If you’re not sure how to navigate the road to a cleaner plate, you can start by making some small changes that give you major mileage. “When a new year starts, lots of people tend to start a diet, but a diet feels temporary,” says Jamie Walker, a registered dietitian at Lake Health’s Brunner Sanden Deitrick Wellness Campus. “Reaching our healthy goals means eating healthy forever, and that’s the hardest part because it takes habit change.” One of the simplest ways to get back on track is to make easy swaps that mimic one’s existing diet. Walker takes the guesswork out of a healthy meal plan by suggesting five healthy substitutions you can make right now.
Instead of red meat, eat legumes.
Even carnivores can benefit from cutting down on meat intake, effectively lowering one’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. “We want meat to be the side dish, not the star of the show,” says Walker. For diehard meat eaters, Walker suggests mixing it up by pairing ground beef with plant-based foods. “If you’re making dinner with ground beef, throw beans and lentils in to go half-and-half,” suggests Walker. Another option: chickpeas with ground turkey or chicken for a protein-packed, healthier choice.
Instead of white flour, eat alternative flours.
In recent years, the baking shelves have become a lot more crowded with various types of flour alternatives — from brown rice to almond, oat and coconut flour. And that’s a great thing, because traditional bleached white flour has very little nutritional value. “When we eat foods made with white flour, our blood sugar tends to go up and then crash down, and our energy level does the same thing,” says Walker. “There is nothing to buffer [those effects] as far as fiber or protein.”
Instead of mayonnaise, eat avocado.
“A lot of my clients are starting to spread avocado on their sandwiches instead of mayo,” says Walker. “There’s definitely an avocado craze going on.” And it doesn’t stop at sandwiches: avocado can be used in lieu of mayo in potato salad and just about any other dish. While both foods are high in fat, avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated
fat, along with a whole lot of vitamins and minerals. Just cut, mash, spread and nosh!
Instead of French fries, eat root vegetables.
Goodbye cholesterol and saturated fats, hello nutrients and fiber. While sweet potato fries have become a popular standby, Walker says other root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, sunchokes and carrots are stealthy fry guys in waiting. Go the roasted route by drizzling some olive oil and seasoning with herbs like garlic or rosemary — or use an air fryer for a crispier approach. “A lot of your root vegetables give you that fullness,” she says. “It’s good for your gut.”
Instead of sour cream, eat Greek yogurt.
From baked potatoes to nachos and soup, sour cream makes a versatile companion for all types of dishes, but did you know that it has a delicious doppelganger? According to Walker, plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt can be a healthier, low-calorie swap for sour cream — and you likely won’t be able to tell the difference. “Sour cream can raise your cholesterol over time,” says Walker. “Greek yogurt has less saturated fat and more protein, which helps us to stay full longer.”