Greek yogurt for mayonnaise, sour cream, and dips and dressings (e.g., ranch, honey mustard).
Believe it or not, mayo is America’s favorite condiment, with sales more than double that of ketchup ($2B vs. $800M). Why is this a problem? Unfortunately, nearly all store-bought mayo is made with soybean oil, which is loaded with omega-6 fatty acids. While these fats are important, the reality is that most people consume far too many of them! Over-consumption of processed foods (like mayo), as mentioned above, may accelerate aging and lead to unhealthy levels of inflammation.
Not only is Greek yogurt a much more nutritious option, when you swap it for mayo, you’ll be slashing calories by a whopping 87% or more! Ready to give it a try for yourself? Check out this delicious recipe:
Bonus Recipe: Herbed Greek Yogurt
Oh, I have one more secret swap with Greek yogurt: ICE CREAM. Yep, you read that right: ice cream! It’s as simple as mixing one scoop of your favorite flavor of BioTrust Low Carb with one cup of plain Greek yogurt. Freeze for an hour, stir, and enjoy!
When it comes to dairy, we suggest choosing organic, which studies have shown to have higher levels of healthy fats (e.g., omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid). Also, when it comes to dairy, don’t fear the fat. Several studies have found that full-fat dairy is associated with better metabolic health and inversely associated with obesity.