9 Healthy Swaps for Unhealthy Foods


When I write up the personalized recommendations that are a part of each new client’s health plan, I include what I call “lateral shifts:” healthier versions of foods we’ve been told are healthy (but actually aren’t). I decided to compile a list of some examples so you can do the same. Dump these foods from your kitchen and replace them with healthier, whole foods versions.

9 Healthy Swaps for Unhealthy Foods

1. The #1 swap I recommend is MILK. Click here to read my thoughts about milk and why I don’t think it should be a staple in anyone’s diet. If you tolerate dairy, fermented forms can be beneficial; otherwise, milk can cause bloating and acne. Exchange it for coconut milk or almond milk (click here to make your own— the store bought stuff doesn’t even come close!). I don’t recommend rice milk because it spikes blood sugar and insulin.

2. Swap out your oatmeal and cereal for grain free porridges. I’ve written before why oatmeal and cereal aren’t health foods. Cereal especially is refined and enriched grains with added sugars that break down quickly, leaving you famished by 11am. Oatmeal is a high carb, low protein breakfast that often leads to an energy crash. Instead, try a grain free porridge. My favorite is 1/2 cup pumpkin combined with 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp gelatin for protein, and some vanilla and cinnamon, all warmed together on the stove. YUM. I love this inventive grain free porridge from my friend Hannah, and Grass Fed Girl has several too. Check out my pinterest breakfast board for tons of grain free porridge and breakfast options.

3. Speaking of cereal, swap out your granola for a paleo, grain free granola. Most granola has wheat and oats and is loaded with sugar. The grain free options are much lower carb and won’t spike your blood sugar. Plus, plenty of healthy fats!

4. Yogurt is one of my faves to pick on. Most yogurt is really high in sugar and contains modified food starch or other thickeners. Many people are sensitive to the casein in dairy, so your morning yogurt may be a cause of your acne, fatigue, and bloating. Try coconut milk yogurt instead. You’ll get the good probiotics without the dairy side effects. It’s so easy to make your own.

5. Get rid of your pasta and say hello to the world of veggie noodles. Such fun and so delicious! And you won’t have that brick sitting on your stomach when you’re done. Oh, and no food coma either. I use my spiral slicer to make zucchini, carrot and sweet potato noodles, or roast a spaghetti squash and serve with your favorite pasta sauce.

6. Bread. By now you know the wheat in this country has been hybridized and altered so that the resulting wheat we eat now is harder to digest and raises blood sugar. It even has the potential to stimulate appetite (which most of us don’t need or want). Read Wheat Belly for all the unsavory details. Ditch the refined wheat breads and make your own grain free breads with almond or coconut flour. There are tons of recipes out there. Here is a grain free bread round-up, including paleo sandwich bread. If you’re not paleo, I love the brown rice breads too.

7. Speaking of wheat, ditch the refined white flour. It’s basically a skeletonized food that quickly breaks down into sugar, spiking your blood glucose levels and contributing to sugar cravings. I use Bob’s Red Mill (swap out 1:1 for flour in any recipe) and Pamela’s gluten free baking mixe. Bob’s does better for more savory breads, while Pamela’s is better for muffins or sweeter treats. I also use almond and coconut flours, but you can’t swap those out 1:1, so consult recipes. A note on sugar: click here for the best sweeteners to use instead of refined white sugar.

8. Protein bars are another that made my list of health foods that aren’t.  Typically made from whey or soy protein isolates, they’re highly processed and contain tons of sugar or inflammatory vegetable oils. Sure, there are plain fruit and nut bars, but they don’t contain *that* much protein and they’re usually high in sugar. Epic bars contain a good bit of protein and don’t have any junk! You can also make your own. I rely on this almond-coconut-chocolate bar from the Paleo Mom. Or just eat some beef jerky :) 

9. Instead of potato chips fried in unhealthy vegetables oils that are loaded with toxins, make your own sweet potato chips. You can roast them with coconut oil and sea salt for a healthy alternative. Or these new “honest” potato chips are made with organic potatoes fried in coconut oil.

A reminder: I tell my clients that there are always healthier, whole foods versions of your favorite dishes, from pizza to lasagne. I love almond flour pizza crust. A simple google search for “paleo lasagne” will have you salivating in no time.

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  1. tash says

    I am going to have to disagree on number 2, well half disagree. Most cold cereal is mostly sugar junk. But oatmeal is a hearty breakfast. I make mine with almond milk, a touch of sugar, pecans (or almonds), and dried (no sugar added) cranberries. So it has protein from the nuts, the fruit adds sweetness so I don’t have to add too much sugar to make it palatable and I find that I am not hungry until after lunch, often I forget to eat lunch after eating oatmeal. I don’t have an energy crash after eating it either.

    I also don’t know what you are talking about with pasta. I eat pasta 3-5 times a week and don’t have food coma or a brick feeling. Actually I often will stay up late with more energy at night, even after having pasta for dinner. Also veggie noodles don’t store well like regular pasta does. I do think veggie noodles are good for you though, just not as practical as regular pasta and regular pasta isn’t as bad as you make it sound.

  2. says

    As I mention in the article, if you’re not trying to lose weight, you have stable energy, no GI issues, and no sugar cravings, you may be ok eating oatmeal. But the breakfast you describe is low protein and high sugar (dried cranberries, sugar added or not, are very high in natural sugars, along with the sugar you’re adding). That’s far too much sugar and not enough protein in my opinion. And with pasta: again, a high carb, refined four product. The wheat genome in this country has been altered so that it is difficult to digest, creates inflammation, and raises blood sugar and appetite. I don’t recommend gluten as a staple in anyone’s diet. Read the book Wheat Belly for more: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1609614798?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=1609614798&linkCode=xm2&tag=maryvancnutrc-20

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