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25 Healthy Food Swaps to Boost Your Daily Focus and Energy

Every time we eat, we make choices — whether we think about them or not. And being a little more thoughtful about the ingredients we choose can make a big difference for our physical, mental, and cognitive health.

So try these simple food swaps — at work, at home, or somewhere in between. You’ll enhance your nutrition without compromising on taste.

  1. Instead of soda, try mixing 90% sparkling water and 10% grapefruit or guava juice. Both juices, when unsweetened, are lower in sugar, and the combination with sparkling water mimics the taste of soda.
  2. Instead of a protein bar, try two hard-boiled eggs or a bag of nuts and seeds.
  3. Instead of rice, try cauliflower rice. If you’re new to cauliflower rice, try mixing 50% rice with 50% cauliflower rice.
  4. Instead of croutons, try roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds on top of soups and salads.
  5. Instead of tropical fruits in smoothies (e.g. pineapple), try blending frozen berries.
  6. Instead of ripe bananas in smoothies, try a green banana or 1/2 of an avocado. Both add creaminess with less or no sugar.
  7. Instead of pre-made dressings, try olive oil and lemon or vinegar.
  8. Instead of sweetened yogurt, try unsweetened yogurt and chopped or muddled strawberries to add flavor (any frozen and thawed berries work well here).
  9. Alternate between meat and plant-based protein, e.g. lentils, tofu, or black beans, which are lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber.
  10. Instead of canned tuna, try canned salmon, which is lower in mercury.
  11. Instead of ice cream, try blending frozen bananas topped with dark chocolate and walnuts.
  12. Instead of a burger bun, try using 1/2 bun + 1 Portobello mushroom or lettuce wrap.
  13. Instead of a milk chocolate bar, try a dark chocolate bar (85% or higher).
  14. In most recipes, you can replace butter and canola oil with olive or avocado oil (avocado oil has a more neutral taste).
  15. Instead of ketchup, try mustard. You’ll reduce your sugar and increase your intake of anti-inflammatory spices.
  16. Instead of spaghetti or fettuccine, try shirataki noodles, which are a great source of prebiotic fiber. (Miracle Noodle and Better Than Pasta are good brands.) Hearts of palm pasta (e.g. Palmini) and spaghetti squash are also great substitutes.
  17. Instead of lasagna pasta, try thinly-sliced zucchini, eggplant, or almond flour lasagna pasta (e.g. Capello’s).
  18. Instead of potatoes in hash browns, gratin, or scalloped potatoes, try using jicama or rutabaga.
  19. Instead of a bowl of tortilla chips, try making a bowl of thinly-sliced cucumber chips sprinkled with coarse sea salt with a side of guacamole.
  20. Instead of potato chips, try veggie chips (e.g. Rhythm, Brad’s Crunchy Chips, or make your own).
  21. Instead of taco shells or tortillas, try collard wraps, cassava flour tortillas (e.g. Siete), or coconut tortillas (e.g. NuCo, SunFood, or The Real Coconut).
  22. Instead of sandwich bread or toast, try a nut and seed bread (e.g. Base Culture, Uprising Foods, Julian Bakery), or a thinly sliced sweet potato, toasted.
  23. When at a restaurant with limited bread options, choose sourdough. It spikes your blood sugar less than white or even whole wheat bread.
  24. Instead of canola oil mayo, try olive or avocado oil mayo (e.g. Primal Kitchen, or make your own).
  25. When cooking on high heat, use avocado oil instead of olive oil. It has a higher smoke point, meaning it won’t lose its nutritional value when cooked on higher heat.
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