5 Simple Dietary Swaps For a
Healthier New Year

Cooking Oil - Which cooking oil is the healthiest?

Every New Year, we sit down and make a list of things we’re going to start doing or stop doing in an effort to have a happier, healthier year.

I’m all for it. I think we should constantly strive to better ourselves and take advantage of every opportunity to support positive change.

New Year’s gets a bad rap though. How many times have you received a sigh and an eye roll after revealing your New Year’s Resolutions?

The thing is — very few people are able to stick to these grand proclamations.

So this year, instead of setting a potentially unachievable health goal, why not make a few simple swaps to improve your diet?

These changes are easy to implement, and won’t require cutting out any of your favorite foods — simply giving them a healthy makeover.

5 Simple Dietary Swaps for a Healthier New Year

Healthiest Cooking Oil

1. Upgrade your oil.

If you’re still using canola or vegetable oil (I’m looking at you Mom and Dad), it’s time to upgrade.

Canola and vegetable oil, although low in saturated fat, are both highly refined and subjected to bleaching, deodorizing, and extreme heat during production.

Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, is carefully produced, watching the temperature so that it doesn’t go past a certain point and oxidize the fats, which would result in carcinogenic compounds.

An oil’s “smoke point” — the temperature at which it is oxidized — determines whether it is a good choice for a specific cooking method.

Olive oil’s smoke point ranges from about 320-380°F. I like to use it for sautéing over low heat or baking around 350°F.

coconut-oil

Coconut oil is another good option for higher heat, with a smoke point ranging from about 350-400°F. However, coconut oil is very high in saturated fat.

While some recent studies have suggested that saturated fat is not harmful, other experts disagree. I recommend consuming them in moderation.

My latest obsession though, with an impressive smoke point of 485°F,  is algae oil.

Before you gag at the idea of all your food smelling like the sea, get this — it has a completely neutral taste and odor.

Algae oil is sure to be a popular ingredient in the year to come, boasting the lowest saturated fat content of all oils (4%) and the highest amount of monounsaturated fats (90%). Monounsaturated fats have been shown to improve blood lipid levels, which may prevent cardiovascular disease and other metabolic diseases.

I’ve been using Thrive’s Culinary Algae Oil lately for everything from Roasted Nuts to my Banana Belgium Waffles.

ground turkey

2. Rethink red meat.

With so many other lean protein options out there and overwhelming evidence that red meat is associated with cancer and other diseases, why oh why wouldn’t you just cut it out?

Because there’s just nothing like a big juicy filet mignon?

leanest-steak-cut

Well, you got me on that one.

Instead of telling you to completely ditch the red meat in your diet though, I’ll simply suggest reducing it.

Replace ground beef with lean ground turkey in your tacos, burgers, and spaghetti sauce on a regular basis and save the greasy Big Mac for special occasions. Sound good?

Swapping beef for turkey (or other meat-free alternatives) is a simple way to improve your health.

Need more convincing? Check out this infographic:

ground turkey vs. ground beef

Fyi, Foster Farms starting selling affordable, organic ground turkey this year.

Sugar

3. Say goodbye to simple sugar.

When I say “simple sugar,” I’m referring to any sugar that is added to food.

Cane sugar, coconut sugar, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, etc. They are all different terms that describe the same thing: sugar, aka sucrose. They have slightly different compositions, origins, and trace nutrients, but they all behave essentially the same way in the body — spiking blood glucose levels when consumed in excess.

Sugar has recently taken the spotlight as a likely contributor to cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines have called for a reduction in sugar consumption to <10% of daily intake and experts are very concerned about its link to the obesity crisis.

My number one tip to reducing sugar in your diet is to use natural methods to sweeten your foods, like replacing sugar in baked goods with pureed fruit.

Low Sugar Granola

Fruit contains sugar too, however, the fiber in fruit slows the digestion of this sugar and prevents blood sugar surges. Also, the amount of sugar found in fruit is often much less than in other products like soda or baked goods.

There’s also the option to use a natural non-nutritive (zero calorie) sweetener like stevia, which is derived from the stevia plant. However, some people don’t prefer the taste.

When adding a bit of real sugar is a necessity, I always keep the portion very small and go for the least processed option — honey.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Cranberry Granola

My Dark Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Granola is a good example of how a pureed banana + a bit of honey can replace the gobs of cane sugar used in your average store-bought granola.

Whole Grains

4. Go for whole grains.

I’m sure you’re aware that “wheat” is a healthier option than “white” when it comes to grains.  It’s not that simple though.

While it is true that processed white flour and grains do behave similarly to sucrose in the body, spiking blood sugar levels and possibly contributing to metabolic syndrome, choosing the “right” grain isn’t always so black brown and white.

whole grain bread

These days companies are very good at tricking consumers into thinking they are buying whole grains simply by the color of the product, or labels like “natural, healthy, wheat, or 7-grain.”

Color aside, a whole grain product retains the layers that contain fiber, fat, and vitamins, while a processed grain is stripped of these components.

