Simple food swaps for a healthier diet

8 dietary changes you can make at home



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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17 July 2019

Simple food swaps for a healthier diet

Whether you want to want to lose weight or just eat a little healthier, there are a number of food swaps you can make including:

  • Salt for Herbamare
  • Chocolate for cacao
  • White bread for brown bread
  • Cake for healthy home baking
  • Crisps for nuts and seeds
  • Fizzy juice for smoothies
  • Cereal for porridge
  • Sweets for fruit.

Read on to find out more about why you should make these simple swaps, and how you can do that as well.

1. Salt

Many of us add salt when cooking or eating to give food extra flavour. Too much salt, however, can be problematic. When high levels of sodium rush into cells, water levels rise to dilute it and low potassium levels can arise. Potassium deficiency may lead to symptoms including fatigue and muscle cramps.

As well as depleting stores of potassium, salt can reduce calcium levels. Over time, this could reduce the effectiveness of the kidneys, thus leading to symptoms like kidney stones. It could also reduce bone density which makes them fragile and more prone to breakage.

Other symptoms associated with high salt intake include high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

Simple swap – Herbamare

In general, no more than 6g of salt should be consumed a day. Here in the UK, research shows that most of our salt intake comes from processed foods so if you really want to cut down your intake, start by reducing your intake of processed foods including ready meals, processed meats and canned soups.1

So, the focus should be on reducing your intake of processed foods to reduce salt intake, rather than cutting salt out when cooking. That being said, we want to make sure we're using a high quality salt in our meals and this is where Herbamare comes into the picture.

This all natural product comes in original and spicy varieties, should you wish to add a touch of heat to a meal. We also have a low sodium Herbamare for those who want to reduce their sodium intake further.

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Made from 100% natural and unrefined sea salt, along with a combination of fresh and organic herbs, Herbamare is a distinctive way to season meals.

Simply sprinkle over your food whilst cooking or afterwards.

"This is a recent purchase. Due to the warnings about salt I decided to try Herbamare. I now use it with everything! The mix of flavours is lovely. I will continue with this healthy alternative."

 

Read what other people are saying about Herbamare.

2. Chocolate

Chocolate is a firm favourite in many households – from chocolate bars to biscuits, we all like a sweet treat from time to time.

Aside from the damage it can do to our teeth, though, too much chocolate can contribute to weight gain as it is high in calories, fat and sugar. Chocolate in its raw form is bitter and so most chocolate products add high levels of sugar to create a more palatable taste. If excess weight is not addressed, and other healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise aren't adopted, then over time eating too much chocolate could put you at risk of complications such as high blood pressure.

Others may simply seek an alternative to chocolate because of its high dairy content. Dairy can cause problems for those with digestive problems such as IBS, but is also known to make allergy symptoms such as congestion worse.

Simple swap – Cacao

Cacao is the raw form of chocolate and isbecoming increasingly popular for those in search of an alternative to more processed chocolate options, with many flavours and brands now available. Natural options include Lovechock and Ombar who sweeten their cacao with natural fruits. These bars are richer in flavour than regular chocolate but retain a unique, creamy taste. They are also suitable for vegans and vegetarians, should you be looking for a chocolate alternative for this reason.

Cacao can also be purchased in powder form and then incorporated into your own homemade recipes. Not only is this option more natural, it is highly versatile too – just see the range of cacao-based recipes on our website! My personal favourites are the salted cacao and almond butter fudge or the vegan and gluten free oreo cookies. Yum!

As well as tasting delicious, cacao has its own unique health benefits to offer. Cacao is rich in antioxidants, for example, as well as nutrients including magnesium and zinc. These are important for maintaining energy levels, as well as other areas of our health such as immune function.

3. White bread

Not only does white bread offer next to nothing nutritionally, it can also be high in fat, additives, preservatives and hidden sugars as a result of the extensive processing it goes through. Despite this, though, may of us reply on white bread for multiple meals, from toast at breakfast to a buttered piece for supper.

Simple swap – Brown bread

Now, this one is quite simple – just switch your regular loaf for a wholegrain or wholemeal variety. Wholemeal bread is higher in fibre which is excellent for many aspects of our health including digestion. This type of bread also tends to contain higher levels of other nutrients including B vitamins. Compared to white bread, processing for brown bread isn't as intense meaning more nutrients are retained. We need these to sustain steady energy levels and normal muscle function.

