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Opt for the healthier choice with these top swaps

Trying to change to a healthier diet can seem overwhelming, particularly if you have a sweet tooth or a love of salty snacks. Making simple swaps from unhealthy to healthier choices is a much simpler way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Try these expert tips.

Swap grains...
for fruit and vegetables

“Grains are not easy to digest,” says Fleur Borrelli, nutritionist and co-author of the In Sync Diet (www.theinsyncdiet.com). “Wheat products and other similar cereal grains can potentially contribute to chronic inflammation which is at the root of most Western diseases.”

Why you should swap: “We can easily get the recommended 30g of fibre we need from vegetables and fruit alone,” says Fleur. “The key is to include a diversity of plant foods with each of your three (or two) meals of the day: This will also increase the diversity of your beneficial bacteria and offer better protection against disease. For example, for breakfast try eggs, with spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. For lunch opt for salmon with rocket and coleslaw made with red cabbage, carrots, fennel, radishes, apple and walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. And for dinner try a stew (meat/vegetarian/vegan) with onion, garlic, red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, parsley and basil.”

Swap dairy sources of calcium...
for Japanese natto

“Dairy, like gluten, is difficult to digest,” says Fleur. “This is because of the milk proteins – casein and whey – as well as the milk sugar lactose. By the time we are weaned, most of us lose the enzyme capable of digesting lactose which suggests that we should not be using it as a food beyond this point.”

Why you should swap: “With cows being fed on grain-based diets rather than grass, vitamin K is often lacking,” says Fleur. “Vitamin K is vital for the absorption of calcium into bones, i.e. it gets calcium to the correct place in the body. And, equally as importantly, it stops calcium from building up in the wrong places in the body, such as with the hardening of arteries or the build-up of arterial plaques. Natto is a fermented superfood with vitamin K, calcium and other minerals necessary for bone density. Use it in a salad or add it chopped into an omelette at the end of cooking with parsley and tomato.”

Swap cereal...
for homemade muesli

“Most cereals are based on simple, refined carbohydrates, which spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry shortly after eating them,” explains registered nutritional therapist Fiona Lawson (www.fionalawson.co.uk).

Why you should swap: “For a more satiating breakfast, make your own muesli,” suggests Fiona. “Simply combine a few handfuls of oats, a handful each of hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed and a sprinkle of raisins. Pop the mixture in a mason jar and it should keep you going for most of the week (especially if you pair it with some thick, organic yoghurt). The combination of fat, protein and fibre in this easy muesli will satisfy your appetite and fuel you all the way until lunch.”

Swap fizzy drinks...
for kombucha

“We all know we should avoid too much sugar, but a fizzy drink habit can be hard to break,” says Fiona. “Diet versions aren’t much better either, as research has linked artificial sweeteners with gut microbiome disruption.”

Why you should swap: “Rather than reaching for an afternoon can of coke, why not try a bottle of kombucha?” says Fiona. “This fermented tea drink is brimming with good bacteria and studies have shown that regular intake of fermented foods can help to support gut health. What’s more, if it’s brewed authentically and left unpasteurised, the yeast and bacteria in the drink will have eaten most of the sugar before you get to it! The result is a tart, tangy, effervescent drink that will quickly make you forget about synthetic colas.”

Swap white rice...
for brown rice

“White rice has been stripped of fibre and so will hit your blood stream quickly,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, leading nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Dieting, (www.glenvillenutrition.com).

Why you should swap: “By swapping to brown rice you are having a food with a lower glycaemic index (GI) which is better for your health,” says Dr Glenville. “You are also getting important fibre from the brown rice which is crucial for your digestive function and also can help to control cholesterol. Swap first to brown basmati rice as it is easy to cook and is delicious.”

Swap potatoes...
for sweet potatoes

“Regular potatoes don’t count as one of your five-a-day of fruit and vegetables,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, “but sweet potatoes do.”

Why you should swap: “Sweet potatoes are packed full of nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium and iron and they are also a good source of dietary fibre,” says Dr Glenville. “The orange colour is due to the beta-carotene content which gives the sweet potato valuable antioxidant properties. Try to buy organic sweet potatoes so that you do not have to peel them because as with most fruit and vegetables much of the goodness is in the skin and with sweet potatoes the antioxidant activity is three times higher in the skin than in the flesh.”

Swap pre-made desserts...
for fruit or dark chocolate

“Pre-made foods are packed with preservatives and additives to ensure a long shelf-life,” says Natures Plus nutritionist Martina Della Vedova (naturesplus.co.uk). “Guess what is a great preservative? Sugar! Any packed/pre-made sugary dessert or snack will contain much more sugar than a homemade version simply for an expiry date.”

Why you should swap: “Pre-made desserts can be easily swapped for a piece of seasonal fruit with a nut butter of your choice, or a handful of nuts with a couple of squares of dark chocolate, or a protein-rich bar,” suggests Martina. “I always suggest that clients experiment with their baking skills. Making healthy cookies at home is extremely easy and saves you from temptations.”

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