Top of the swaps!

Tempted by that chocolate bar or bag of crisps? Make the healthy choice with our healthy swaps

Fruit juice

Swap it for: a piece of whole fruit

“Drinking fruit juice or fruit smoothies can really elevate your blood sugar levels,” says Uxshely Chotai, founder of The Food Psychology Clinic (www.thefoodpsychologyclinic.co.uk). “The fibre in a piece of whole fruit slows the release of the sugar into your blood stream, allowing you to enjoy all of the wonderful health benefits of eating fruit, without causing any extreme fluctuations in your blood sugar and insulin levels.”

Chocolate

Swap it for: some peanuts and a square of dark chocolate

“Chocolate bars are packed with hydrogenated fats and sugar,” says nutritionist Sandra Greenbank (www.sandragreenbank.co.uk). “A healthier option would be to have a small handful of peanuts and a couple of squares of 70 per cent dark chocolate for a similar flavour hit with additional health benefits. Peanuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats, and dark chocolate is high in antioxidants. There’s even research showing dark chocolate to have a positive effect on our gut bugs!”

Sugar

Swap it for: natural alternatives

“Sugar can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com). “Even moderate sugar intake on a regular basis can create a huge number of problems including stress, mood swings, low energy, low libido, brain fog, memory problems and lower immunity. For cakes, think of ways other than sugar to add sweetness. You could add carrots, raisins, dates, figs or bananas as natural sweeteners. Spices like cinnamon and vanilla also add sweetness and flavour. Use lemon or orange zest to reduce the amount of sugar when cooking. You can substitute natural alternatives such as maple syrup, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup and stevia.”

Crisps

Swap them for: a handful of nuts

“We tend to focus very heavily on calories rather than on whether something is healthy,” says Uxshely. “People will often opt for baked crisps or a low fat snack because they contain fewer calories. However, choosing something like some walnuts or almonds is actually much more nutritious and will probably keep you fuller for longer too.”

Biscuits

Swap them for: oatcakes and peanut butter

“Do you feel yourself craving something sweet, such as your favourite chocolate hobnob or custard cream?” asks nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos (www.angeliquepanagos.com) “Why not try replacing it with an oatcake and a spoonful of peanut butter sprinkled with cinnamon? This generates an indulgent but nutritious snack. Be sure to choose a peanut butter without added sugar.”

Fizzy drinks

Swap them for: water

“There have been so many studies linking the consumption of fizzy drinks with rising obesity levels,” says Uxshely. “Many people also indulge in diet drinks, thinking that they are better for their bodies as they have no calories. However, studies have shown that diet drinks alter levels of bacteria in the gut and are actually also likely to cause insulin resistance and obesity (just like normal fizzy drinks full of sugar). You will notice an immediate improvement to your health and energy levels by swapping fizzy drinks with fizzy water.”

Fruit-flavoured yogurt

Swap it for: natural yogurt with berries

“Fruit-flavoured yogurts tend to come with a hefty serving of sugar,” says Sandra. “There are generally around three to four teaspoons of added sugar in a small 100g pot of yogurt. Swapping the flavoured yogurt for a natural version with some fresh berries avoids this added sugar, as well as thickeners, artificial flavourings and other additives too.”

White carbs

Swap them for: wholegrain versions

“There is a big difference between eating a slice of white bread and a slice of dense, brown, rye bread,” says Uxshely. “The white bread will spike your blood sugar levels and leave you craving more carbs, whereas dense, brown, rye bread contains lots more fibre and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. A simple way to improve your health is to swap all of those white carbs you love (rice, potatoes, bread etc.) for a form of carbohydrate that is kinder on your blood sugar levels (e.g. quinoa, sweet potato, oats or rye bread).”

Sweets

Swap them for: raw energy balls

“We all feel that mid-morning sugar-dip every now and then, with refined sugar sweets providing an easy quick-fix to this craving,” says Angelique. “However, taking five minutes out of your day to put together some raw energy balls could be a good alternative to these sugary snacks.” Angelique suggests combining a mixture of ground almonds, desiccated coconut, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pre-soaked dates and dried fruit to a food processor, rolling the mixture into balls and then storing in the fridge for when sugary cravings surface.

Cous cous

Swap it for: quinoa

“Our diets tend to be very wheat-heavy, and generally we want to avoid having too much of one thing,” says Sandra. “Keeping a varied diet with lots of different foods is the best way to keep our gut healthy. Cous cous is comparable to white pasta in terms of nutrients, and tends to have a negative effect on our blood sugar. Quinoa, on the other hand, gives us a slower release of energy. It is also a good source of protein and nutrients such as magnesium and the B vitamins, too.”

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