It's true that small changes can make a big difference - particularly when it comes to our health. Next time you're in the kitchen, try amping up the nutrient-content of your favourite dishes with these easy ingredient swaps.
1. Swap sandwich spread for avocado
Store-bought spreads can add much needed moisture and flavour to sandwiches, but they're often heavily processed, and contain excess sugar or salt. Next time try blended or smashed avocado - its smooth texture makes it the perfect natural substitute for savoury spreads and it's packed with healthy fats.
2. Swap processed dressings in salads for balsamic vinegar and olive oil
If you've ever checked out the label on a store-bought salad dressing you might have noticed they'll often have an ingredients list as long as your arm, and are typically prepared with cheap refined veggie oils, which are better minimised for good health. Instead try a simple homemade salad dressing, like vinegar and olive oil. It's affordable, easy to prepare and better for our body.
3. Swap sweetened fruit yoghurt as a snack for plain yoghurt with fresh fruit
Sweetened fruit yoghurts are often high in sugar, low in fat and, despite their name, lacking any real fruit substance. Instead go for a thick unsweetened yoghurt (the fats will assist with satiety), along with freshly chopped fruit. The fruit will skyrocket the quantity of vitamins and antioxidants you're eating, as well as bump up the fibre content.
4. Swap croutons in a salad for nuts
When it comes to creating exciting salad, texture is an important consideration. While croutons can offer the crunch factor, try substituting with nuts instead. You'll still get all of the crunch, but a plethora of essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats too.
5. Swap iceberg lettuce in homemade burgers for spinach
While there will always be a place in the kitchen for iceberg lettuce, you can increase the nutritional content of your favourite homemade burgers or salads by substituting with a nutrient-dense leafy green, like spinach. Not only is it a great source of vitamin A, K and C, but it's Popeye's choice too!
6. Swap tonic water for soda water
Soda water has all the bubbles of tonic water, but none of the added sugar. If you're after a little more flavour or sweetness try adding a splash of lime juice or chopped fruit.
7. Swap pasta for spiralised veggie noodles
While there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of pasta, try switching it up every now and then with spiralised veggie noodles. They're a great way to bump up the veggie content of your meal, and are an ideal substitute for a lighter-carb meal. Kids love them too!
8. Swap fruit juice for a homemade fruit smoothie
A smoothie contains blended whole fruit, whereas juicing removes the fruit's fibre and concentrates the sugar, which is a one-way ticket aboard a blood-sugar roller coaster of energy levels. Make your own fruit smoothie at home using whole fruit - the fibre will assist with keeping you feeling full.
9. Swap cereal for traditional rolled oats
Packaged cereals may appear to be healthy breakfast options, but in reality they're often heavy on the sugar, as well as artificial colours, preservatives and flavours.
Instead try a bowl of nutrient-rich oats. They release energy slowly, so you're more likely to feel satisfied into the morning after a having a bowlful for breakfast.
10. Swap out ice cream for banana "nice-cream"
Keep the traditional, sugar-laden ice cream in the treat pile, and try a blended frozen banana alternative instead. To prepare, simply blend together peeled, frozen sliced banana, until smooth and creamy like the texture of soft-serve.
• Danijela Unkovich is speaking at the LiveWell Festival held on October 14 and 15 at the Cloud in Auckland. For more information click here.