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Hey friend! Do you ever struggle with eating healthy? Especially when you’re bombarded by sooo much processed, unhealthy food in the grocery stores, or your favorite snacks & recipes have some not-so-good-for-you ingredients, but they’re just too darn good to give up?? 😬 (I’ve so been there, by the way!) But boyyy do I have a treat for you today!
When I first started learning about healthy eating, I was afraid I was going to have to sacrifice all my favorite foods & meals in order to be healthy. And as a total foodie, I wasn’t even quite sure I’d be able to do that.
But I soon realized that you can healthify pretty much ANY recipe, or find a substitution for almost any craving. I was amazed at how easy AND delicious these swaps, tips, & alternatives really were.
Once I was shown the light, I became completely obsessed with healthifying my favorite foods & recipes, and finding healthy alternatives to some of my favorite store-bought foods!
Like, it’s actually FUN to look at a recipe & know that you can make a healthy version out of it. And it’s freakin’ awesome to know that you can now find things like healthy chocolate…soda…& chips!! Thank you, Jesus! 💜🙋🏽
I can’t wait to share some of these simple swaps that will take your nutrition from health-crisis-waiting-to-happen to health-nut in no time. ☺️ And to make it super easy & applicable, I’ve got a special “Healthified Foodie Cheatsheet” for you! Just click the button below to get yours.
Also, a ton of the super healthy & delicious foods/ingredients I’m about to mention in the post are from Thrive Market. It’s basically like an online health food store, and a health-nut & foodie’s DREAM!! They deliver all these healthy goodies right to your doorstep, and the prices are much more affordable compared to most health food stores. I highly recommend checking it out!
Healthify Any Recipe With the Right Sweeteners, Flours, & Fats
Whether you’re drooling over a delectable dessert or you’re craving one of your favorite comfort foods, you CAN have your cake & eat it too! In my world, healthy & delicious go together like peanut butter & jelly, and you don’t have to sacrifice your health OR make your little taste buds sad. 🙃
For example, speaking of peanut butter (yum!!) — Do you have a sweet tooth & love dessert (like I do!)? Especially if it involves anything with peanut butter & chocolate — like delicious, dreamy peanut butter cups? Then you MUST try this healthified version instead → Almond Butter Cups!!
Or when it comes to classic comfort foods, I go crazy (in a good way!) over things like Shepherd’s Pie, Eggplant Parmesan, and Mac n’ Cheese! Eeek, just thinking about this is making me salivate! 😋 If you’re obsessed with those types of meals like I am (or if you’re not, you’re probably gonna wanna be! 😉) — make sure you check out these healthified versions. Believe me — they do NOT disappoint!
Those are just a few of my absolute favorite examples of how you can take a recipe that is traditionally unhealthy, make a few simple tweaks, and create a masterpiece that is healthy AND delish!
Healthy eating really can be simpler than you might think. Now let’s get into some of the major sweeteners, flours, & fats/oils to avoid, and what to replace them with in order to healthify any recipe!
Healthy Eating: Sweeteners
What to Avoid
Definitely avoid any kind of refined sugar, such as just regular ol’ sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave, etc.
These are all super high-glycemic (will spike your blood sugar), highly inflammatory & acidic, and can lead to weight gain & pretty much any health issue you can think of.
Trust me — you don’t want to be putting these toxins in your body on a regular basis (or ideally, not at all).
The good news is, there are some healthier options when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth. The main ones I recommend & consume are:
- Erythritol — specifically Swerve
- Xylitol (from birch trees or non-GMO corn)
- Organic Raw Honey
- Organic Coconut Nectar & Coconut Sugar
Stevia is very, very sweet — you only need to use a tiny amount compared to other sweeteners or sugar. Some people say it has a bitter, kinda weird aftertaste. I’m not super fond of the taste either, but I do use it for certain things, or in combination with other sweeteners. This is the sweetener that I would recommend the most!
Erythritol & Xylitol are very similar in texture, flavor, & sweetness to regular sugar (especially xylitol), which makes them very easy to use in place of sugar in recipes. However, they can cause some digestive upset/bloating/gas in some people (especially xylitol), so see how you respond to a little bit first, and keep it in moderation.
Raw Honey is has lots of nutrients, but it’s still very sugary & spikes your blood sugar. I would say it’s one of the most natural, pure sweeteners out there, but since it’s also naturally so sugary, you’ll want to keep it in moderation (especially if you’re trying to lose weight, lower inflammation, or reduce a chronic health issue).
Coconut Nectar & Coconut Sugar are lower-glycemic sweeteners, but are still fairly sweet. Coconut nectar is kind of like a molasses or maple syrup-texture, and coconut sugar is similar to brown sugar.
