25 Simple Food Swaps That Will Boost Your Health

Get an easy head-start on nutrition

Making healthy food swaps, whether in the kitchen or when snacking on-the-go, is an easy way to eat a little healthier while still enjoying your favorite foods. From plant-based swaps to heart-healthy and higher fiber swaps, the opportunities are endless—you only need a little inspiration and creativity.

We’ve provided some ideas to help you get started no matter the eating plan you might be following. From baking desserts to cooking pasta dishes for dinner, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top 25 healthy swaps.

Plant-Based Swaps

Aquafaba for Egg Whites

Aquafaba is the leftover liquid from drained, canned chickpeas and believe it or not, this liquid can literally be whipped into a substitute for whipped egg whites (think meringues and whipped cream).

A quick tip when whipping: add cream of tartar to help thicken and stabilize. Typically, three tablespoons of the liquid can replace one egg white. A non-whipped version of aquafaba can replace eggs in some recipes as a binder.

Tofu for Scrambled Eggs

Because of its mild flavor and ability to take on different textures—scrambled, cubed, and smooth—tofu is a versatile replacement for so many animal-based proteins such as hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, fish, and chicken. To make vegan-friendly “scrambled eggs,” simply drain the block of tofu of excess water and then cook in a skillet.

The key is to break the tofu up into pieces that mimic scrambled eggs and to add spices, herbs and/or sauces with flavor for the tofu to take on. Ounce for ounce, scrambled tofu has about 40 percent fewer calories 30 percent less protein compared to eggs.

Jackfruit for Shredded Meat

Vegetarians and vegans can rejoice! A natural, less-processed meat alternative exists. Jackfruit is a high fiber, low-calorie fruit with the texture of shredded meat. Spices and seasonings can be added to give a variety of flavors—think smoky chipotle, barbecue, and more. Enjoy jackfruit as a barbecue sandwich, stuffed in tacos, or as part of a breakfast scramble.

 Cashew Cream for Soft Cheese

Do-it-yourself cheese isn’t easy, but making a plant-based version with cashews is a breeze. Simply soak cashews for a few hours (or overnight) until they plump up and then blend them with fresh water in a blender. A good ratio is one cup of cashews to at least a half-cup of water; add more water if you’re looking for a thinner consistency.

Once you have the base of the cheese, flavor it to your liking with olive oil, cloves, salt, garlic, herbs and more.

Chia Seed for Egg

Another egg binding substitute for vegans (see aquafaba above), chia seeds are a good source of fiber and protein and make a great substitute for eggs. To make, combine one tablespoon of whole chia seeds or two teaspoons of ground chia seeds with three tablespoons of boiling water. Let sit for at least five minutes. This ratio of one tablespoon of whole seeds or two teaspoons of ground seeds replaces one whole egg.

Lower Carb Swaps

Spaghetti Squash for Pasta

Spaghetti is an appropriate moniker for this type of squash. When cooked, the flesh of this squash resembles long, stringy spaghetti-like noodles. To make, slice the squash in half length-wise and roast face down in the oven until softened.

Once cooked, use a fork to scrape the squash from the exterior. One cup of spaghetti squash has just 42 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrates, while one cup of pasta has 239 calories and 46 grams of carbohydrates.

Collard Greens for Tortillas

Up the nutrition while lowering the overall calories and carbohydrates of your next Mexican dinner by swapping out the flour tortilla for a collard green leaf. The leaf can be used raw, or you can blanch the leaf to give it more flexibility as a wrap. Collard greens have about 90 percent fewer calories and carbohydrates than a white flour tortilla.

Cauliflower Rice for White Rice

Cauliflower rice from scratch is a little more labor-intensive to make compared to white rice but these days, you can find already prepared options in the freezer or produce section in most grocery stores. To do it yourself at home, start with washed cauliflower and use a cheese grater (medium-sized holes work best) to “rice” the vegetable.

Set the cauliflower in a towel to collect excess water and then cook it (or eat it raw) and enjoy as you would rice—in a stir-fry, as a side dish, or as the base for a rice bowl. Cauliflower rice is also commonly used to make pizza crust.

