20 Healthy Food Swaps to Instantly Upgrade Your Diet

Nutrition Real Food Recipes

Instantly upgrade your diet with these healthy food swaps — out with the unhealthy and in with the healthy.It’s as simple as that! Oh and yes, even indulgent snacks and treats like potato chips and pancake mix are on the list…

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: improving your diet isn’t as intimidating as it may seem at first.

The first step towards a healthier diet is to make some simple swaps.

That’s it! Simply swapping one thing for another.

Of course, it’s best to not stop at just one thing. But you know what I mean.

And think eating a healthy diet means giving up chocolate, potato chips, and mac and cheese?

Think again!

Trust me, there ARE healthy alternatives to your favorite not-so-healthy foods — from pantry staples like mayonnaise and soy sauce to treats like tortilla chips and chocolate chip cookies.

By swapping in these healthy options, you can instantly upgrade your diet. (And yes, they’re as delicious as you’d hope!)

Now of course, a diet that consists just of these healthy chocolates, potato chips, and mac and cheese wouldn’t by any means be healthy — a nutrient-dense, real food diet is the foundation of good health — but there’s certainly nothing wrong with these foods peppered in!

20 Healthy Food Swaps to Instantly Upgrade Your Diet

• Pantry Staples •

Vegetable Oil → Olive oil | Avocado oil | Unrefined coconut oil | Refined coconut oil | Grass-fed ghee

“Vegetable” oil — including soy and canola oil — are highly-refined and extremely pro-inflammatory. One of the simplest and most impactful upgrades you can make is tossing all of these oils in the trash and replacing them with healthier options! Like…

Olive oil, which is perfect for low-heat cooking and dressings. Since it burns at a low temperature, it’s not ideal for cooking temperatures above 300ºF. Avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee are all better suited for higher temperature cooking. Refined coconut oil has no coconut flavor while unrefined coconut oil does have a distinct coconut flavor.

Wheat Pasta → Banza chickpea pasta

OMG! I’m SO obsessed with Banza. Not only does it taste like the regular ol’ pasta you’re craving, but it’s half the carbs and loaded with protein, meaning you’re a lot less likely yo experience that inflammatory, suppressing spike in blood sugar that’s to blame for most crazy sugar cravings and “hanger.”

Cereal → PaleonolaPurely Elizabeth grain-free granola | Thrive Market grain-free granola

Let’s be clear: most breakfast cereals are filled with sugar, simple carbohydrates, and/or so-called “heart healthy whole grains” that are spiking your blood sugar, irritating your gut, and causing inflammation. They’re NOT the best way to start your day. Instead, upgrade to a grain-free granola filled with real food ingredients, protein, and healthy fats to keep you full until lunch! They also make for a great snack option.

Rice → Riced cauliflower* | Sprouted Quinoa

While rice is a real, whole food, white rice is very high in carbohydrates and brown rice can be difficult for many to digest, causing GI irritation.

Cauliflower rice is a great way to sneak more veggies onto your plate and a perfect grain-free option for those with GI issues. Quinoa is rich in protein, helping to balance out the carbs. And I always recommend sprouted quinoa since it’s much easier to digest (and quicker to cook, too!).

*Cauliflower rice is incredibly east to make but you can also buy it in the frozen section in most grocery stores!

Wheat Flour → Almond flour | Coconut flour | Arrowroot | Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour

Unfortunately, the rumors seem to be true. Numerous studies and an unending amount of anecdotal evidence suggest that gluten is unhealthy, even for individuals without an allergy or intolerance. This is likely due to the fact that gluten damages the gut lining, causing chronic inflammation and increasing the risk of “leaky gut.”

Most healthy, gluten-free recipes call for almond flour, coconut flour, or arrowroot flour, each of which I keep stocked in my pantry. And if you’re looking for the simplest gluten-free option to replace wheat flour in any recipe, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour is a great way to go.

