Smart food swaps for your health and weight management
Eating well doesn’t have to mean totally overhauling your diet. Making just a few small swaps to your usual meals and snacks can really add up.
By switching over some key ingredients in some of your common meals, you can cut kilojoules, saturated fat, sugar and salt while boosting fibre and your overall nutrition. By choosing the right carbs you can also lower blood glucose and insulin levels and feel fuller for longer.
Here are a few swaps to get you started:
Breakfast: begin the day well
- Choose traditional or steel-cut rolled oats in place of processed breakfast cereals to avoid added salt, sugar and fat. Make them into porridge, cooked with stewed apple and cinnamon, or make a home-made muesli or overnight oats.
- Change white or wholemeal bread to dense wholegrain bread – the more grains the better!
- Leave off the butter and margarine and instead, top your toast with avocado, ricotta cheese or natural (100%) nut butters.
- If you like a cooked breakfast, forget bacon and sausages and instead serve eggs with vegetables such as grilled tomato, poached asparagus and sautéed spinach and mushrooms.
- If you like beans, make your own healthy baked beans, like these ones thanks to Healthy Food Guide.
Lunch: refuel the right way
- If you enjoy sandwiches and wraps, choose wholegrain breads, replace butter, margarine and mayonnaise with avocado or hummus and pack them with plenty of salad.
- Avoid processed meats, which have been linked with higher risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and instead use leftover home-cooked lean meats or chicken, canned fish, boiled eggs, cheese, marinated tofu or legume-based burgers and patties.
- Choose soups made with lots of vegetables, legumes and grains and avoid the creamy varieties. Check out some of our favourites here. Cook up a batch on the weekend and you’ll have lunch sorted for the week.
- Make salads more satisfying by incorporating grains and legumes. Make your own dressings from olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice or for a healthier creamy option try combining tahini and lemon juice. Here are some of our favourites.
Dinner: switch a few ingredients for big savings
- Aim to balance your plate with half non-starchy vegetables or salads, one-quarter lean protein and one-quarter wholegrains or starchy vegetables.
- Replace white rice and pasta with wholemeal/wholegrain varieties and try other grains such as barley, quinoa, freekeh and burghul, to increase fibre and lower the GI of your meals.
- Replace white potato with orange sweet potato, pumpkin and corn. Mashed white beans (cannellini or butter bean) make a great high fibre, lower GI alternative to mashed potato.
- Switch animal protein for plants (e.g. legumes, tofu and tempeh) a few times per week or replace part of the meat or chicken with legumes in dishes such as mince, curries and casseroles. Our Meat-Free Monday recipe suggestions might provide some inspiration.
- Replace a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce for the equivalent amount of canned crushed tomatoes or passata, to cut added salt and sugar.
- Replace pre-made simmer sauces with low salt stock, fresh or dried herbs and spices and canned tomatoes to add flavour without the added sugar, fat and salt. For some tasty home-made sauce and dressing ideas, check out our Pinterest recipe page.
- Replace cream in cooking with carnation light evaporated milk, ricotta cheese or soaked and pureed cashew nuts and replace sour cream with natural Greek yoghurt to cut saturated fat and boost protein and calcium intakes.
- Replace salt in cooking or on meals by adding flavour from fresh and dried herbs and spices, lemon and lime juice. See our tips for using herbs and spices here.
Snack wisely: satisfy hunger between meals without adding to your waistline
- Choose fresh fruit as the perfect package-free and portable snack. The last Australian health survey found that around half of Australian adults weren’t eating the recommended 2 or more serves of fruit per day.
- Swap chips and corn chips for a handful of nuts or roasted chickpeas to reduce saturated fat and salt and boost protein and fibre intake.
- Swap puffed crackers and crispbreads (including rice crackers) for wholegrain varieties such as Ryvita, Vitaweat and Carman’s Super Seed & Grain
- Choose dips made from vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds over cream, sour-cream and cheese based dips and serve them with raw vegetable crudites rather than crackers and chips.
- Replace flavoured yoghurts with natural yoghurt mixed with fresh or frozen berries or passionfruit.
Rethink your eating habits
It’s not just what you eat but also your eating habits that impact your health and weight. These changes will make it easier to eat well, manage your weight and enjoy your meals:
- Be a mindful eater. Put all meals and snacks on a plate and sit down to eat rather than eating on the run or while involved in other activities. Take your time to relax and enjoy eating.
- Eat at the table, not while watching television or in front of your computer.
- Use smaller plates, cups and bowls – there’s good evidence that this can help you to eat less while still feeling satisfied.
- Whether at home or eating out, stop when you are satisfied and avoid the temptation to clean your plate.