Guest Blog: Connie Evers – 13 Healthy Food Swaps For 2013!
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By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids

Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – 13 Healthy Food Swaps For 2013!

Switch Up Your Snacking and Everyday Meals For a Healthy New Year

Making the move towards better nutrition doesn’t have to feel like deprivation or punishment. Focus on the foods to eat more of and gradually replace the nutritional no-no’s with nutrient-rich, delicious alternatives. Below are 13 of my favorite swaps that I have incorporated into my eating plan over the years:

1. Use an Oil Dispenser
My favorite recent swap is from commercial non-stick sprays to an oil spray pump dispenser. Just add olive oil (or another heart-healthy oil) to the dispenser, pump and lightly spray on your salad, whole grain breads, vegetables for roasting, or muffin pans before baking. This swap is not only healthy, but also cheaper and better for the environment.

2. Go Nuts!
Instead of reaching for potato chips or other fried snacks, go for healthy, satisfying nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios or pecans. The trick is to watch your portion size – a reasonable serving size of most shelled nuts is 2 tablespoons, which translates to about 100 calories.

3. Sweeten It Yourself
Stop buying foods that are already “presweetened” such as cereals, yogurt and pastries. If you crave a little sweetness, control the amount by adding just 1-2 teaspoons of sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or jam to a serving of low sugar cereal, plain yogurt or whole wheat toast.

4. Get a Real Breakfast of Champions
Cereal bars with nutritious sounding names are often highly processed, high in sugar, and a poor choice for breakfast or snack. Read labels and look for more “whole food” bars that contain recognizable ingredients such as nuts, fruit and whole grains such as oats.

5. Just Add Water
Make 2013 the year to swap sugar-sweetened beverages for cool, refreshing water. If plain tap water is too boring, try sparkling water with citrus slices or add just a splash of 100% fruit juice.

6. Green Power
When it comes to greens, swap nutritionally wimpy iceberg lettuce for nutrient-rich deep dark greens such as kale, chard, spinach, arugula, collard greens or romaine. Dark greens can be used in salads, steamed or sautéed, added to soups and stews or roasted in the oven. Kale chips are particularly easy to make – simply tear into small pieces, spray with olive oil, lightly salt and bake for 8-10 minutes in a 350° oven.

Kale chips are incredibly nutritious, and an easy thing to cook together!

7. Get Some Magic Beans
Sub in beans and lentils for some of the meat you are eating. A true “super food,” beans are underrated and under-utilized. In fact, beans are such a nutrient powerhouse, they are recognized in two food groups – vegetables and protein. Besides being rich in protein, fiber and a whole host of nutrients, they are extremely affordable and versatile.

8. Smooth Snacking
Ditch the fast food milkshakes and instead build your own nutrient-rich smoothie. Simply blend a cup of frozen fruit (e.g. bananas, pineapple, mangos, berries) with ½ cup milk, ½ cup plain Greek yogurt and a splash of 100% fruit juice for a protein and nutrient-rich breakfast or snack.

9. Go Whole Grain
Switch from white, refined pasta to a more nutrient-rich alternative. There are many good whole grain options on the market, including gluten-free varieties such as quinoa, corn or brown rice pasta. “Plus” pastas that incorporate legumes for added protein and fiber (and still look like “white” pasta) are another great option.

10. Flour Power
Years ago, I got rid of white flour and now you will only find whole wheat pastry flour in my canister. The finer texture works well in breads, muffins and cookies. It even works as a coating for chicken or fish.

11. An apple a day…
Swap fruit juice for whole fruit. Whole fruit has more fiber, fewer calories and is more satisfying because it takes longer to eat.

12. Chips, Ahoy!
My personal weakness is corn tortilla chips. I have learned to make my own healthful version by starting with whole corn tortillas. I cut the tortillas into triangles or shapes, spray lightly with canola oil, and bake at 400° for about 10 minutes. Best of all, there’s no large tempting bag sitting on my pantry shelf!

13. Go Fish
Switch from fatty, processed fish sticks to omega-3 rich baked salmon. A simple favorite in my family is a light spread of Dijon mustard on top of the salmon, a sprinkle of crushed walnuts, and then baking it for 15 minutes in a 400° oven.

Here’s hoping your new year will be packed with these and many more healthy swaps!

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