My 6 Favorite Healthy Food Swaps

I know what you’re thinking: this blog is all about embracing our curves and every bits and pieces of our being — including our guilty pleasures and unsexy ways of eating. So why would I write a post regarding what I put in my mouth, you ask? Because I’m a firm believer of conscious eating — conscious, not in a sense that we judge ourselves while we eat but rather in a way that you will think more about what you nourish your body and everything else along that same tune. 

There are definitely lots of resources online about healthier alternatives not only exclusive to junk food but also to some everyday staples that make us gain weight or cause other problem/s. These are my favorites so far:

  1. WHITE RICE/STARCH – The biggest culprit of my weight gain has always been this specific starch. As an Asian whose cuisine profile is largely defined by any saucy viand paired with a steaming bowl of white rice, we are almost always susceptible to gaining weight easily. It is a running theme of jokes that Asians eat rice for every meal, and unfortunately for my culture that is true. Luckily however, I have adapted to eating little to no white rice (with the few exceptions of being with my family or eating outside). My favorite swaps are complex carbs like boiled sweet potatoes or bananas, wholegrain or sourdough bread and other varieties of rice like raw red, wild black or brown rice. If we look exclusively into just the caloric level, you might not see much difference, sometimes it is even more, but in terms of other nutritional components, these swaps are much better than your typical white rice or starches made with white grain which the body has a hard time breaking down.
  2. WHITE SUGAR — Another big culprit to my weight gain is this little devil. We all know it; it’s addicting and it takes a while to get rid of.  Although I’m not into typical sweets like candies or sweet pastries, my white sugar comes mostly from sugary fizzy drinks, sugar-jacked coffee, milk teas and other sweet sinful treats. I’ve tried time and again to eradicate it but there’s just no easy way to magically hate and quit sugar. When I was able to slow down my sugar intake, I opted for a more natural and less processed option like natural honey and brown or muscovado sugar. You probably will not get the same sharp, in-your-face sweetness that you often get with white ones, but the richness and depth of these swaps is very delightful and less harmful. 
  3. RED MEAT — now, there isn’t anything completely wrong with red meat, it’s too much consumption of it that I find a bit alarming personally. Not to mention I feel a little sluggish and sick after a few days of eating a lot of red meat in my meals. The obvious alternative would be seafood or complete omission of meat, but my personal trick is to mix as much vegetables as I can in my meals to balance it out. I’m talking about bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflowers or broccoli, fresh and leafy greens, root vegetables, herbs and whatnot and use little of the meat to make it a nice, balanced dish. Taking a meatless day definitely helps as well.
  4. SUGARY DRINKS — I’m not gonna lie to you. Aside from chips, this is one of those things I’m still struggling to swap or quit. When I was younger, majority of the meals we had as a family was paired with a cold, tall glass of Coke. Aside from soft drinks, we were largely into canned sugary iced teas, powdered Tang drinks and others. Although I still allow myself to have these very occasionally, I have slowed down a lot and instead preferred water, one cup of coffee in the morning, occasional hot tea and fresh fruit juice.
  5. SALTY SNACKS  — Oh boy, this is going to be a difficult one. This is something that I, honest to goodness up to this day, still have not gotten rid of. I love me a nice bag of cheesy chips every so often because I developed the liking for it ever since I was a child.  Luckily, I know when I had too many. I become very sluggish, my skin feels ridiculously dry and I just feel bloated overall. I don’t have a lot of alternatives to this but as much as possible, I replace them with natural snacks like sliced salted or pickled cucumbers, dried seaweed, boiled eggs, sandwiches and others. Replacing them with other savory options that are equally filling but more nutritious are my personal key.
  6. PROCESSED MEATS — Like the salty snacks, this is something that I learned to get addicted with when I was younger. There are a number of processed meat favorites back home like those famous Tender Juicy hotdogs, regional longganisa (similar to hot links), tocino (salty and sweet cuts of meat), corned beef and others that we ate a lot back then. It was fast, easy, cheap and tasty to prepare that’s why it was preferred at the time. I have outgrown the craving for these however when I started cooking my own food and learned that I can naturally flavor my food without all the carcinogenic harm. Technically there are no swaps, but preparing your own meats and knowing exactly what goes into it and the processes that comes into play is something I would say really eased my mind about it.

My own swaps are not as drastic as you might be expecting and that is mostly because I have not subscribed yet to any structured diet that has specific restrictions on things. What I’m mostly doing right now is tuning in to how my body reacts to things, carefully observing my intake and just taking note of things I can and should be eating. Slowly, of course with research as well, I think I will be able to make an educated guideline for myself about a better diet. 

In my next post about health and food, I’ll try to share with you guys some of my favorite healthy snacks. 

How about you? What’s your current favorite food swap?