Pictured recipe: Spinach, Asian Pear & Chicken Salad
Improving your diet doesn't mean overhauling everything and starting at square one. Sometimes, all you need to do is make small upgrades to what you're already eating. These trade-ups do just that, boosting the fiber, protein and nutrient content of your food, all for little effort. You'll save on sugar, eliminate processed grains and feel fuller and more satisfied in the process. From a tiny tweak in your orange juice habit to a better-for-you salad green, here are the seven swaps to start making today.
1. Swap Orange Juice for an Orange
Pictured recipe: Cinnamon Oranges
It doesn't seem like a big distinction, but eating oranges offers big advantages over drinking them. While OJ is a classic breakfast sip, one cup contains 22 grams of sugar (some of it added) and no fiber. This can cause a quick blood-sugar surge and eventual drop. On the other hand, a whole orange has half the sugar (all natural) and 3 grams of digestion-friendly fiber (the kind that keeps your bathroom routine regular). Chow down on the juicy segments alone or blend up a whole orange in a smoothie; you'll get the juice and fiber this way.
Keep Reading: Boost Your Fiber Intake to Lose Weight
2. Swap Mixed Greens for Spinach
Pictured recipe: Blue Cheese & Spinach Salad
On its own, a field-green mix, which often includes lettuces like romaine and butter, is a nutritious pick, offering an impressive amount of vitamins A and C. However, filling your bowl with spinach boosts the good-for-you benefits from your salad even more. Spinach packs twice the energy-revving iron as romaine and more than four times the vitamin K, which plays a role in bone metabolism. What's more, research shows that compounds called nitrates found in spinach may also keep arteries flexible and decrease blood pressure.
Try This: How to Make Simple Sautéed Spinach
3. Swap Flavored Yogurt for Plain Greek Yogurt
Pictured recipe: Yogurt with Blueberries
Yogurt supplies probiotics that support a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) system, but it also shines as a top ticker protector. Hypertensive adults, or people with high blood pressure, who reported eating yogurt at least twice a week had up to a 21 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to people who ate yogurt once a month, said a 2018 study in the American Journal of Hypertension.
Just be sure to reach for the plain yogurt: flavored yogurts are often filled with sugar; some have more than 20 grams per cup. As the American Heart Association notes, eating too much of the sweet stuff boosts the risk of heart disease. A better option is plain Greek yogurt, which packs more satiating protein compared to regular, and saves a few teaspoons of sugar. Add chopped fruit or nuts on top and sprinkle with cinnamon to sweeten.
Keep Reading: Which Is Healthier: Greek Yogurt or Regular Yogurt?
4. Swap Reduced-Fat Crackers for Nuts
Pictured recipe: Apricots with Walnuts & Cheese
It can be tempting to choose a lower-calorie option, like reduced-fat crackers, especially if weight loss is your goal. However, these crackers are usually highly processed carbs that do nothing to keep you satiated. Even though nuts are higher in fat (and calories), it's a satiating and heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Plus, nuts are waistline-smart. People who report eating nuts are less likely to gain weight over a five-year period, reports 2017 research. What does that mean for you? Don't be afraid to grab a handful of pistachios for a snack, top yogurt with slivered almonds, or slather cashew butter on a sweet potato.
5. Swap Cereal for Eggs
Pictured recipe: Spinach & Egg Sweet Potato Toast
Don't save eggs for a weekend treat. Unlike cereal, which often contains a hefty dose of added sugar (and may be made with refined grains), an egg has an impressive nutritional profile all wrapped up in a small package. Per egg, you'll get 70 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, all of which make your meal satiating and satisfying. The yolks are also a source of the nutrient choline, a neurotransmitter essential for memory and mood. What's more, mounting research is finding that egg consumption isn't linked to an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes, so eat up.
Try These: Breakfast Recipes with Eggs
6. Swap Diet Soda for Kombucha
Pictured recipe: Clean Breeze Smoothie
If the afternoon calls for a sip of something bubbly, trade your diet soda (which is sweetened with artificial sweeteners) for kombucha. The slightly sweet tea drink, often made from black or green tea, is fermented with bacteria and yeast and delivers a boost of healthy bacteria to your GI system. Most store-bought kombucha options are sweetened with fruit juice or herbs, and a single serving can pack as little as 2 grams of sugar.
7. Swap a Bagel for Oatmeal
Pictured recipe: Creamy Blueberry-Pecan Overnight Oatmeal
Skip the morning routine of refined carbohydrates at breakfast. Pastries, cereals, bars—they're sugar-filled, highly processed products that aren't good for your energy or your waistline. They may cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop, which can leave you grumpy and hungry before the lunch hour arrives. Instead, choose a bowl of hearty oatmeal. Oats, a whole-grain option, deliver filling fiber, which can help you feel full all morning. Plus, they are heart-healthy and may reduce your cholesterol. Top with nuts and berries for a boost of natural sweetness and crunch—and more fiber, some protein, vitamins and healthy fats.
Try These: Healthy Oat Recipes
Watch: How to Make Overnight Oats 4 Ways