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Linia Patel

By Linia Patel

10 easy food swaps for a healthier diet

chickpeas

Want to be healthier without completely changing your diet?  Here are a few easy food changes and ingredient swaps that will help reduce your calorie intake and improve the quality of your diet.

1. Reach for roasted chickpeas instead of veggie crisps

A good source of protein and carbohydrates, chickpeas can be drizzled with olive oil and baked into a crunchy snack. Chickpeas are high in fibre which means they will help control your appetite and keep you fuller for longer. They will also keep your blood sugar levels under control making them much healthier than vegetable crisps anyway.

2. Use beets instead of oil in your baking

Beets aren’t just for salads anymore. They add moisture to baked foods without the addition of oil or butter and at the same time they also add natural sweetness and a big whack of antioxidants. Win win! Beetroot in best when used in chocolate desserts as the cocoa powder and chocolate mask any possible subtle earthy flavour.

3. Add creaminess with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream

Crave sour cream in your burrito? Want to make salad cream for a potato salad? To get the same creaminess, add a dollop of plan Greek yogurt. You’ll amp up the protein and slash the saturated fat.

Dairy free sour cream

4. Swap salmon and tuna (fresh) for sardines and mackerel

Due to their size, sardines and mackerel have very low mercury levels yet comparable levels of omega-3. In addition, they are often more cost effective as well.

5. Instead of iceberg lettuce go for rocket or spinach

Iceberg lettuce tastes watery for a reason – there isn’t that much nutrition in it. Its 90 % water. The darker the green the more phytochemicals (plant based nutrients that enhance your health). Spinach and rocket are full of vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium and iron and fibre.

6. Swap pasta or noodles for courgette versions

A simple and now widely accessible way to lower your carbohydrate and sugar intake without feeling like you're making a sacrifice.  Quick and easy to make, all you need is a basic julienne peeler to ribbon your courgette into spaghetti strands, then pan-fry in a dash of olive oil until just tender. They're a delicious accompaniment to Bolognese, chilli or a stir-fry. Courgettes are a wonderful source of vitamin C in particular, a powerful antioxidant and immune booster.

7. Snack on oat cakes instead of rice cakes

Oatcakes have a lower glycaemic index due to having a higher fibre content than rice cakes (0g per 100g vs 4g per 100g) so are better for blood sugar balance.

Healthy porridge

8. Sweeten with fruit instead of sugar

Instead of a sprinkling of sugar on your cereal or porridge, try adding a handful of fresh or frozen berries. Berries not only add sweetness but also fibre, vitamins and phytonutrients.

9. Cook with coconut oil instead of sunflower, peanut or sesame seed oil

Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, peanut oil or sesame seed oil contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable. They oxidize easily, particularly if used when cooking at high temperatures. These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells, which increase your risk of cancer and heart disease for example.  Coconut oil has a higher smoking point than olive oil so can be used when cooking food to high temperatures (i.e. stir-fry). Olive oil is still the best oil when cooking at low temperatures or using on salads.

10. Bake with a can of chickpeas instead of wheat flour

Chickpeas make a great gluten-free (and more nutritious) alternative to wheat flour in baking, as they provide the same substance and floury texture. Great if your wanting a sweet treat but trying to watch your weight.

HEALTHY SNACK: Dark chocolate and Almond cookies

Healthy chickpea cookies

Ingredients

1 tin of chickpeas rinsed

½ cup of almond nut butter (or regular butter if you have a nut allergy)

¼ cup of semi-skimmed milk or milk alternative

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate chips

1 tsp baking powder


Method

Rinse the tinned chickpeas well. Place into a blender, add nut butter, milk, vanilla extract and baking powder. Blend until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Using a spoon, drop the mixture onto the baking tray. Pat down with a wet fork. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade or until lightly brown.



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