Sliced Zucchini for Lasagna

Swapping sliced zucchini for sheets of lasagna noodles reduces the overall carbohydrate and calorie count in any recipe. To create, slice the zucchini squash lengthwise using a knife or a mandolin, which will help keep the thickness of the layers consistent.

Useful tip: place the sliced zucchini layers on a dish towel and cover to help soak up any excess liquid. Swapping zucchini squash for regular lasagna noodles cuts calories and carbohydrates by about 90 percent.

Sweetness Swaps

Unsweetened Apple Sauce for Sugar

This isn’t a substitution that can be used across the board because sugar does more than just add sweetness. In some recipes, though, applesauce can make a healthy swap. The applesauce substitution works well in heartier baked recipes like oatmeal cookies and muffins.

A good ratio to follow is 1 and 1/2 parts applesauce to 1 part sugar. Along these lines, 1 and 1/2 cups of applesauce has about 150 calories and 34 grams of sugar compared to one cup of granulated sugar with 775 calories and 100 grams of sugar.

Mango for Brown Sugar

Often times when it comes to glazes and marinades, sugar (like brown sugar or honey) is often a key part of the recipe. While most recipes call for about one cup of sugar, you can reduce the amount needed in half or more by adding fresh mango instead. A cup of brown sugar has about 550 calories and 140 grams of sugar, while a cup of chopped mango has about 100 calories and 24 grams of natural sugar.

Banana Ice Cream

This one checks the boxes for various lifestyle diets—including vegan, paleo, and clean-eating—by cutting the dairy and added sugar and replacing it with whole bananas. Thanks to their naturally sweet and smooth texture, bananas are ideal for ice cream swaps.

To make, simply blend frozen ripe bananas until you achieve a thick, custard-like texture. The rest is up to you. Enjoy on its own or add your favorite toppings—chocolate chips, fresh fruit, dried coconut and more. Banana ice cream made this way has about nine fewer grams of sugar per cup compared to regular ice cream.

Chia Jam for Jams and Jellies

While jams, jellies, and preserves provide delicious sweetness to most baked goods and more, they’re often loaded with added sugar. Try this healthy swap instead: fruit—frozen raspberries work well—with chia seeds, a touch of sweetener, and tartness from a lemon. Cook over medium heat until thick and place in fridge overnight to thicken even further (thanks to the chia seeds).

Heart-Healthy Swaps

Blended Burger for 100 percent Ground Beef Burger

Cut down on your red meat intake by creating a 50/50 burger blend of chopped mushrooms and ground beef instead. And there’s no need for skepticism when it comes to flavor.

A study published in The Journal of Food Science found that the mushroom blend actually enhances flavor thanks in part to the increased umami while reducing overall fat, calories, and sodium. Not only will your taste buds and health thank you, but your wallet and Mother Earth will, too. 

Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream

Greek yogurt has the thick, creamy texture and tart flavor you’re looking for in sour cream but with three times the protein. Both Greek yogurt and sour cream are available in fat-free, low-fat, and full-fat options. Top your chili, tacos, or potatoes with Greek yogurt, or use it as a base for dips and dressings—use it any way you’d use sour cream.

Avocado for Mayonnaise

This swap is not only heart-healthy but it’s vegan and paleo-friendly, too. Mashed avocado will give you that satisfying, creamy texture you’re looking for without the saturated fat. Try substituting avocado on a sandwich or burger, or when making an egg or tuna salad. 

Lemon Juice for Salt

Cut down on the salt shaking and grab a lemon instead. A study done by a master chef at Johnson & Wales University discovered that you can cut the amount of salt used by up to 75 percent just by adding lemon juice and zest. The key is to add the lemon zest before and during cooking, and save the lemon juice for after cooking. This will add more flavor, keep green veggies colorful, and preserve the texture of meat.

Smart Snacking Swaps

In-Shell Pistachios for Potato Chips

Not only are pistachios a healthier option over potato chips because of their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, fiber, and more, but in-shell pistachios may actually help you eat less.

Pistachios in the shell help you to slow down while eating and the leftover shells provide a visual reminder of how many you’ve eaten.