Moderation is key: Just because these are healthier sweeteners, doesn’t mean that you can eat a diet full of stevia-sweetened cookies or honey-laden brownies and expect to be super healthy. Even though some of these sweeteners don’t spike your blood sugar, and some of them have healthy nutrients in them, they still shouldn’t make up a huge part of your diet.
(I’m preachin’ to myself here, too — I used to be the DESSERT QUEEN with an insatiable sweet tooth. I was an absolute dessert monster that devoured wayyy more sweets than I should’ve — just because they were “healthy”. 😬) Anyways…moving on!
Ways to Use Them
Baking & Desserts: Any of the sweeteners above can work, depending on the recipe. Sometimes it’s best to use a combination of them, especially when working with stevia. Since you only need to use a tiny bit of stevia compared to regular sugar, you may want to use part stevia & part another sweetener for a lot of recipes.
For more gooey, sticky, or liquidy things, honey or coconut nectar could work well. For brown sugar, coconut sugar is the best substitution. For typical desserts or dryer things, stevia, erythritol, and/or xylitol usually work best.
Drinks, Liquids, & Sauces/Dressings: My favorite sweetener to use for these types of foods/drinks is liquid stevia (especially liquid VANILLA stevia!). It’s great for adding to things like this healthy hot chocolate, organic coffee, homemade lemonade, & organic, full-fat, plain yogurt. Honey can also be really good, but again — it has a high sugar content.
Healthy Eating: Flours
What to Avoid
Any kind of refined flours should definitely be avoided — especially white flour (which is in things like white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.)
All grains turn to sugar in your body — and sugar leads to inflammation, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, & other major health problems.
Whole grain flours can be okay in moderation, but since they’re still grains, they’ll still turn to sugar in your body.
There are much healthier alternatives, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, reduce inflammation, have more energy, reverse a health issue, or just be at your optimal health!
My all-time favorite flours are coconut flour & almond flour. They both taste amazing!
Coconut flour has a slightly sweet flavor & is full of fiber. It’s a little dryer, so you may want to use it in combination with almond flour. Almond flour is very versatile & works well in most dessert, bread, or baking recipes.
Some other great options are cashew flour (or other nut flours) & flaxseed meal.
Ways to Use Them
These flours can be used for baking, frying, breading, desserts, breads, pizzas (more on that later!), and basically any recipe that calls for flour.
Sometimes a combination of a couple different flours works best!
Healthy Eating: Fats & Oils
What to Avoid
Unhealthy, damaged, & rancid fats are extremely harmful to your health. The following fats & oils should be avoided:
- Canola Oil
- Most Vegetable Oils (Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Safflower Oil, etc.)
- Hydrogenated or Partially-Hydrogenated Oils
- Margarine or Butter-Substitutes
Healthified Fats & Oils
Healthy fats are critical to healthy eating, and contrary to popular belief, you need a LOT of fat in your diet in order to reach & maintain optimal health.
My top 3 must-have-at-all-times are:
- Organic, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil
- Organic, Grass-Fed Butter (or Ghee)
Other great options include organic avocado oil, organic red palm oil, & organic flaxseed oil.
Ways to Use Them
Cooking & Baking: The best oils to use for high heat are coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and red palm oil. Olive oil & avocado oil are okay for medium heat or cooler. Flaxseed oil should be kept cold/not heated. When cooking, just make sure the oil doesn’t reach the smoke point (otherwise it becomes damaged & rancid).
Sauces/Dressings: Any of the above could work (separately or in combination). Olive oil & avocado oil are two of my favorites for salad dressings — they taste amazing & are liquid at room temperature.
Alright girl, I know we’ve covered a lot already, and we still have a ton of FUN foods to dive into! I just wanted to remind you to get your free Healthified Foodie Cheatsheet below, which lays out all of the substitutions, alternatives, & food swaps from this post into one, organized, easy-to-follow cheatsheet.
Healthy Alternatives to Some of Your Favorite Foods
Now that we’ve covered some of the main substitutions & swaps you can make in any recipe, I wanted to mention a few popular foods that a lot of people love, but are typically unhealthy.
Some of these foods just require a simple substitution of a main ingredient, while others can actually even be found as a healthified version in stores or online (woohoo!). Get those taste buds ready! 😜
Is there anything that invokes the feeling of comfort, warmth, and satisfaction more than a heaping bowl of divinely-seasoned & perfectly-sauced pasta?? Mmm…probably not.
But remember, pasta is typically made from grains — and grains (even the healthier, whole grains) turn to sugar in our bodies — not good.