As well as switching to brown bread, you could opt for brown or wholemeal varieties of rice and pasta to get even more goodness into your body! These have similar benefits in terms of fibre and nutrient content when compared to white varieties.

4. Cake

Cakes or biscuits can provide a little pick-me-up during the course of the day – their high sugar and fat content can actually increase the feel-good hormone serotonin. However, these effects seem to be short-lived and the high sugar and fat content may cause some concerns elsewhere in regards to weight and energy levels. As a result, some may seek alternatives.

Simple swap – Healthy bakes

If you can, try making your own healthy bakes, such as our banana nut muffins, rather than trying to rely on pre-packaged products. This delicious bake will provide you with a tasty treat, whilst being oil and refined sugar free.

Baking at home has the added benefit that you can see what exactly goes into your cake - take one look at the ingredients list of a supermarket Swiss roll and I can bet you won't recognise at least half of the ingredients! These hidden sugars, preservatives and additives all add up.

The likes of cinnamon can also be used to give dishes additional flavour in the place of sugar. Just try this spiced porridge to see what I mean! Cinnamon is also much kinder to your blood sugar levels and may even have some additional benefits in this area.2

5. Crisps

Salt cravings are a common occurrence and can often leave us reaching for a packet of crisps or crackers. From menopause and pregnancy to stress, there are a number of reasons for cravings like this to occur. Sometimes, though, it can simply be out of habit that we snack on crisps when hungry.

Simple swap - Nuts and seeds

Nuts, seeds or a trail mix provide a healthy alternative to crisps and other salty snacks. I particularly recommend toasting pumpkin and sunflower seeds with a little soy sauce and Herbamare. This provides a subtle salty taste but without some of the scary quantities that can be found in shop-bought crips.

Whilst crisps contain lots of salt and no nutrition, nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals. Just see this piece on the health benefits of pumpkin seeds to see what I mean!

6. Fizzy drinks

The biggest issue with fizzy juice is that it's packed with sugar. One can of cola, for example, has around 35g of sugar in it, which amounts to about 7 teaspoons full.3 This is despite the fact that the NHS recommends that the average adult should not consume more than 30g of sugar a day.4

As I mentioned above, excess sugar can contribute to weight gain and is likely to cause tooth decay as well, so what's the alternative?

Simple swap – Smoothies

The fruits found in a smoothie offer a sweet drink but, the difference is, all the sugars are sourced naturally. Smoothies containing whole fruit also have the addition of fibre which helps to slow the release of these sugars into your system. As a result, the likes of banana, figs and passion fruit release energy more slowly, so they should sustain you for a longer period of time as well. This is not to mention that all the nutrients they contain also add to the effect.

Our recipe hub is a great source of tasty smoothie recipes. Take your pick from apple and banana, blueberry and kiwi, pineapple and more!

Don't forget, though, that smoothies can be packed with vegetables likes spinach too, making them even more nutritious!

7. Cereal

Cereal makes for a convenient breakfast, especially on a week day when you're in a rush to get out the door. However, many popular cereals are surprisingly high in sugar and can be very processed too. This can cause a rise and then drop in blood sugar levels meaning they are unlikely to you through the morning.

Simple swap – Porridge

Oats are incredibly healthy so it makes sense to switch them for your usual brand of cereal. These release energy slowly so you shouldn't feel any hunger pangs come mid-morning, plus they are a good source of fibre, protein and antioxidants.
If you fancy something a little more interesting at breakfast time, try this cacao and peanut butter porridge!

8. Sweets

If you are partial to a sweet or two, I'd recommend trying to cut down on this habit first of all. From boiled to chewy, sweets are an enemy of our teeth and our health. With high sugar content, excess sweets are yet another thing that could contribute to weight gain, as well as skin problems like acne and even diabetes.

Simple swap –Fruit

The odd sweet or two is quite alright; however, if you find yourself eating lots of sweets several times a day, it's time to find an alternative. If you are looking for a substitute, fresh and dried fruit are the healthiest options. Not only are these highly nutritious, there are many varieties to suit different tastes.

References

1 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822310001082 

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22579946 

3 https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/faq/how-much-sugar-is-in-coca-cola 
https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/ 

Herbamare® Original

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Sea salt with organically grown vegetables and herbs. Also available in 250g and 500g tubs.
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