White Sugar → Coconut sugar | Raw honey | Pure maple syrup | Stevia

Really, we want to keep added sugars in the diet as low as possible, and get the majority of our sugars from real, whole foods like fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains (yes, these foods contain natural sugars since they contain carbs and all carbs are converted to glucose!).

That being said, we all want a little sweetness from time to time! And when that time comes, real, whole foods sources of sugars like coconut sugar, raw honey, and pure maple syrup are the best options to turn to. I also really love stevia, which contains no sugars and has no impact on blood sugar whatsoever!

Tomato sauce made with sugar and canola oil → Tomato Sauce made without sugar and with olive oil

Tomato sauce is a great example of how added sugar and pro-inflammatory canola oil can sneak right into your diet! Even a lot of natural and organic brands contain these ingredients, so keep a close eye on ingredient labels.

Mayonnaise made with soy or “vegetable” oil → Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo

Again, “vegetable” oil — including soy and canola oil — are highly-refined and extremely pro-inflammatory.

This Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo has the same taste and texture as you’d expect from Hellman’s, but is a much healthier option.

Salad dressings made with soy or “vegetable” oil → Primal Kitchen salad dressings made with avocado oil

Again, “vegetable” oil — including soy and canola oil — are highly-refined and extremely pro-inflammatory.

Oh how I looooooove these Primal Kitchen dressings! Seriously, every single one of them. Though I will say that we average about a bottle of the Ranch and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette a week in my 2-person house (we eat a lot of salad!).

[healthy food swaps]

Soy Sauce → Coconut aminos

Though it’s often touted as a health food, soy has an estrogenic effect on the body (that is: acts like estrogen) and so can throw hormones off balance if consumed regularly. Soy sauce is often also loaded with sodium.

Coconut aminos taste just like soy sauce but are the much healthier option!

Peanut Butter → Sunflower seed butter | Almond Butter

Now I know, I know: isn’t peanut butter a real food? And if you’re buying organic, isn’t it a very healthy option? The thing is, peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut. Legumes are rich in phytic acid and lectins, both of which can weak havoc on gut health. Plus, peanuts are commonly affected by a type of mold called aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic to humans. Yes, this is where nutrition gets nuanced. But the bottom line is: there is cause for concern and healthier alternatives exist. So why not choose them?

Flavored non-fat yogurt → Plain organic whole milk Greek yogurt + fresh fruit | Plain organic whole milk cottage cheese + fresh fruit

Flavored non-fat yogurts are loaded with sugar and don’t have the fat necessary to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream or keep us feeling full. So they’ll just set you off on the blood sugar rollercoaster, leaving you hungry, craving sugar, and tired in no time.

Plain organic whole milk Greek yogurt  and plain organic whole milk cottage cheese are both packed with protein and healthy fats, which are going to keep you feeling full and satiated. Pair with some low-sugar berries or other fruit of choice for some natural sweetness!

• Treats •

Boxed Mac & Cheese Banza chickpea pasta mac & cheese

The beauty that is Banza made into mac & cheese. I wouldn’t say this should be a part of your everyday diet by any means, but it’s a whole lot healthier than Kraft or even high-carb natural or organic boxed mac and cheese.

Traditional Potato Chips → Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips made with coconut oil

Oh how my life changed forever when I discovered Jackson’s Honest potato chips! They’re SO YUMMY. And made with metabolism-boosting, gut-healing coconut oil rather than pro-inflammatory “vegetable” oils.

Traditional Corn Tortilla Chips → Plantain chips | Siete grain-free tortilla chips | Jackson’s Honest Corn Tortilla Chips made with Coconut oil

Chips and salsa is such a classic snack! But most regular tortilla chips are made inflammatory “vegetable” oils and gut-irritating corn. Plantain chips are my personal favorite options! They’re subtly sweet, just a few simple ingredients, and reasonably priced.

