The world of nutrition can be overwhelming and confusing - there's so much information out there, it’s hard to know what to believe or where to start. The most important thing to remember is that you are unique and your body works differently to everyone else. Tuning into your body and eating in a way that is intuitive, pleasurable, nourishing and satisfying is key. Making food choices based on health and how they make you feel also plays a part, and as some foods are more nutrient dense than others, consuming these means you're getting more bang for your buck. These foods may also help with bloating, tiredness and energy levels.
In this post I've chosen to share the more nutrient dense options. This doesn’t mean these foods are more superior than other foods - food is just food, after all - they are all emotionally equivalent, however, some foods are just more nutritious than others. I like to refer to less nutritious foods as 'play' foods, and as we all need play in our life, we also need play foods. It's all about balance :)
10 nutritious food swaps
1. Skim milk → full cream milk (grass fed/ organic)
Skim milk has had the fat extracted which means you won’t feel as satisfied after drinking it. In addition, if it doesn't have organic or grass fed on the label, chances are the cows would have been fed a processed diet rather than a natural diet, making it less nutritious. Full cream and organic grass-fed milk is richer in omega-3s, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and CLA. It is also super tasty! Try it in your porridge for a creamy and scrumptious brekkie.
2. White rice → brown rice
When brown rice is made, only the hull is removed from the rice kernel, making it less damaging to its nutritional profile. Brown rice undergoes a further process to turn it into white rice - milling and polishing - which destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of vitamin B6, 60% of iron as well as half of the manganese, phosphorus and all of the dietary fibre and essential fatty acids. Brown rice is a staple in my lunches - I love mixing it will legumes, avocado, pine nuts, fresh mint, garlic and olive oil.
3. Low fat yoghurt → full fat and organic yoghurt
Low fat yoghurts have had the fat removed and replaced with sugar. Switching to organic or full cream yoghurt means a higher nutrient quality and is much more satisfying. Yoghurt is also a probiotic, making it good for your gut. Look for yoghurt with one million or more active bacterial cultures (CFUs). One of my favourite snacks is Greek yoghurt with blueberries, nut butter and cacao.
4. Milk chocolate→ 70% dark chocolate
Cocoa is high in magnesium, combats PMS and protects our skin from UV damage. However, some of the conventional chocolate bars we know today have reduced cocoa and more sugar, which does reduce its nutritional content. Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa and has less sugar, especially in varieties of 70% or more. I like to keep my dark chocolate in the freezer and I have it with nut butter. I highly recommend if you haven’t tried this already!
5. White bread → wholegrain varieties
White bread has had 40% of the grain and germ of its wheat grain removed. The remaining 60% is extracted into flour for baking which further removes some of the vitamins and fibres. However, it still does have vitamins. Wholegrain bread is more nutrient dense and has been supported to assist with Type 2 diabetes, inflammation and estrogen.
6. Margarine → butter, grass fed butter, avocado, nut butter or tahini
Margarine may be lower in fat, but it is made with highly processed vegetable oils, which isn’t that great for our body. There are a range of alternative options out there - you can swap margarine for butter, grass fed butter, ghee, avocado or tahini. These foods are full of nutritious fats that satisfy us, taste great and have a high concentrate of phytonutrients.
7. Energy drinks and soda → coconut water
Energy drinks and soda can be high in sugar, artificial sweeteners and colourings. This is because they enhance the colour and flavour of the drinks to give them a longer shelf life. My favourite alternative is coconut water. Coconut water has calcium, magnesium, vitamin c and potassium. In fact, they have more potassium than a banana! It is also high in electrolytes so it is a great pre- or post-workout drink (and works wonders for hangovers!).
8. Vegetable oil → extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil must be one of my favourite foods - I have it daily on my salads! Having a tablespoon a day protects your heart, bones and brain. It also assists with depression and it tastes amazing, too! Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and canola oil can be highly processed and contain trans fats.
9. Table sugar → honey, organic stevia, brown rice syrup, maple syrup or agave
Table sugar does not have much nutritional value as some other options out there- even though it comes from a natural plant. Swapping to less processed sweeteners such as organic stevia, brown rice syrup, honey. maple syrup or agave is a more nutritious option,
10. White potato → sweet potato
It's important to note that white potato is still a highly nutritious food, however, sweet potato does trump white potato for its nutritional value. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which means it has powerful antioxidant activities, protects the skin, eyes and lungs and also supports a healthy pregnancy. Combining sweet potato with healthy fats significantly increases the absorption of beta-carotene. I love mine roasted in coconut oil, or served with coconut cream and cinnamon for dessert
There you have it, ten easy, nutritious food swaps! Remember, only choose the ones that work for you - listen and trust your body. It will tell you what foods work for you and what foods don’t. Some key questions to ask are :
How do I feel?
Do I have more energy?
Am I less bloated?
Am I less hungry?
Get curious and have fun experimenting.