8 Healthy Food Swaps You Haven’t Heard Of

By Divine Caroline

Just because you’re trying to eat more healthily doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite food preparations! There are a number of nutritious ingredients that can replace your naughtier preferences without forgoing flavor. Try the following examples and see if your palate isn’t as pleased as your waistline!

1. Quinoa instead of rice or pasta

White rice and pasta are “bad” or simple carbs—you know, the ones that don’t provide much in the way of nutrition. But quinoa! This amazing ancient grain not only acts as a perfect platform for soaking up sauces, just like pasta and rice, but also it’s a complete protein, which means it delivers all nine of the essential amino acids.

2. Shaved zucchini instead of pasta

Another magical swap, shaved zucchini (created by shaving zucchini into strands with a vegetable peeler) can carry sauces from the plate to your palate—and add a serving of veggies to your dish to boot. Bonus: You don’t even have to cook it and it’s a refreshing way to serve saucy dishes during summer’s heat!

Image credit: jules:stonesoup / Flickr

3. Coconut water instead of Gatorade

Unless you’re a serious athlete, you don’t need the kind of potassium and electrolytes found in Gatorade anyway; gulping down a good amount of water will more than do the trick for the average gym goer. But coconut water, or the water harvested from inside young coconuts, does provide additional nutritional value over water—without the additives found in sports drinks. Expect great, refreshing, even sweet taste plus about as much potassium as you’d find in a banana.

Related: 7 Weird Energizing Foods Runners Swear By

4. Spinach and tomato sauce instead of spaghetti with sauce

Let’s be honest. Pasta’s main purpose is to be a vehicle for sauce. So why not drive your favorite pasta sauce into your mouth via a more healthy vehicle? Cooked spinach can be a perfect partner for tomato sauces—not to mention a valuable source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer.

5. Kale chips instead of potato chips

We don’t need to tell you how unhealthy potato chips are. But you might like to know you can enjoy similarly crisp, greasy flavor and eat healthily if you reach for kale chips. There is a catch—you’ll need to make them yourself. But on the upside, all you need to do is de-stem kale leaves, spray them with a tiny bit of oil, sprinkle them with salt, and bake them for 10 to 15 minutes at an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you ate an entire bunch, you’d have satisfied your greens requirement for the day and only ingested about 200 calories!

Related: 17 Ways to Use Kale

6. Cauliflower instead of potatoes

Taste aside, there’s not much good that comes from mashed potatoes. But substitute even half of your spuds with cooked and mashed cauliflower and you’ll cut calories and add protein to your favorite rib-gripping side dish. After all, pound for pound, potatoes have nearly four times as many calories as cauliflower.

Image credit: ilovemypit / Flickr

7. Walnuts instead of croutons

We all love good, flavor-packed crunch atop our salads. But croutons don’t deliver much more than that nutritionally. Not so for walnuts, which lend spectacular flavor to salads as well as Omega 3 fatty acid, protein, and fiber. The trick is not to overindulge, as like all nuts, they are high in calories.

8. Low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or regular yogurt

With nearly twice the protein and less carbohydrates and salt than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for a snack or dip recipes that call for sour cream.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago


Dale Overall

Have heard of several of these, just not the kale chips. I often use walnuts in my salads, very tasty and love to cook home made from scratch tomato sauce and other meals. Organic veggies, meat, poultry untouched by toxic pesticides or hormones/antibiotics go a long way for healthy eating!

Imani Dial
Imani Dial3 years ago

I heard of all of these!!!! but they are very healthy, so thanks for reminding! another healthy swap that we use at my house is (homemade) salsa instead of ketchup and mustard on burgers. also, we use hummus when making sandwiches instead of mayonnaise :D

Nhi C.
Nhi Cheeze3 years ago

My family eat rice everyday (we're Asian ^^). Swapping to quinoa is a better choice. Thanks for your good information.

Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago


Mara C.
Mara Comitas3 years ago

We love zucchini ribbons with a little cultured butter plusseasalt & fresh ground pepper. It doesn't get better than this. Coconut water has been a staple in my diet for years. I'll have to give the rest a try. Thanks!

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

Whole wheat past taste exactly like the white flour version but has double the protein and fiber. I still only eat it occaisionally though.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

The author is clearly not a pasta fan. Pasta fans can enjoy a bowl of pasta with nothing more than oilve oil drizzle and generous sprinkling parmesan cheese, maybe a little garlic. The enjoyment is the pasta only to be flavored with the sauce.

Mac C.
mac C.3 years ago

I already use most of your tips, but am eager to try the shaved zucchini and to replace sour cream with yogurt. Thank you for the post, very good.