20 Healthy Food Swaps

30 Oct 2015

Happy Halloween (tomorrow)!!

With the holidays coming up in full force, I know that a huge concern for many of you is sticking to your clean eating while faced with the multitude of fatty foods and desserts available this time of year. Now while I’ve already shared with you my favorite Halloween Treats, a bunch of Dreadfully Delicious Healthy Halloween Recipes, and even my most recent Candy Corn Parfait, I wanted to share with you guys some everyday food swap tips for the rest of the year. That is why I have put together 20 healthy food swaps to help you navigate clean eating, no matter what your food cravings are!



  • Use olive oil, not butter: This one has been said more times than I can even begin to count, but it holds true every time. The fatty acids in oils are essential to your diet, so even though oil is high in calories (remember, always measure how much oil you are using), it’s loaded in essential fatty acids and nutrients for your health. Butter is primarily saturated fat and is not necessary for the diet.
  • Sweeten with honey, not agave: Not going to say much on this one, except to check out my blog post about why I only eat honey and not agave. Agave is a highly processed sweetener that is bad for your metabolism and health, even though it is marketed as a “low calorie natural sweetener”
  • Use hummus, not mayo: While hummus will add a completely different taste to your sandwich than mayo, it’s a low-calorie and low-fat swap that will help enhance the flavor of your sandwich. If you aren’t a fan of store-bought hummus, check out my recipe here.
  • Make your own oil/balsamic dressings, not store-bought dressings: Store-bought dressings are filled with chemical stabilizers and preservatives, wreaking havoc on your health. On the flip side, only using lemon as a dressing to spare calories will cost you a ton of nutrients because leafy green vegetables need fat for proper digestion and absorption.  Instead, make a quick dressing from 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic and some lemon or tahini.
  • Use greek yogurt, not creams: If you like cream-based soups or sour cream on your tacos, swap it out for greek yogurt instead! The tartness of the greek yogurt will have a similar taste as sour cream, and in soups or other cream-based meals, you won’t taste the difference at all. Plus, greek yogurt has a ton of protein for an added nutritional benefit.
  • Top salads with nuts and seeds, not croutons: Croutons may seem simple, but one look at the nutrition label and you will realize that is not true. While a few croutons every now and then is okay, have you ever put a bunch of croutons on a salad and realize after it’s over that you couldn’t even taste them? Try nuts or seeds instead of croutons to add that salty kick while also getting the essential fatty acids needed for your health.

Comfort Foods

  • Make parsnip fries, not potato fries: This may seem super weird, especially if you have never worked with parsnips before, but just imagine what would it look like if a carrot and a sweet potato had a pale baby. Buy a couple, peel, cut them into chopsticks, cover in olive oil and spices and bake into shoestring fries! So delicious.
  • Make zucchini noodles, not regular noodles: Same idea as the parsnip fries, except it helps if you have a spiralizer or Julienne peeler. Check out my zoodles recipe for some inspiration.
  • Eat your cheese on fruit, not crackers: Don’t gasp just yet, hear me out. Eating some high quality goat cheese or gouda on apple slices will change your world. The sweet and salty combination is exactly what you’ve always wanted out of your cheesy experience.
  • Eat homemade oat pancakes, not store-bought mixes: By now you can probably guess that there’s a theme to this whole food swap thing – make your own and stay away from processed. Oat pancakes are a great healthy pancake swap because I guarantee you won’t be able to tell the difference, but your body sure will! Take your healthy food swap a step further by cooking down frozen fruit into a syrup instead of using maple syrup.
  • Eat popcorn, not chips: This is one of my favorite swaps!!  The longer you go without eating chips, the less you will crave them. That being said, we all need a salty treat every now and then. Try making your own popcorn and seasoning with your favorite spices for a healthy, low-calorie and salty treat. My healthy snack YouTube video will help guide you in your popcorn endeavors.

Eating out

  • Order tacos, not a burrito: Let’s face it, nobody feels good after eating a full burrito. Burritos are dangerous too because we usually eat them too quickly to notice when we’re full. Tacos are pre-portioned, forcing you to eat more slowly, and there’s typically less cheese so you’re less likely to overeat those empty calories.
  • Get your burger protein-style: This swap may not be for everyone, but if you could care less about the bun then make this swap permanent. I love protein-style because you can really taste the burger and all the yummy ingredients inside without getting bogged down by the bun.
  • Order side salad, not fries: An obvious trick, but a trick that can save you hundreds of calories and an entire day’s worth of sodium. Eating the salad first will also help fill you up so you will want to slow down and savor the meal.
  • Order baked, not fried: This is one of the sneakiest swap tricks because it can save you tons of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and empty calories. If the meat or fish is high quality, it should taste even better baked! If you can’t tell how something is cooked, just ask your waiter.
  • Order an appetizer and side, not an entree: Warning: this trick does not apply to all situations. Fried buffalo wings and a side of french fries will never be cleaner than a fish entree. That being said, this works very well if the appetizer is a seafood – tuna tartare, mussels, shrimp cocktail – or some other primarily protein dish. Then for the side, go for steamed vegetables or sautéed spinach. You’ll feel like you’re eating more, while also cutting calories.
  • Eat a turkey or tuna burger, not a regular burger: Turkey is a lean meat, whereas beef is very fatty. If you like turkey burgers, make the swap to save yourself saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Tuna burgers are also a great alternative, and often times are served with avocado 🙂


  • Stick to wine, not cocktails: You can read more about this in my Labor Day post, but wine is a more reliable alcoholic beverage because mixed drinks tend to have a lot of added sugars.
  • Drink detox waters, not soda: A can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, on average, meaning that you are drinking a ton of unnecessary calories every time you drink soda. Diet soda isn’t any better, filled with chemical sweeteners that alter your blood sugar. Try making some of my detox waters by adding fruit, citrus and/or herbs to your water to make your water more flavorful and nutritious!
  • Order a Café Au Lait, not a latte: For those of you who aren’t coffee drinkers, this probably looks like a different language. But for those of you who rely on espresso shots in your morning latte, try ordering a Café Au Lait instead. A Café Au Lait is just a fancy way of saying “with milk”, but the milk is steamed the same way it’s steamed in a latte. The only difference is that a latte is mostly milk with a couple of espresso shots (aka way more calories and fat), where as a Café Au Lait is mostly coffee with only 3-4 oz of milk.

I hope these tips help you navigate clean eating in all situations, especially with the holidays coming up! My theory is that you should always indulge in your cravings every now and then, just be smart about it. Making even 5 of these food swaps on a regular basis can have you shedding pounds and feeling better in no time. Save the indulgences for the treats you REALLY want, and eat clean versions of the rest :).

For even more information on how to stay clean, check out my Ultimate Guide to Clean Eating on a Budget. This E-book will prepare you to eat clean in any situation. And don’t forget to sign up for the 5 Day Detox App to find out when it comes out (in a few weeks!!).

xoxo Nikki

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