Nine simple food swaps for a healthier diet

Hot tip: swap ice cream for gelato.
Hot tip: swap ice cream for gelato.

Sometimes the difference between healthy eating or not is a few simply dietary swaps to take you from a B minus in nutrition to a glowing A plus - and just a warning, some of these simple swaps may surprise you!

Wholemeal to multigrain bread

While wholemeal bread is a healthy choice thanks to its relatively high fibre content, grain-based bread has a lower glycaemic index which means that it results in a much more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream which helps to keep us fuller for longer. The wholegrains in grain bread also offer higher amounts of several key nutrients including vitamin E, dietary fibre, B group vitamins and essential fats than high fibre white loaves and wholemeal bread. Look for the densest grain bread you can find and slices that fit into the toaster easily to help control your portion sizes and calorie intake.

Rice crackers to corn cakes

White rice, unlike brown rice, is a highly refined grain and as such has had much of the positive nutritional properties removed, leaving little other than rapidly digested carbohydrates. With just 10 rice crackers offering as much carbohydrate as two small slices of grain bread, wholegrain, low GI corn cakes and crackers are a much better option nutritionally for snacks and light carbohydrate options at lunch.

Potato chips for popcorn

Crunchy, salty potato chips are a food favourite of many but unfortunately when it comes to fat and calories, chips really pack a punch. With a 50g pack offering 200-250 calories and up to 20g of total fat, even if cooked in ‘'good fats'’, potato chips are still an energy dense food. With 8g of total carbohydrates, almost no fat and only 55 calories, plain popcorn is a snacking winner.

Flake breakfast cereal to oats

It is often assumed every product in the cereal aisle is healthy. Unfortunately, breakfast cereals can often be masquerading as healthy but when you take a closer look they are packed with excessive sugars, refined grains and even salt. Generally speaking, once any grain is processed, whether it is wheat, corn, rye or rice, it loses some positive nutritional properties and is digested relatively rapidly. The more quickly a carbohydrate-based food is digested, the faster the rise in blood glucose levels, which is not ideal for our energy regulation, insulin levels or weight long term. When it comes to your choice of breakfast cereal, look for wholegrain options in which you can see the grain and of these, the strongest is oats. Low GI, high in soluble fibre they are a filling, tasty brekkie option with natural yoghurt or low fat milk and a little vanilla essence or cinnamon.

Fruit yoghurt to Greek yoghurt

Many people are surprised to hear that a single 200g tub of fruit-based yoghurt can contain up to six teaspoons of sugar. The best choice of yoghurt nutritionally is natural or Greek style yoghurt which contains higher quantities of protein, significantly less sugar and calories without losing the positive nutritional properties of being a rich source of calcium, magnesium and low GI energy in the diet. If you prefer your yoghurt sweet, try adding a little fresh fruit, some vanilla essence or cinnamon to keep your added sugar intake low.

Ice cream for gelato

 Dessert lovers will be pleased to hear swapping from full fat ice cream, which contains roughly 10 per cent fat, for gelato, which can contain as little as 1 per cent fat and one third fewer calories than ice cream, is a healthy choice. Fruit-based sorbets and gelato can have fewer calories again with as little as 60 calories per serve.

Cheddar cheese for cottage cheese

Regular hard cheese is a nutrient-dense food choice but it is also relatively high in fat with a 30g serve of full fat cheese giving as much as 10-12g of fat. To reduce your fat intake but not lose the taste and nutritional benefits cheese offers, try swapping to cottage cheese occasionally. Cottage cheese is high in protein, packed with key nutrients including calcium but a 30g serve gives less than 1g of fat.

Lollies for dark chocolate

When it comes to treats you can still make healthier options. Lollies of any type are simply just sugar that is easily over-consumed and sends blood glucose levels through the roof without any positive nutritional properties. Dark chocolate on the other hand is a nutrient-dense food offering antioxidants and more slowly digested energy. Portion control is naturally the key when it comes to any high fat food but a 20-30g serve of dark chocolate is a million times better than lollies when it comes to enjoying a treat.

Wine for vodka

Clear spirits contain just 60 calories per serve compared to 100-150 calories for a large glass of wine, while also containing fewer calories from alcohol. Since spirits are ideally consumed at a slower pace than wine, and can be teamed with low calorie mixers such as soda water or diet soft drink, drinking less volume and fewer calories makes vodka a much better choice than many glasses of wine when you are enjoying a few drinks with friends.