What you really need to look for is the label “100% whole grain.” Becoming familiar with the different types of healthy grains helps too. Rolled oats, quinoa, spelt, brown rice, black rice, ancient grains like Kamut, and buckwheat are whole grains.

wheat-berries-kamut

If you or a family member just can’t get past the earthy taste of whole wheat, you’re in luck — white whole wheat flour is now available at most grocery stores and it tastes very similar to traditional white bread, but with all the healthy components of whole wheat. Win, win.

cucumber-mint-infused-water

5. Sub the soda (or coconut water, or flavored tea, or mocha)

Surprise, surprise — the target here is sugar (again). Most of you already know how sugar-packed a soda pop is, but you may neglect to notice the amount of sugar in other beverages. Almost all of the flavored drinks sold at grocery and convenience stores are loaded with it.

All the flavored waters and teas, the “natural” coconut, maple or aloe waters, the juices, even the “healthy” probiotic drinks are often packed with sugar.

It’s hard enough to avoid over-eating with our large portion sizes and array of tempting processed foods — drinking your calories just adds to this dietary disaster.

Check labels. If a beverage has more than 10 grams of sugar in it (and they aren’t coming from fruit puree), don’t drink it. Opt for unsweetened iced tea, coffee with light milk, or beverages that are sweetened with fruit, herbs or spices. One of my favorites is Kevita.

I hope you found these tips helpful and that you’re already off to a happy, healthy new year!!

Weigh In: What simple swaps have you made to make your diet healthier?

Comments

  1. Great ideas! I gave up soda a few years back and so happy I did. Happy new year!
    Deborah @Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t WorkMy Profile

  2. I am trying to not eat chocolate in bed as much, haha. I’m ambitious like that. I eat pretty healthfully on the whole though so I feel okay about indulgences. But maybe I could eat a bigger variety of grains–I get in an oatmeal rut and it would probably be healthy to mix it up!
    Ellen recently posted…6 awesome and 7 luckyMy Profile

  3. I’ve never heard of algae oil! I will have to keep an eye out for it, it sounds like one to try. xx
    Krissy @ Pretty Wee Things recently posted…Maternity activewear haulMy Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Yeah it’s still very new! I believe Thrive is the only company selling it. The stats are amazing – I’m a big fan 🙂

  4. There you go — letting us know about the latest new thing — I’ve got to get my hands on algae oil. Thanks for the great tips, Whit! 🙂
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…A look at life and blogging in 2015My Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Thanks girl! So glad you found them helpful. The algae oil is awesome – let me know if you try it out!!

  5. Great tips! I’m going to have to check out the Thrive algae oil. Looks like a great option!
    Lindsay at Fit & Awesome recently posted…Top 15 of 2015My Profile

  6. Wonderful post ! Love me some coconut oil but now I’ll have to try the algae x

  7. Hi Whitney, I see you have brown rice included in your list. I thought I remembered a few months ago you writing about a brown rice /arsenic link, and that brown rice should be banned from your diet. Did I misread that one? Or is there new data about this link?

    • Whitney English says:

      Hi Suzanne – good catch! It’s complicated. I actually learned in my Micronutrients class recently that there are potentially health benefits associated with an extremely trace amount of arsenic in the diet. Also, brown rice IS better than white in terms of other nutrients like vitamins and fiber. However, there haven’t been any updates on brown rice scare, so I think it’s still a legitimate concern and I would encourage people to watch their intake. I think consuming it one a week is ok for adults. I would still choose other whole grain options when available, however, and I would definitely be weary of feeding it (or brown rice products/brown rice syrup) to babies. Unfortunately there is a lot of grey area when it comes to health/nutrition 🙁

      • Thanks, Whitney. Several years ago I started mixing half white and half brown to my fussy family. I would buy a bag of each, then mix them myself in a container, gradually adding more brown to the mix. But after I read you previous post, I didn’t buy any more brown. Guess I can start mixing again.

  8. Love and totally agree with all of these swaps! I am super intrigued by the algae oil, and will definitely be giving it a try soon.
    Les @ The Balanced Berry recently posted…Hemp Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette DressingMy Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Thanks Les! Yes, you should def try the algae oil – it is amazing and does not taste like you would assume 🙂

  9. These are SUCH good tips Whitney and I had no idea you could switch sugar in baked goods with pureed fruit! Also, I can never give up filet mignon, but I definitely eat SO much less red meat than I used to (probably because it was sooo expensive in Switzerland). Now that I’m in Texas, I’m going to stick with it and try to choose other lean meats when I can. 🙂 Great post.

    xoDale
    Dale Janée (@Savvy_Spice) recently posted…Key to the CityMy Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Thanks Dale! Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how fruit can do that – obviously it’s not as sweet as real sugar but it’s definitely sweet enough to make a great substitute 🙂 Good luck on sticking to lean meat in Texas – I’m guessing it will be a little harder there than in Switzerland!! 🙂

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