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10 Unhealthy foods and healthier alternatives

Unhealthy vs healthy food

These healthy food substitutions are not perfect replicas of the food it is meant to replace. However, with some compromise and dedicated to slowly change your eating habits you can become healthier.

1. Substitute for Mayonnaise

Hummus with chickpeas

Mayonnaise is never eaten alone, it is used to enhance another food item such as a sandwich. This use makes it easier to substitute healthier options since it will be blended with other foods. You might not even notice the difference.

Six healthy substitutions for mayonnaise:

  1. Hummus
  2. Avocado
  3. Low-fat Greek yogurt,
  4. Plain olive oil,
  5. Nayonaise (a vegan alternative to mayonnaise),
  6. Pesto.

2. Substitute for white rice

White, brown and black wild rice in a bowl

White rice for some people is very ingrained in their culture. In this case, it is difficult to think about eating something else instead. White rice has a delicate, mild flavor that is easy to get accustomed to. 

Give these Eight healthy white rice substitutions a try

  1. Brown rice
  2. Wild rice 
  3. Black rice
  4. Quinoa
  5. Barley
  6. Couscous 
  7. Farro 
  8. Bulgar

3. Substitute for white bread

Loaf of whole wheat bread

Similarly to white rice, white bread has a soft delicate flavor and your taste buds might find it harder to adjust to a healthier alternative.

Give these three white bread substitutes a try

  1. Whole-grain bread
  2. Whole-grain pita
  3. Big chunks of lettuce can be used to wrap a sandwich

4. Substitute for fried foods

Baked chicken wings

A healthy fried food substitution is to bake the foods instead. If you get the method down, you might be surprised that some baked foods have a very similar texture to fried. 

You might have to compromise a bit in that it might not be exactly as fried, but definitely healthier. For example, adding baking powder to chicken wings change the pH of it and increase the crispiness you get from baking it. 

How to bake chicken wings that taste like fried

Fried chicken wings in the oven can taste like wings from the fryer. Add 1/2 tablespoon of aluminum-free baking powder to each pound of chicken wings. Add other seasonings such as salt and pepper and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F in an oven or air fryer.

5. Substitute for French Fries

Vegetable stir fry in a pot

Similarly to fried chicken wings, french fries have delicious alternatives.

Four healthy alternatives to french fries

  1. Baked french fries. You can buy pre-cut potatoes from stores such as Whole Foods Market or Trader or cut potatoes yourself.
  2. Mashed potatoes with just a bit of milk, olive oil, and some garlic 
  3. Brown rice
  4. Steamed veggies

6. Substitute for Fruit Juice

Seltzer water with lime

Fruit juice isn’t healthy even if it says 100% juice. Fruit juice has no fiber and when you buy commercial products the natural vitamins have been depleted by pasteurization. 

If you have trained yourself to drink fruit juice, it is hard to change, speaking from personal experience. Here are some options that will help.

Four Healthier fruit juice options

  1. Dilute fruit juice by mixing 50% juice with 50% water. This is still better than 100% juice. 
  2. Flavored seltzer water.
  3. Iced green tea with very small amounts of sugar.
  4. Infuse water by adding fruit and let it sit for several hours to overnight in the refrigerator enhances water and make it more palatable.

7. Substitute for pancake syrup

Maple syrup in a bottle

Please don’t tell me you are still reaching for that Aunt [insert grandma’s name here] pancake syrup? It only cost a couple of bucks, but please know you are getting what you pay for.

Before you reach for that high fructose syrup packaged with a sweet friendly face, try these healthier options.

Three healthier options to pancake syrup

  1. Maple syrup
  2. Honey
  3. No syrup at all – yes you can enjoy those waffles, syrup free.

8. Healthier options for refined cereals

Healthy oatmeal with bananas, blueberries and apples.

Do you know that many of the vitamins and minerals posted on some cereal boxes are additives? They are added to replace the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that were destroyed during the manufacturing process?

Many packaged cereals are as bad as not having breakfast at all. Try these healthier options instead.

Five healthy alternatives to cereals

  1. Quick cook, plain and unsweetened oatmeal. Try this with toppings such as cranberries or raisins and fruit.
  2. Quick cook grits with seasonings to taste such as black pepper, olive oil, garlic or a little cheese
  3. Plain yogurt with fruit toppings and a tad bit of maple syrup (optional)
  4. Boiled eggs
  5. Yogurt parfait with fruit and granola

9. Healthy Potato Chips Options

Kale chips in a bowl

Potato chips are such a popular food item they are often attached to your meal at restaurants even when you didn’t ask for it. Tasty and crunchy bud bad for your waistline, let’s look at healthier options to potato chips.

Four healthier options to potato chips

  1. Kale chips are crunchy and tasty
  2. Baked sweet potato chips
  3. Baked Apple chips
  4. Baked beet chips

10. Healthier options for Pizza

Whole wheat bread with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Friday is your pizza day and nothing is getting in your way of eating that heaven on a slice. You don’t have to wish pizza goodbye forever, but occasionally switching out pizza for healthier options will reduce your intake of all that carbs and cheese.

Three Healthier Pizza options

  • Whole grain bagel topped with tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil and chopped herbs
  • Pizza with cauliflower crust
  • Pizza with less mozzarella cheese

Finally

This substitution list could continue forever, but hopefully, you get the idea. It’s not about dramatic changes, it’s about slow and consistent changes.

Unless you have a disease that requires an immediate change to your diet, you will benefit from a slow removal of unhealthy foods. Or, rather than removing it, you can substitute something else for at least half of the time.

Substituting healthier foods will also train your taste buds to like these different foods, and in time you might find that you prefer healthier food choices.

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