Up Your Nutrients: Healthy Food Swaps & Easy Additions for Next-Level Nutrition
With misleading labels boasting are-they-serious? Serving sizes, sugar-coated flakes posing as breakfast food, and salty snacks that are scientifically impossible to stop eating once you’ve started—in today’s modern world, it’s very possible to eat all day without actually consuming any real nutrition. So, what items are the major culprits and, how, exactly, can you ensure you’re fueling your body with far more than empty calories? Today, we’re breaking down the healthy food swaps and next-level nutrition advice you need to boost your nutrients. Read on for our top tips!
A little bit of background…
What are “empty” calories?
The term “empty calories” refers to foods that contain mainly (or solely) sugar, fats, and/or oils. While these foods can provide temporary energy, they don’t offer any actual nutrition in the form of protein, vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Some of the biggest culprits include:
- Sugary granola bars
- Fruit juice
- Packaged snacks
- French fries
- High-fat salad dressings
Why does getting adequate nutrients matter?
There are a number of reasons to be cognizant of the nutrients you are (or aren’t) getting, and they include:
- There’s a plethora of research linking poor diet to serious disease.
- Eating healthy is great for brain function.
- Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, meaning your body doesn’t make them on its own; you have to get them from your diet.
- You can achieve a healthy weight without actually feeling like you’re dieting by eating nutrient-dense foods. Healthy foods often keep you fuller longer than empty calories.
- Nutrition plays a serious role in your immune function. A diet that lacks adequate nutrients can negatively affect the production and activity of your immune cells and antibodies.
- A healthy diet can decrease inflammation and pain.
Healthy Food Swap Ideas…
If you’re worried your diet is lacking adequate nutrients, not to worry! Below, we’ve broken down plenty of healthy food swaps you can make to replace empty calories and high-sugar snacks with powerhouse foods that pack a serious wellness punch.
Healthy Food Swaps & Additions: Breakfast
- Replace cereal with steel-cut oatmeal for vitamin E, vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Add flaxseed to your yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothie for Omega-3 fats and dietary fiber.
- Add chia seeds to your yogurt or avocado toast for Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
- Replace sugary granola bars with a handful of nuts and fresh berries instead for the addition of healthy fats, fiber, and protein.
- Swap sugary yogurt with unsweetened yogurt and sweeten it with berries instead, for less sugar and added fiber from the fruit.
- Add a handful of fresh fruit alongside your piece of toast for plenty of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
- Replace sweet, sugary pastries with savory pastries that have eggs, spinach, and/or tomatoes in them; eggs are one of the only few good food sources of vitamin D; the spinach will give you iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate; while tomatoes will add some vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
Healthy Food Swaps & Additions: Lunch
- Swap the romaine lettuce in your salad with spinach for iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate.
- Add seeds and nuts to your salad for added healthy fats and dietary fiber.
- Use hummus instead of (or in addition to) mayo on your sandwich for plant-based protein, manganese, and folate.
- Add avocado to your sandwich for potassium, heart-healthy fats, and fiber.
- Add tomatoes to your sandwich for added vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
- Replace salty sides and chips with baby carrots for beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants.
- Add herbs (thyme, basil, parsley) and spices (ginger, turmeric, cumin, chili) to your salad for boosted nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
Healthy Food Swaps & Additions: Dinner
- Replace Russet potatoes with sweet potatoes for added fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
- Sprinkle flaxseed on your salad for Omega-3 fats and dietary fiber.
- Top your main dish—or sprinkle your salad—with hemp hearts for protein, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.
- Opt for salmon for tons of Omega-3—and keep that delicious crispy skin on for added fatty acids.
- Use dark leafy greens (think: swiss chard, arugula, kale, or spinach) for a salad base instead of romaine for vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and fiber.
- Use plenty of garlic in your recipes for vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.
- Treat yourself to a shellfish date night out! Clams are among the best available sources of vitamin b12 on the planet; and oysters are chock-full of zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Want even more game-changing nutrition tips? Browse the rest of the MendWell blog for empowering patient information, helpful wellness advice, and pro pre-surgery tips.