All too often healthy eating is associated with boring salads and plain grilled chicken, but life is far to short to compromise on the eating experience for the sake of a “healthy” meal. In this post I have written about the food swaps I make when cooking to allow me to indulge in the food, I love whilst ensuring the meals are nutritionally balanced and full of flavour.
It is important to include dairy in our diets (especially for children) because it provides a brilliant source of calcium; vital for healthy bones and supple joints, and B vitamins which are important for keeping eyes, skin and the nervous system healthy.
Cream →→→ Reduced fat crème fraiche, quark or plain natural yoghurt Where a savoury recipe calls for cream, making a simple swap to any of the above will keep the creaminess of the recipe much with a much lower fat content. Note: I wouldn’t recommend swapping to a fat free crème fraiche or yoghurt as this is more likely to split when heated. Go for reduced fat crème fraiche or plain natural yoghurt.
Fruit yoghurts →→→ Plain yoghurt and add your own fruit Fruit flavoured yoghurts tend to have added sugar as well as the natural sugars from the fruit flavouring. By swapping to plain natural or Greek yoghurt and adding your own fruit you’ll be eating no artificial sugar and be closer to getting your 5 a day.
Full fat cheese →→→ Reduced fat mature cheddar or hard cheese (eg. parmesan) The stronger the cheese the less you need, so by using less, you will automatically be adding less fat to your meal. Following the same principle, grating the cheese often means you will use less than if it is sliced.
Starchy carbohydrates get a bit of a bad rap, however they can contribute valuable fibre to the diet as well as helping to keep hunger at bay…when the right type of carbohydrate is included.
White bread →→→ wholegrain, rye or sourdough Wholegrain alternatives have a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) than their white counterparts, meaning that they offer a slow release source of energy, keeping you fuller. For those who aren’t coeliac but struggle with eating bread, sourdough can be easier to digest because the natural acids produced in the long fermentation process help to make the gluten more digestible.
White pasta →→→ wholegrain pasta, spelt pasta Making the change from refined white to wholegrain or spelt offers the same benefits as mentioned with above with bread. Spelt pasta is also a good high fibre and gluten free alternative to traditional pasta, making it a great alternative for those seeking a gluten free diet.
White rice →→→ Wholegrain brown rice, Quinoa, wholegrain cous cous Alternative grains to the highly processed white rice can offer a greater range of vitamins and nutrients. For example quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids and provides the protein content of white rice.
This food group offers a huge variety of nutritional benefits including; protein, vitamin B12, but can also be high in saturated fat depending on what you choose.
Chicken – Avoid the skin. Although the crispy skin of a roast chicken is delicious and helps to keep the meat juicy, it is very high in fat. In contrast, the white and dark meat of a chicken is a lean source of protein, iron and low in fat.
Mince – Choose 5% fat mince, or as low a fat content as possible. Yes, it does cost a little bit more, but from a health perspective it is definitely a worthy swap that means you can continue to enjoy spag bol and chilli, but this one small change immediately reduces fat content of the meal.
Mince – Substitute some or all of the meat for lentils or beans. This again, reduces the fat content of the meal whilst offering a wider variety of vitamins and fibre. Lentils and beans are considerably cheaper than meat, so replacing the meat or adding lentils alongside is a cost effective way to make a meal go further! Asda sell “Lean and bean” mince which is a blend of haricot beans and low fat beef mince, give it a try.
Look out for my healthier spaghetti carbonara recipe that uses some of these swaps!
For more advice on food to include in a healthy diet, have a look at the Eat Well guide – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/551502/Eatwell_Guide_booklet.pdf