Last updated on April 17th, 2021 at 08:40 am
If you want to eat healthy, but are feeling overwhelmed, don’t stress! With these 12 easy clean eating food swaps, you can make the best healthy choices and stay healthy without feeling deprived (or miserable). I’m also sharing some of my favorite healthy recipes to go with these swaps.
12 Clean Eating Food Swaps
Eating healthy can be tough, right? There are cookies, brownies, chips, pizza…all those things that keep us daydreaming during a boring meeting at work. Yes, we’re surrounded by “bad” foods screaming our names. But just like there are tons of unhealthy foods out there, today we also have more healthy choices than ever before. And they actually can taste good.
In fact, eating clean is easy, and preparing healthy recipes is a lot easier than preparing something unhealthy. I know I sound delusional, but it’s a fact. And it’s also cheaper and quicker. None of the recipes on this blog takes longer than 40 min. And that’s like 3-4 recipes. Everything else can be done in less than 30 minutes.
No matter how much time you have to cook, this list below will give you ideas how to make healthier choices every time.
1. Smoothie bowl VS of Ice Cream
Smoothie bowls are basically fruit – frozen and blended. Nothing more. No big mystery. Most recipes use frozen bananas that give smoothie bowls a nice creamy texture. But if you’re like me and hate, don’t always love frozen bananas – soaking some nuts and blending those with some fruit will work as well.
A smoothie bowl has no refined sugar and is bursting with antioxidants, phytochemicals and good fats. While ice cream…well it’s bursting with saturated fat and sugar. Both pro-inflammatory and not great for your overall health. Here’s a smoothie bowl recipe, I really love right now.
2. Smoothie VS Milk Shake
Strawberry shake from McDonald’s was one of my favorite treats when I was a kid. But. Instead of adding all that cream, sugar and ice cream, you can just make a strawberry banana smoothie like this one. It’s amazing. You only need three ingredients and you can use coconut milk to make it dairy-free too.
3. Lettuce VS Bread
If you like eating wraps as much as I do, you will benefit a lot from this swap. It’s exactly what you’re thinking: using lettuce instead of bread. Fewer calories and more micronutrients. If you want even more nutrients you can wrap your meals in collard greens. Now, this swap might seem a little unappealing at first, but once you try it – you won’t regret it. I know I hated even the thought of a “lettuce wrap”, but now I actually find them more delicious than the regular ones. You can strart with these delicious recipes: Clean eating salmon wraps, Mediterranean chicken lettuce wraps or these vegan quinoa and bean lettuce wraps.
4. Olive oil VS Dressings
The best and easiest dressing for me has always been olive oil and lemon. Sometimes vinegar instead of lemon. When you use this simple combination as a dressing instead of other ready dressings you avoid a ton of hidden sugars. Olive oil is the best choice of fat for salads as it’s rich in monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial polyphenols (1).
5. Millet VS Couscous
Not that I have anything against couscous, but it’s got a competitor that’s far better than him. It’s called millet. Now while couscous is just a tiny wheat pasta, millet is…well millet. It’s a whole grain and it’s alkaline, gluten-free and super tiny.
You know what’s not tiny? Millet’s nutritional power. At the same calories, millet has almost double the micronutrients of couscous like for example iron, magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins and it has double the fiber. If a recipe calls for couscous, you can use millet instead – it has a similar texture, but it’s not as bland as couscous, having a nutty, more intense flavor. I used millet in this healthy fried millet recipe, that’s got many great reviews on Pinterest.
6. Infused Water Vs. Juices/Soda
Seems like whatever we’re drinking these days it’s bad for us. You know what isn’t bad for us? Water. Instead of drinking diet coke or fruit juices – drink water! Simple, requires no preparation and is great for your skin and for weight loss. Now if you don’t like plain water, you can infuse your water with fruits using a fruit infuser water bottle or even simpler by just adding some lemon slices to your water. My favorite type of infused water is this anti-inflammatory lemon ginger water.
7. Lentils or Quinoa VS White rice
White rice is not the unhealthiest thing in the world, but it has a high glycemic index and is not very nutritious, because it’s been stripped down from all its fiber and most of its micronutrients. Better options that cook faster than brown rice: quinoa, lentils or millet.
