Whether you want to lose weight or boost your health, there are many small changes you can make to your diet to achieve these results. To help cut out the bad stuff without compromising on taste, check out our top 10 healthy alternatives to the ‘bad’ foods we love
1.Swap breakfast cereals for porridge
While packaged breakfast cereals may look like a healthy option, in reality most cereals are laden with sugar. Not only does this add to the overall calories consumed, but it can lead to a mid-morning sugar slump which will have you craving more. Instead, try starting your morning with a bowl of low-GI porridge, which is not only packed with nutrients but is a good source of slow-release energy that will fill you up quicker and keep you feeling full for longer.
2.Swap jam/preserves for pure fruit spread
If you prefer to start your mornings with a few slices of toast, it may be worthwhile substituting jam and marmalades for a healthier spread. While most fruit jams are packed with added sugars or chemical sweeteners, pure fruit spreads are sweetened only with sugars that occur naturally in fruits. Because of this, they deliver the same sweet taste only with fewer calories and no artificial additives.
3.Swap sugar for maple syrup
Although all sugars are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation, if you must use a sweetening product, pure maple syrup is a healthier option than refined sugars. While refined sugars are stripped of nutrients, maple syrup is packed with minerals - including manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc - as well as antioxidants. Maple syrup also has a lower GI ranking than table sugar.
4. Have popcorn instead of crisps
In terms of health, most crisps don't have much going for them. Not only are they high in saturated fats, calories and salt, but they have next to no nutritional value. If you find yourself craving a salty snack between meals, try swapping your crisps for a packet of plain or lightly seasoned popcorn. Not only will you be giving your body a boost of antioxidants, nutrients and fibre, you could be saving yourself around eight grams of fat and 50 calories per 25g serving.
5.Swap snack bars for fruit
Many people believe that cereal, fruit and nut bars are the perfect in-between meals snack. However, as with so-called healthy cereals, many of these bars are actually packed with cane sugar, corn syrup and saturated fat. In fact, cereal bars can contain as much fat, sugar and calories as a chocolate bar or a couple of biscuits. If you fancy a sweet snack between meals, reach for a piece of fruit instead and save yourself over 100 calories.
6.Swap potatoes for sweet potatoes
Although potatoes contain several nutrients, sweet potatoes may be a better option for those watching their weight. While potatoes are high on the glycemic index, so can lead to energy slumps and cravings, sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate with a much lower GI ranking. In addition to this, sweet potatoes are packed with minerals and vitamins including antioxidant beta-carotene. Try swapping your jacket spud for a baked sweet potato, and chips for sweet potato wedges.
7.Swap vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest oils around due to its high monounsaturated fat content and antioxidant properties. The monounsaturated fats ('good' fats) in olive oil can not only help with weight loss, but they can help control cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Try to buy olive oil in glass bottles to avoid the PCVs absorbed from plastic containers, and use in place of vegetable oil for salad dressings and low- to medium-heat cooking.
8.Swap couscous for quinoa
As with potatoes, there is nothing wrong with couscous in itself, however by swapping the processed grain for quinoa you could benefit from a far more nutrient-dense and waist-friendly meal. Quinoa is not only less processed, gluten-free and a good source of slow-release energy, it is a much better source of fibre and one of the best plant sources of protein. In addition to this, quinoa is packed with nutrients including iron, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc.
9.Swap sauces in a jar for homemade sauces
Most pre-made sauces are heavily processed, packed with unnecessary sugars and salt, and contain chemical preservatives to keep them fresh. Rather than filling your cupboards with jars and bottles, try making your own sauces from chopped tomatoes, herbs, spices and a variety of fresh vegetables. Not only will you be skipping all the nasty additives and extra calories, but you will help boost your intake of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
10.Swap ice-cream for frozen dessert
Ice cream may be one of the most popular desserts around, but unfortunately the frozen treat is extremely high in sugar and fat. If you are craving dessert but want to save on calories, try swapping ice cream for a bowl of low fat frozen yoghurt. Alternatively, try a sugar-free fruit sorbet or dairy-free ice cream alternative made from oats or cashew nuts. Not only are these easier to digest, they are generally a lot purer and lower in saturated fats and refined sugars.