Dieting is difficult and can often become expensive and cumbersome. Sometimes the best way to keep yourself and your family healthy is simply by replacing the easily-prepared but unhealthy foods with alternatives. Whether you’re trying to avoid carbohydrates, get your kids to eat more vegetables, or introduce vitamins into your diet, these healthy food hacks are a sure-fire way to a healthier plate.

Snacking: The Healthy Way

If you like a late-night snack or eating on the go, it’s easy to grab a bag of chips, a sugary granola bar, or a sweet treat. Check out these alternatives for snacks that are lower in calories and better for you:

Kale chips – You can buy them pre-made or make them yourself with fresh kale, olive oil, and a bit of salt for a crunchy snack to munch on.

Avocado ice cream or “nice cream” – Dairy is high in fat content, causes upset stomachs for many people, and can contribute to breakouts. Consider trying alternative recipes for ice cream, like this one for Chocolate Avocado Ice Cream. Nice cream is another great option, where the base is made of frozen bananas rather than dairy products.

Side dishes: They don’t have to be high in carbs

Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the enemy. Carbohydrates are one of the three macros people need to have a balanced diet (the other two are fats and protein). However, we do know that consuming certain carbs in excess is not very healthy, and there are ways to reduce your intake. Try replacing these common side dishes with vegetable alternatives or options that are lower in carbs. These alternatives are healthier, but will still keep you satisfied:

Cauliflower rice – Though regular white and brown rice is already a great option for healthy carbs, we can take this one step further and use cauliflower rice in its place. You can purchase it ready-made in the frozen aisle, or grind a head of cauliflower with a cheese grater or food processor and cook in a saucepan with oil over medium heat. This dish can also be enjoyed raw.

Looking to mix things up? Here are three different ways to prepare cauliflower rice.

Chickpea pasta – Dried pastas made from chickpeas, lentils or black beans have more protein and fiber than regular pastas, and a fraction of the carbs. The taste is comparable to regular pasta, too! Chickpea pasta also comes in gluten-free varieties. Whole wheat or brown rice pasta are also great substitutions for regular pasta.

Veggie noodles, like “zoodles” – Veggie noodles are considered by dietitians to be an excellent carb alternative. You can use zucchini, spaghetti squash, sweet potato, or cucumber to make a dish that looks like noodles but is better for you. You can find these pre-made at the supermarket or use a spiralizer to make it yourself. Unlike chickpea pasta, this alternative tastes like the vegetable used, rather than real noodles.

Condiments and spices: Add flavor without guilt

One may not consider the nutritional value of spices and condiments we add to our dishes because they are not at the forefront of the meal. It’s easy to forget the added sugar, dairy, and sodium that may present in these elements. Fortunately, there are a few substitute options you can turn to for even healthier meals.

Greek yogurt is lower in calories and fat and higher in protein than sour cream. Mix plain Greek yogurt with a bit of cilantro and taco seasoning to create a tangy topping that pairs well with chili and tacos.

Hummus for mayo – One tablespoon of mayonnaise contains approximately 100 calories and 10 grams of fat, while the chickpea-based hummus has 25 calories, only 1.5 grams of fat, and 1.2 grams of protein.

Low-sodium spices – Salt may be the first spice we reach for to add to our food, but it is also high in sodium, which increases blood pressure and has adverse effects on your heart, kidneys, and arteries. Low-sodium spices will still add flavor to your meals while keeping their nutritional value. Try these herb and seasoning options instead: basil, onion powder, garlic, chives, nutmeg, curry powder, ginger, rosemary, thyme, and cumin.

Sugar replacements – When baking, almost every recipe will call for sugar. See if you can use cinnamon or unsweetened applesauce instead. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are a great way to add sweetness and flavor to your recipe without the extra sugar or calories. One cup of sugar has approximately 800 calories, where the same amount of unsweetened applesauce has about 100, and cinnamon has about 300. Keep in mind that you may have to reduce the amount of other liquid in your recipe if using applesauce.

Making these changes in your diet can keep you on the right track to health without sacrificing quantity of food. It can also increase your intake of vitamins and decrease your intake of unhealthy nutritional elements, boosting your overall health.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.