I think we all know it by now – and if you don’t, let us be the first to share the good news… fad dieting just doesn’t work. Sure, you may lose weight in the short term, but if it’s a long-term healthy lifestyle that you’re looking to achieve out of that new diet you’re on, you’re probably not going to have much luck.

So, instead of completely ridding your house of sugar or developing a sudden “allergy” to carbs, why not make some simple, healthy swaps that you – and your family – can actually stick to?

“Swap ingredients out for higher nutrition items, removing nasty additives, preservatives and colours from your daily diet,” says nutritionist and founder of the Changing Habits Organic Marketplace, Cyndi O’Meara. “Learn how to the read the labels on the foods you’re buying – not the nutritional information, but what ingredients actually make the food.”

Cyndi says that less is always more, and when the food source is natural or as close to natural as you can get it, the more nutrient dense it will probably be.

“Stay fresh, stay whole, eat real foods and your body will reward you with health,” says Cyndi. “It is less about the amount of food you eat, and more about the quality of it. Things will change habit by habit, bit by bit, but if you don’t change anything then nothing will change for you.”

Laura McNamara, the Australian Mumpreneur who last year raffled off her plant-based seaside café, Island Wholefoods – which was voted the best cafe on Phillip Island – agrees. Her family made many simple swaps to create their healthier, plant-based diets and are feeling a lot better for it.

“There are many easy food swaps that every household can use to aid better health, and you don’t have to do them all at once, which could be costly,” says Cyndi. “A good first step is to stop buying processed, chemical heavy foods, or replace any ingredients that have depleted with a more nourishing organic variety.”

So, what exactly are these simple swaps?

  1. Swap store bought jam for homemade jam: jam can easily be made using fresh, seasonal fruits and chia seeds, instead of buying the supermarket version.
  2. Swap Cow’s Milk for Plant Milk: Have you ever considered ditching dairy for something plant-based? If you’ve tried soy milk before and hated the taste, research the many other options out there – or easily make your own! “Our favourite is cashew milk, especially in smoothies,” says Laura. “Just add a handful of cashews to your smoothie and replace milk with water!”
  3. Swap Beef Burgers for Veggie Burgers: beef burgers don’t have a great deal of nutrition content and are often full of fat, especially if you buy the ones that are premade, Laura says. Why not try out some veggie burgers which are often filled with lentils, chickpeas, tofu and beans instead?
  4. Swap refined white sugar with rapadura sugar: rapadura is made from evaporated sugar cane juice, dried at low temperatures to maintain nutritional properties, and contains vitamins, minerals and free of chemicals – not like highly processed refined sugar that pulls minerals from the body during digestion and stresses the liver, creating a hormone cascade and an addictive sugar response in the brain.
  5. Swap butter for coconut oil: If you’re mad on baking, try opting for coconut oil instead. It adds a subtle coconut flavour and is reportedly full of fatty acids that boost brain function and, as an added bonus, coconut oil is said to help boost your metabolism and reduce your hunger.
  6. Swap ice-cream for frozen bananas: also known as ‘nice-cream’, blending up frozen bananas creates a similar consistency to ice-cream without the dairy, refined sugar, preservatives and other nasties. Top it with berries, mango, toasted coconut or nuts. “Our favourite combo is placing a few frozen bananas in a blender with a table cacao nibs, 2 dates and a handful of almonds,” says Laura.
  7. Swap table salt for seaweed salt: seaweed salt is the highest grade of hand-harvested natural pink Himalayan Salt, containing 84 minerals and dulse flakes which are high in minerals and vitamins. Most table salt is a processed for of sodium chloride and could have been bleached and stripped of minerals during heavy processing.
  8. Swap meat for beans or mushrooms: “Salads are a lunchtime staple in our house, but rather than grabbing out a can of tuna or slicing up some chicken, we use beans to add that protein boost,” says Laura. Four bean mix will give you some variety, but chickpeas or lentils work really well too. If you’ve got the time, fry up a whole bunch of mushrooms with a little sea salt and place in the fridge to add to salads or grains.
  9. Swap eggs for chia seeds: When you’re baking a cake, muffins or other sweat treats, test out using a chia egg instead. We know, it sounds crazy. A chia egg is just a table spoon of chia seeds mixed with two-and-a-half table spoons of water, left to sit for a couple of minutes until the seeds puff up and become almost jelly like. An added benefit of chia eggs is that they are said to be packed with Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
  10. Swap cream for coconut cream: When you need to add a little extra decadence to a cake or some berries, try whipping up a can of coconut cream instead of grabbing the dairy alternative – which contains lactose, a type of sugar.
  11. Swap Cacao Quick Hunger Fix for chocolate energy powder: Changing Habits’ cacao is 100% natural with no additives or flavourings, and is also vegan and raw, with natural sources of protein, minerals and soluble fibre. Other chocolate powders could contain artificial flavours and additives (up to 48 chemicals), refined sugar, gluten and refined salt as usual ingredients.
  12. Swap mayonnaise for avocado: avocados are a great addition to a sandwich and add lots of flavour and moisture, plus, they are packed with so much goodness like potassium, fatty acids, fibre and are even said to lower cholesterol. We never feel like this is a compromise because we love avos so much!” says Laura.
  13. Swap egg noodles for zoodles: ‘zoodles’ are basically spiralised zucchini noodles that emulate the texture and shape of regular egg noodles. All you need is a spiraliser and a zucchini, a beetroot or a carrot and away you go – you’ll be filling up on a green veggie that’s nutrient dense and really tasty.
  14. Swap creamy dressings for tahini: Not familiar with tahini? It’s sort of like peanut butter consistency but it’s made with toasted and ground sesame seeds, so it has a delicious nutty taste. “We make a great creamy dressing by whipping together tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and coconut sugar and water,” says Laura.
  15. Swap milk chocolate for dairy free: There are loads of vegan chocolate options available nowadays, and you should be able to find these in your local health food shop. If you find that these chocolates can be a bit expensive, try making your own chocolate by mixing together raw cacao, coconut oil and maple. Add in nuts, seeds, freeze dried fruit or coconut and you’ll create a delicious and wholesome treat!

For plenty of recipes, ingredient sources or health information, visit www.changinghabits.com.au.

Anastasia White

Anastasia White

Anastasia (‘Anny’ to her friends and family, thanks to some nickname experimentation in year 4 that unfortunately stuck) is a born-and-bred Brisbanite with a love of coffee and her cat, Olive. Having recently finished a degree in journalism, Anastasia loves being able to learn and write about so many different topics for a variety of audiences.