Siete’s grain-free tortilla chips are a good option if you’re looking for a more traditional tortilla chip.

And if you want the more traditional chip, aren’t worried about corn in your diet, and are looking for a healthier option but at a lower price than Siete, Jackson’s Honest chips are made with coconut oil, making them a great upgrade from Tostitos.

Milk Chocolate → Theo soy-free dark chocolateEnjoy Life allergen-free chocolate chips

Theo is my favorite brand of organic chocolate. Though it does contain a little sugar, it’s very minimal (when you’re buying the darker options) and has few other ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, and ground vanilla bean. It’s also very reasonable compared to some other brands.

Peanut Butter Cups → Free2Be Dark Chocolate Sun Cups

Mmmm peanut butter cups. One of my favorite! But Reese’s are filled with unhealthy oils, questionable additives, and unhealthy oils. And as I note about peanuts butter above, it’s not the healthiest of the nut and seed butter options.

These Free2Be Dark Chocolate Sun Cups are made with just a few simple ingredients and as delicious as you’d hope! They do still contain quite a lot of sugars though, so remember not to go overboard!

Pancake & Waffle Mix → Simple Mills Almond Flour Pancake & Waffle Mix

Made with gluten-free almond flour, this mix is easier on the GI tract than wheat-based mixes. It’s also lower in carbohydrates, which is important for preventing blood sugar levels from spiking to unhealthy levels (especially important to consider if you’re going to be using maple syrup, which contains a lot of natural sugars). I like to add frozen wild blueberries for extra flavor and free radical fighting antioxidants!

Traditional Crackers → Mary’s Gone Crackers | Simple Mills Grain-Free Crackers

Most traditional crackers are made with pro-inflammatory wheat flour and “vegetable” oils.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough → Simple Mills Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Everyone loves a good chocolate chip cookie! But most store-bought cookie doughs contain many of the unhealthy ingredients we’ve already discussed, like wheat flour, lots of white sugar, and pro-inflammatory “vegetable” oils.

But you totally CAN enjoy a healthier chocolate chip cookie that totally DOES taste really darn delicious! My husband and I are both obsessed with Simple Mills’ chocolate chip cookie mix. The ingredients are simple and they’re free of gut-irritating grains. Made with almond flour, the cookies contain a good amount of protein to help offset the sugars. And they’re seriously ridiculously yummy!


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  1. You are so rightttt. I will be honest the simple mills crackers are my new fav snack, like better than chips LOL. I am obsessed. Oh and siete chips are the bomb dot com. I also really love plantain chips.

  2. Great suggestions! Making healthier food choices is doable, especially when taking baby steps and changing a few things out at a time. Today, there are so many more options than there used to be.

  3. LOL Linda, I think you’ll be OK 😉 Justins are a great option! Peanut butter’s where I get just a littttttle bit picky. But you should still try these Sun Cups – I actually think they’re even better than Justin’s (in taste, not just ingredients!).

  4. Most definitely! Very inflammatory and highly processed so key to get those out of there.

  5. Thanks for the reply Nadia!

    I will definitely try two swaps initially (unrefined coconut oil + ghee and Almond flour swaps) as that is easy for me to find at Whole Foods. Once I stick to those swaps and keep them as staples in my pantry, I will definitely try Thrive Market for my next round of swaps!

    I currently use Organic pure maple syrup as well as raw honey & organic sugar as sweeteners however I use all of them sparingly if at all. I have always wanted to try Ghee and saw a video on how to make your own ghee at home. Now you’ve motivated me to try it!

  6. Oh yay I’m so happy to hear it!! I linked to most of these on Thrive Market, which is one of my favorite resources for saving money on healthy foods, but you can also find them at your local health food store too 🙂

  7. Nadia,
    Thank you so much for this list! I cannot wait to try some of these super healthy substitutions! This is a great resource to help me replace some of my unhealthy foods favs (pasta) that have been causing inflammation. Thanks so much!!