Popcorn for Pretzels

Did you know popcorn is a whole grain? It's also higher in fiber. Calorie for calorie, popcorn has three to four times the amount of fiber found in pretzels, which may help you feel fuller longer. While air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack option, slathering it in butter and salt won’t do you any (healthy) favors.

D.I.Y Trail Mix for Store-Bought Trail Mix

Many trail mix options you’ll find at the grocery store feature chocolate and yogurt-coated candies, refined grains, oil-roasted nuts, and other mix-ins that aren't great for you. Picking up a bag of these means unnecessary added oils and sugars along with other preservatives and additives.

Instead, make your own at home and you’ll have full control over what you include and what you don’t. Choose dry-roasted nuts, unsweetened dried fruits, seeds, whole grain cereals, and add in your favorite seasonings for extra flavor.

Bean Snacks for Crackers

Skip overly processed crackers, which are typically made of refined flours and are low in nutritional offerings, and reach for convenient bean snacks instead. Dried broad beans, chickpeas, and lupini beans are now available in convenient, on-the-go packaging and come in a variety of flavors. Bean snacks are also higher in protein and fiber than most typical crackers.

 Higher Fiber Swaps

Green Banana Flour for Regular Flour

Out with the old and in with the new. Green banana flour comes from young, green bananas. The bananas are picked before they’ve had a chance to ripen, which means they’re not as sweet—this translates into less sugar. The mild flavor lends itself to being the perfect complement to most recipes and it is 16 times higher in fiber compared to regular flour.

Extra bonus: green banana flour is a resistant starch, which means it acts like a prebiotic, creating a supportive environment in your gut for probiotics to flourish.

Pulses for White Flour

This swap doesn’t work across the board for all recipes, but it’s a no-brainer when it comes to brownies. Cutting the flour and adding in pulses—black beans, peas, and more—bumps up the fiber, protein and phytonutrient offerings in any recipe, making an indulgence with a nutritional boost. Black beans have more filling fiber and protein than flour, and they’re also gluten-free.

Legume Pasta for Regular Pasta

Take pasta night up a notch by serving a legume-based noodle. Chickpea penne, green lentil macaroni, red lentil rotini—the variety of shapes and types of beans and legumes offers a plethora of flavors and textures to please any palate.

Compared to typical pasta made with refined flour, legume-based pasta adds more than three times the fiber and almost twice the protein per serving.

Higher-Fiber Cereal for Oatmeal

There’s nothing wrong with oatmeal, but if you’re looking to increase your fiber intake, there are other options or measures you can take. One option is to make oatmeal out of high-fiber cereal (Bran Buds, Fiber One, among others). Make on a stovetop as you would regular oatmeal, cooking until the cereal softens.

1/2 cup of high-fiber cereal has about 120 calories and 19 grams of fiber while the same serving of dry oatmeal provides 150 calories and just 4 grams of fiber. Whether you go the high-fiber cereal or the oatmeal route, adding berries ups the fiber even further. A cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber and blueberries have about 4.5 grams.

A World From Verywell

Making healthy swaps is an easy way to eat a little healthier while still enjoying your favorite recipes and foods. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, we’ve got you covered. We hope you enjoy some of the healthy swap ideas we’ve provided. 

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Article Sources
  • United States Department of Agriculture. Food Composition Database. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/

  • Myrdal Miller A, Mills K, Wong T, et al. Flavor-enhancing properties of mushrooms in meat-based dishes in which sodium has been reduced and meat has been partially substituted with mushrooms. J Food Sci. 2014;79(9): S1795-804.

  • Raigond P, Ezekiel R, Raigond B. Resistant starch in food: a review. J Sci Food Agric. 2015;95(10):1968-78.

  • Vitamix. How to Use Applesauce as a Sugar Substitute. Vitamix.com. Published January 1, 2016.

  • Recipes - Mango Mustard Glaze Ham. Mango.org.

  • Raspberry Meyer Lemon Chia Jam. Red Razz.

  • Black Bean Brownies. World's Greatest Pulse Dishes, Mains, Salads, Soups & Stews Recipe.