All these options are good sources of protein & fiber and provide a good amount of iron, zinc and magnesium. You can use quinoa and millet almost anywhere instead of rice. It will be tougher to use lentils instead of rice in all your favorite meals, but you can start with your sides and experiment from there. One of my favorite recipes where I used quinoa in place of rice is this tomato basil quinoa risotto. If you haven’t, definitely give this simple meatless dinner a try!
8. Cauliflower Rice Vs Grains
Yet, another very healthy alternative if you want to make low calorie and low carb meals. This swap will be especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. I didn’t believe cauliflower can turn into something that resembles rice, but I tried it two years ago and it’s absolutely delicious. It’s of course not the same like rice, but it’s pretty similar. I’ve made risottos, a healthy fried rice recipe that you can find here and a very tasty spicy cauliflower rice with ground turkey. If you’re skeptical, I highly recommend just giving it a try once, you might find something new you like.
9. Healthy No Bake Cookies Vs Regular Cookies
Mix some nuts or nut butter with honey or dried fruit and you get something that tastes like a cookie. And that something is rich in antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats. Cookies aren’t. Here’s a simple recipe for healthy no bake breakfast cookies that I absolutely love.
10. Hummus or avocado VS mayo
Mayonnaise is a perfect example of how a food can be very high in fat, especially saturated fat and nothing else. Therefore instead of mayo use avocado, hummus or even probiotic yogurt – all these taste great, but provide more nutrients than mayo does. Hummus, for example, is high-fiber, high-protein and contains a great amount of iron, zinc, magnesium, folate and vitamin B6. Here are some recipes that use these substitutions (in a way) instead of mayo:
11. Oats VS refined flour
This one is a favorite of mine. I discovered around 3 years ago that I can make almost anything I want with oats. Muffins, pancakes, cheesecake crusts, apple crumble…anything. In fact, I don’t even know how to use regular flour anymore.
The benefit of this swap is that oats have more fiber (especially beta glucan) and more micronutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc and B-vitamins. Oats are also a good source of prebiotics – needed for healthy gut, and are known to lower cholesterol (2).
Oats do absorb more water/milk than white flour, but once you get that, you’ll forget about white flour altogether. If you want to try this swap you can start with these recipes:
- 10-Minute Oatmeal Pancakes
- Apple crumble mini pies
- Healthy Chocolate Oatmeal Cake
- Breakfast Apple Cake
- Flourless blueberry muffins
- Easy Oatmeal Banana Bread
12. Breakfast: Overnight oats or yogurt with berries VS Milk+Cereal
Both of these breakfast alternatives to milk and cereal are easy to do and take absolutely no time. Yogurt with berries and nuts takes about 2 min and overnight oats are actually ready in the morning. So instead of high-sugar cereal, you can start your day with a breakfast that will actually fill you up and give you real energy.
Both these healthy breakfast options are also good for your gut – yogurt contains probiotics and oats contain prebiotics. Overnight oats are also high-protein, high-fiber and rich in omega-3’s, while yogurt with berries and nuts is high-protein and rich in omega-3’s.
You can also make your own healthy granola in just 10 minutes and eat it throughout the week. Mix some nuts, seeds and oats with honey and cinnamon, heat up on the stove or bake for a few minutes, let cool off and it’s ready!
As for the recipes, you can find them here:
For the overnight oats:
- 1/3 cup oats (use gluten-free oats, if you're on a gluten-free diet)
- 1/3 cup almond milk or water
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp honey /agave/maple syrup
- 1/2 cup berries
- 2 Tbsp chopped almonds
- 1 Tbsp almond butter
- Before you go to bed mix in a small Tupperware or a jar oats, chia seeds, almond milk or even plain water and maple syrup. Make sure that all parts are combined well, stirring with a fork for around 1 min. Close the lid and leave in the fridge overnight or at least for 3 hours.
- In the morning: Top with berries of your choice, I used blueberries and raspberries, nuts (I usually like almonds and peanuts because they're very crunchy and make my heart melt) and nut butter - I love peanut butter, so that's what I used. Almond butter goes well with these as well.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 493Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 96mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 13gSugar: 31gProtein: 13g
And that is it.
I hope these swaps can make your transition to a healthier lifestyle easier if you’re just starting out and if you’re already eating healthy, hopefully you got some new ideas. Let me know if you try out these ideas and as always don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions, I’d love to help. Also be sure to check out my 7-Day Clean eating meal plan and my simple clean eating for beginners guide.