BUT, lucky for us, there are some amazing, healthy alternatives that can really give us our pasta fix!: 🤗
- Zucchini Noodles (also lovingly called Zoodles): Great either RAW or cooked/sauteed.
- Sweet Potato Noodles (also spiralized like zoodles are): Wonderful sauteed in coconut oil, but they’re also higher-glycemic & very starchy, so keep in moderation (especially if you’re trying to lose weight or really keep your sugar intake down).
- Kelp Noodles & Miracle Noodles (aka Shirataki Noodles — Japanese noodles made from konjac yam): Both are very thin, clear noodles that can make delicious pasta dishes! Can become super soft when cooked in certain sauces, which makes them taste a lot like regular pasta.
- Bean/Lentil Noodles: Very similar taste & texture to regular pasta. But, beans & lentils are very starchy & high-glycemic, so keep in moderation (especially if trying to lose weight or really keep sugar intake down).
- Spaghetti Squash: How cool is it that there’s literally a vegetable whose insides turn into “spaghetti” when cooked?! Love it!
- Hearts of Palm: Delicious in the “Mac” n’ Cheese recipe I mentioned earlier!
As you can see, there are tons of healthy options when it comes to pasta. Just pair any of the above with a healthy sauce, and you have yourself a delish, nutrish pasta night! ☺️
Breads & Wraps
As with pastas & flours, any kind of bread or wraps that are made with any kind of grain will turn into sugar in your body. (I’m sure you’ve got the point by now! 🙃)
Here are a few recipes & resources to help you satisfy your bread cravings without all the carbs & inflammation:
- Grain-Free, Gluten-Free Bread: This is an awesome recipe that you can make to replace unhealthy, store-bought breads.
- Coconut Wraps: Seriously the best thing since sliced bread!! (haha, see what I did there? 🙃) But for real — I don’t even know how I survived without these babies — they’re life-changing!
- Cheesy Coconut Biscuits: Even though I was born & raised a Wisconsin girl, I’m definitely a southern belle at heart, especially when it comes to southern comfort foods! I know “healthy biscuits” sounds like an oxymoron, but biscuit-lovers & health-nuts around the world can now rejoice because of this recipe! 🤗
- “Egg Bread”: One of the simplest gluten-free & grain-free recipes that can be used in place of bread, for sandwiches, mini pizzas, flatbreads, & more. And the best part: it only takes like 5 minutes to make!
- Ezekiel Bread: This is technically still made with grains (whole, sprouted grains — so at least they’re healthier & easier to digest). So, definitely keep this in moderation, especially if trying to lose weight or keep sugar intake down. I just wanted to mention it because it IS a healthiER option for when you want something to use as toast or a grilled sandwich, with the convenience of being able to buy it at almost any grocery store.
Chips & Crackers
…And here we’ve arrived at one of my (& my husband’s) biggest weaknesses. We may or may not be known to mow down an entire family size bag of chips in one sitting…😬 (#pleasedontjudgeme). Which is why it was super important for us to find healthy alternatives!
Most chips & crackers are made with damaged, unhealthy oils (like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, etc.), or have toxic ingredients added.
Here are a few awesome alternatives:
- Dehydrated Veggie Chips: Things like kale chips or zucchini chips — which are super delish AND you don’t have to feel guilty about eating a TON of them! That’s my kind of chip! 😉 You can make your own in a dehydrator or the oven on the lowest setting, or you can find some in certain stores or right here!
- Grain-Free Chips: Yes, these actually exist!! 🙌 Probably the closest thing you can get to a “regular” chip, with no unhealthy ingredients, and the convenience of being able to buy them (rather than trying to make them).
- Grain-Free Crackers: And these exist, too!! 🤗 Totally obsessed with these Simple Mills crackers — and they come in 6 different mouth-watering flavors, like Rosemary & Sea Salt and Farmhouse Cheddar (which are literally like healthy Cheez-Its!!!)
- Flax Crackers: Satisfy your crunchy, salty cravings while getting some healthy omega-3 fats in the meantime. Super easy to make at home with this recipe (in a dehydrator or in the oven on lowest setting), or you can find some right here!
- Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips: Okay, so these are still potato chips, which means they’re pretty starchy & carby, which means they’re best in moderation rather than eating them ALL the time. BUT, these are the healthiest potato chips I’ve ever seen — made with only non-GMO potatoes, organic coconut oil, & sea salt. And they taste freaking amazing!
Turn your super-carby mashed potatoes into ultra-nutritious, all-you-can-eat mashed NO-tatoes with one simple ingredient swap: CAULIFLOWER. 😄
The flavor is perfect, the texture is divine, and you almost can’t even tell that they’re not potatoes!
Click here to see how quick & easy it is to make!
