Do you want to stay on track with healthy eating but find that work and life get in the way? Making healthy food swaps are a quick and easy way to eat better and reach your weight goals.
“When was the last time you moved tonight?”
Just a few years ago that was a common question Tim had to ask me on work nights. I can only imagine what my couch would have said if it could talk.
There were some nights that I literally just went to work, sat all day in my cubicle, then came home sat all night. Sound familiar? To say I lacked the energy to exercise or eat better would be the biggest understatement of the year!
I’ve worked in many cubicle office situations and what holds true every time is that most people (in the other cubes) have the same struggles. Exercising sounds like such an easy fix but exercise requires motivation, of which I had none.
So how do you rewire your brain for a healthier mindset?
- Don’t fall for the common traps!
You might be tempted to try that new workout Linda in HR lives by. Or make insane diet changes like Jackie in Accounting. You’re scouring YouTube right now looking for squat sequences, aren’t you?
Well, I’m gonna let you in on a secret…you can avoid going down that rabbit hole and skip ahead to feeling better part.
Changing your eating habits will provide faster results than any crazy exercise plan! And once you have more energy from eating better, you can incorporate regular exercise.
If you’ve gone on a health kick in the past (raising my hand!), it’s really tough to know where to start. Ultimately what helped me lose those nagging 20 pounds I gained in my first office job was making healthy food swaps.
Learn how to read food labels
If you wanted to go super healthy, you would never eat foods that had nutrition labels. But that’s not really how it works with everyday life. There’s no need to resort to extremes, you just need to learn the good, the bad and the ugly.
When making healthy food swaps, you’ll want to do 3 important things:
- Make sure you recognize the listed ingredients
- If the words look like they were made up in a lab (i.e. Red #50) you’ll want to avoid that product. Look for another option with ingredients that you actually recognize
- Look at the sugar content
- The American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 100 calories of sugar per day and men have no more than 150 calories of sugar per day. There are about 4 grams of sugar per calorie. Look at your nutrition labels to calculate your sugar intake each day. If your allotted snacks have too much sugar, look for other healthy food swaps with less sugar. Source Article: Sugar 101
- Check out the calories per serving
- It’s hard to know how many calories you should eat each day or how many calories there are in foods that don’t have labels. While you’re learning to eat better I highly recommend an app like My Fitness Pal to determine how many calories are in your foods. My Fitness Pal helped significantly with my weight loss. It helped me understand how many calories I should eat per day to reach my weight goals. The app also has a huge library of foods, so you don’t have to worry about not finding the calorie amounts for more obscure foods.
Try these refined sugar-free recipes to get started: Basil Chocolate Chip Homemade Ice Cream (Vegan & Dairy Free), Easy Double Berry Crumble or Spicy Chocolate Avocado Mousse Cups.
Eat this, not that!
There are plenty of amazing healthy food swaps you can make that don’t make the food taste BLAH. I think where most common diets fail is that they are too extreme. You don’t need to jump straight to wheatgrass, whole wheat everything or smoothies for every meal.
Eating like that isn’t sustainable OR enjoyable. A few healthy food swaps, however, will enhance your nutritional content and open your pallet to new flavors.
Take this picture below for example: on the left is white wheat flour and on the right is standard white flour. Rather than making a full switch to whole wheat flour, which has a more distinct flavor, white wheat flour is a 1 for 1 replacement for white flour and tastes fairly similar.
I’ve used white wheat flour in chocolate chip cookies and they taste just like the original! Making the switch increased my whole grain intake without me noticing the difference. We’re talking baby steps here.
Put healthy food in plain sight
This was by far the most important thing I ever did to stay on track for weight loss. It’s also the lasting weight maintenance thing that I do now. The reason this works is because tired people gravitate towards shortcuts. If you make the shortcut to healthy foods easy, it’s literally a no-brainer ; )
Let’s put this in perspective: Picture yourself coming home from work after having to stay late. You’re tired, your feet hurt and you didn’t get a chance to eat a proper lunch because you had too many “important” meetings.
In this scenario, what would you choose?
a) Grab the bag of chips you see on the kitchen counter
b) Have the leftover chicken on the top shelf in the fridge
c) Dig way back in the fridge until you find some hidden fruit
I’m gonna guess you went with option A? No need to beat yourself up for making an unhealthy choice. You weren’t set up to succeed, so you can’t be mad when you don’t.
The reason you choose the chips is not that you lack self-control. It’s because they were too easy to access. So what you need to do is make your healthy food swaps more visible. It also helps to avoid buying junk food in the first place, but that’s a chance you’ll get used to making over time.
Here are a couple of healthy food swap examples for after work snacks:
- Potato Chips: Consider low cal, low sugar crackers with dip or baked chips with salsa. Tip: Be sure to put your dips/homemade salsa at eye level, towards the front of the shelf in your fridge; it’s all about easy access.
- Candy Bars: I’ll be honest chocolate is my kryptonite. I just can’t live without it. As my dessert healthy food swap, I go for dark chocolate with lower sugar and less milk fat. There are also some sugar-free and dairy-free chocolate options that taste just as good as the original.
- Phi Kind makes AWESOME stevia truffles! They come in all types of flavors like Cosmic Mint, Golden Milk and Strawberry Coconut Butter.
- A handful of dairy-free, allergen-free chocolate chips alongside a handful of nuts can really satisfy your sweet tooth. Try Enjoy Life brand dark chocolate chips next time you have a craving.
- Good old fashioned fruit can give you that sweet fix too. We leave a bowl on the counter to fill with fresh fruit every week. Since they are easily in reach, it’s easy to remember to eat them.
If you need help planning your daily/weekly meals here are some meal plan ideas to get you started!
- Spiced Baked Turkey Meatballs– Uses lean meat, wheat pita and uses grated vegetables as a binder in the meatballs instead of breadcrumbs
- Chicken Tostadas with Chipotle Guacamole- Baked (not fried) tostadas, lean chicken breast, and fresh, homemade spicy guacamole
- Apple Cobbler with Oat Topping– Uses fruit as a sweetener instead of sugar plus it’s topped with fluffy coconut milk cream instead of whipped heavy cream
- Spicy Chocolate Avocado Mousse Cups– This one is dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and uses avocados in place of milk and cream! P.S. you can’t taste the difference.
So what are your next steps on this healthy food swap journey?
- Download the FREE Grocery Shopping Healthy Swaps Guide above.
- Be sure to bring it with you on your next grocery shopping trip. It will give you healthy swap suggestions for each of the main grocery store sections.
- If you need suggestions beyond the printable, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help!
Disclaimer: If you purchase any of the linked products above, I will receive a commission. I do however use the products I recommend and stand by how awesome they are!