By: Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CDN, CSCS
When it comes to eating better, cutting back on the highly processed foods you eat is a good place to start. These foods are stripped of nutrients, providing little fiber, antioxidants or vitamins and minerals. More often than not they are full of sugar or salt, which can have major effects on our health (not to mention our weight). I know it can seem tough to always eat “from scratch” so here are 10 easy swaps to take the place of common convenience foods.
- Instead of instant oatmeal packets…make your own version with 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats + 2 tablespoons dried fruit + 2 tablespoons nuts + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix together in a plastic bag or tupperware and toss into your bag. When ready to eat simply add 1 cup of water or milk and microwave for 2-3 minutes.
- Instead of reaching for a granola bar…make your own 5-ingredient granola bars – no cooking required! Choose your favorite nut butter and nuts to toss in; if you like a little sweetness add a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.
- Instead of fruit juice…eat the whole fruit! The downside to fruit juice, even those made with 100% fruit, is that you lose all the fiber and are left with just the sugar. Natural sugar, yes, but often 3-4x the amount of sugar found in one piece of whole fruit, with none of the fiber to help blunt your blood sugar rise or keep you full.
- Instead of fast-food breakfast sandwiches...make your own 5-minute egg sandwich – slice a muffin tin baked egg in half and pair with a toasted whole wheat english muffin. Top with sliced avocado and tomato, and head out the door.
- Instead of 100-calorie cookie or cracker packs…make your own using 10 Mary’s Gone Crackers and pair it with a laughing cow wedge or babybel cheese round.
- Instead of mayo…top your sandwich with mashed avocado. Avocados are high in fiber and potassium, plus are lower in saturated fat and higher in monounsaturated fats compared to mayo.
- Instead of fruit-flavored yogurt…skip the added sugar and make your own fruit yogurt. Dice 1 cup of your favorite fruit and top with plain Greek yogurt. Store in individual tupperware containers to quickly grab when you need a snack. For a touch of sweetness stir a few drops of vanilla extract into the yogurt, and top with cinnamon.
- Instead of pasta…try spaghetti squash. Get an extra serving of veggies, while skipping the processed carbs. Spaghetti squash has a similar consistency to pasta, but with more fiber and less calories and carbs.
- Instead of croutons…top your salad with 2 tablespoons of walnut halves. Walnuts are a good source of healthy omega-3 fats, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Get a similar crunchy salad topping without the added salt and carbs.
- Instead of bottled salad dressing…whip together a quick vinaigrette. Try one of the 8 variations of this recipe. Most bottled dressings come with a really long list of ingredients, including stabilizers and other additives. Plus they often add sugar and salt to boost the flavor. Making your own dressing takes just a few minutes and often uses ingredients you already have on hand.
Looking for more clean eating ideas? Check out my Clean Eating Challenge for recipes, grocery list, meal plans, and more.
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