Want the texture & feel of rice without all the carbs? Our little friend, Cauliflower, comes to rescue again! 🙃
Simply use a cheese shredder, a food processor, or a blender to pulse the cauliflower into small “rice-like” pieces. (Or you can even buy pre-shredded cauliflower in a lot of grocery stores these days). Then you can cook the “rice” in a pan along with any other veggies, meats, or sauces your heart desires!
Check out these Egg & Avocado “Rice” Bowls for some mouth-watering ideas!
Another delicious classic! Unfortunately, store-bought pizzas are almost impossible to find a healthy option. (I’ve seen some “healthiER” options, but none that are completely free of grains, bad oils, & unhealthy dairy — so if you find one, definitely let me know!)
The cool thing is you can make your own pizza at home! Instead of using refined flours or grain-filled flours for the crust, use:
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Flaxseed Meal
- A combination of the above flours!
Here’s an amazing pizza crust recipe that uses almond flour & flax meal.
You can also branch out a little bit & create a pizza with a unique flair:
- Meatza!: A pizza made with a meat-based crust. I’ve done this with chicken, beef, & venison. Adds more healthy protein & really makes the pizza extra-filling.
- Cauliflower Cheese Crust: Cauliflower again?! Yep — it really is one of those miracle veggies. Cauliflower for the win! ☺️ Click here for the recipe!
Dairy is a pretty controversial topic in the health world, but one thing for sure is that you should definitely avoid any non-organic, conventional dairy. You also want to stay away from sweetened or flavored dairy, because it’s full of added sugar. Low-fat or non-fat dairy isn’t great either, because usually it’s more sugary & it’s missing some of the key vitamins & nutrients.
If you’re going to eat dairy, make sure it’s organic, full-fat, & plain (no added sugar). Grass-fed is also important, but harder to find. If possible, raw dairy & dairy made with A2 beta-casein (rather than A1 beta-casein) is best, but this can be very hard to find.
My absolute favorite source of dairy is Beyond Organic (& it’s really the only dairy I’ve found so far that I feel completely healthy consuming). They have Amasai (like a drinkable yogurt or Kefir), raw cheeses, & a cultured whey beverage. All of their dairy is organic, full-fat, raw or low-temperature processed, full of probiotics, & made from 100% grass-fed cows with A2 beta-casein. Perfect!! 👌
Otherwise, I would recommend non-dairy options like unsweetened almond milk (make sure there’s no carrageenan in it), or full-fat organic coconut milk.
For non-dairy cheese options, cashew cheese or other nut cheeses can be super yummy! They’re more like a dip or spread. (Just make sure to check the ingredients like always). You can find nut cheeses in some grocery stores or health food stores.
Both regular AND diet sodas are terrible for your health. If you’re an avid soda-drinker, here are a couple alternatives that could really help you curb your appetite for soda:
- Zevia: A soda sweetened with stevia, without any bad ingredients added. They come in several different soda flavors, and you can find them in most grocery stores or order them on Amazon.
- Sparkling Probiotic Drinks (like Kombucha & KeVita): Sparkling, fizzy, delish, & healthy drink full of probies! Also come in several flavors — just make sure you check the ingredients (some of them have added sugar). You can find this type of drink in most grocery stores or order them on Amazon.
I loooove me some dark chocolate with a glass of wine…or at the end of the day…or after a meal…or as a treat…or pretty much anytime! 🙃
If we want to eat healthy, we chocolate-lovers need to avoid chocolates that are sweetened with refined sugars or that have a ton of extra, added, unhealthy ingredients.
My favorite brand of chocolate that I’ve found so far is LILY’S! It’s sweetened with stevia & erythritol, and there aren’t any harmful ingredients. Lily’s makes chocolate bars (in different flavors/varieties), AND chocolate chips — which are awesome for baking, cookies, pancakes, putting in yogurt, or just eating straight from the bag!
Some grocery stores carry Lily’s, but I know you can definitely order them here.
Phew — we’ve made it through a lot! Sweeteners & flours & oils — oh my! 🙃 Not to mention different types of foods from pasta to pizza to soda to chocolate.
I hope you’ve learned some new ideas of how you can take your healthy eating to the next level. I pray that you’re inspired by the incredible options out there to swap out unhealthy foods for healthy foods — and still make them taste delicious!
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll definitely want to make sure you grab your Healthified Foodie Cheatsheet if you haven’t already! This is a great resource to keep in your kitchen, and on your phone for when you go grocery shopping (or do some online food shopping). Just click below to download it right away!
Which healthy eating swap/alternative are you most surprised by, and which one are you most excited to try?? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
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Author: Dr. Christi Shuppe