Healthy food swaps cop a bad wrap.

For many people, the phrase conjures up images of ‘burgers’ with lettuce leaves as buns and cardboard-like corn thins in lieu of toast. Yuck.

Swapping out the tasty, enjoyable bits of meals for lower-carb or lower-fat alternatives can leave you feeling unsatisfied and deprived, not dissimilar to a young King Curtis in one particularly iconic episode of Wife Swap:

But that said, there are a few simple food swaps that are worth giving a go.

We asked Joel FerenAccredited Practising Dietitian, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia and founder of The Nutrition Guy, to give us the low down on food swaps that’ll actually leave you satiated, and a little healthier too.

I feel like I’m a contestant on the show ‘Ready Steady Cook’ and I have been tasked with creating a meal using a variety of different items. I’ve got dips, olives, cheese, cucumber, carrot, crackers, an apple and a bottle of wine. I’m thinking of making an antipasto. Any ideas? ???????? #getyourmaninthekitchen • • • • • #foodiefeatures #commontable #foodinspiration #eatwelllivewell #lovetoeat #kitchenlife #kitchenlove #recipedevelopment #makeitdelicious #dietitiansofinstagram #heresmyfood #melbournefoodblogger #homecook #foodmatters #yumtastic #homechef #lovecooking #lifeandthyme #ourplatesdaily #healthyanddelicious #colourfulfood #cookingram #inthekitchen #cookinglove #hautecuisines #mindbodygreen #healthmatters #kitchenstories #inthekitchen

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1. Swap coconut oil for extra virgin olive oil 


“We used to go loco for coconut oil, however, it’s quickly losing its appeal. And with good reason, too,” says Feren.

“Coconut oil cannot be relied on to cut our risk of heart disease, however, extra virgin olive oil is the bee’s knees.

“Countless studies have shown olive oil’s ability to cut heart disease by reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the nasty type) while boosting HDL cholesterol (the good type). Add it to your salads and veggies, pastas and stir fries. Your heart will thank you for it.”

2. Swap bacon for smoked salmon

You might read this point and relate to Brennan Huff, but Feren reckons the fatty fish deserves a place in your beloved brunch spread.

“Smoked salmon is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids – the type that help to boost your good cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Include smoked salmon in the same way you do bacon. It goes great on toast with eggs, in pasta and risotto and in sandwiches.”

3. Swap some meat for legumes

What exactly is a legume, you ask?

Legumes are the babushka dolls of the food world. They’re the dry fruit contained within a shell or a pod. The best known legumes are peas, beans, peanuts, alfalfa, lentils and chickpeas. They aren’t the most glamorous sounding ingredients, but they’re remarkably good for you (and pretty cheap, too).

“You don’t have to go full vego, but including more plant based foods will only hold you in good stead. Plant based diets are being lauded and have been shown to improve heart health, boost low moods and can reduce the incidence of certain types of cancers,” says Feren.

“Add lentils to your spaghetti bolognese and chickpeas to stir fries and salads to boost the protein content.” 

It really is as easy as picking up a can of chickpeas, throwing them into one of your beloved meals and reaping the protein, mineral and fibre-filled benefits.

4. Swap salt for herbs and spices 

sorry i had to

“Maximise flavour by using fresh or dried herbs and spices. By and large Aussies eat way too much salt and reducing our intakes will only be a good thing for our hearts,” says Feren.

To put our salt addiction into perspective, Australians eat 1.1 billion sausages a year (majority from Bunnings, we hope) and the average snag in bread with sauce contains more than half our recommended daily salt intake.

“Experiment in the kitchen with different combinations. Just don’t make salt the hero in your next dish.”

5. Swap fruit juice for whole fruit 

vintage bruce jenner the juice vendor

We’ve decried dumb as ‘juice cleanses’ in the past, and Feren agrees, juice ain’t the best idea if you’re on a health kick.

“You are much better off eating your fruit rather than drinking it. When you juice your fruit you often miss out on all the fibre and a heap of nutrients that typically bind to that fibre. Not to mention you’ll need two oranges to make just one glass of juice making it a concentrated source of sugar. Go for whole.”

Since you’ve stuck around this long, here are two extra swaps Feren would not recommend.

Don’t swap cauliflower rice for brown rice

“This craze has got to end. If you want rice, then eat it. Just be mindful of your portions. Brown rice is packed full of nutrients including: magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, zinc and fibre. It’s a cheap fuel source, too. By all means have your cauliflower, just don’t blitz it and serve it with curry on top.”

Don’t swap fresh avocado for avocado dip

“Nothing beats smashed avocado on toast, although Bernard Salt thinks otherwise. Avocado is rich in potassium, vitamin E and fibre. Meanwhile avocado dip contains very little avocado in it so you’ll miss out on all that goodness.”

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