From chocolate to cake, there are many foods we like to indulge in, despite knowing that they are less than healthy for us. In today's blog I will take a look at some simple food swaps you can make. This way, you will still be able to enjoy eating lots of different things, but these foods will be a lot healthier for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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
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 crisps.
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.
Don't forget, though, that smoothies can be packed with vegetables likes spinach too, making them even more nutritious!
My self-care tip on how to maximise the health benefits of your smoothies:
In my video, I discuss some handy tips that you can use to make your smoothies more nutritious. Read on to find out more ways of making your meals healthier.
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!
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.