Boost nutrition without sacrificing taste
Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN
Eating healthier can be as simple as making a few healthy food substitutions. Swap zucchini noodles for pasta, or fruit and chia spread for store-bought jam.
Fall marks a time for change, making healthy eating a little more stressful. Simple plant-based substitutions for regular ingredients can pack a powerful punch in ensuring optimal nutrition—and might even boost your mood!
Here are some simple, nutritional swaps for common foods:
Try manna bread instead of muffins
Conventional muffins are basically cake in a cup, providing zero nutritional value and loads of calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. You may be tempted by this easy snack as you wait in your coffee shop lineup, but don’t give in!
Instead, try manna bread: a sprouted grain, cakelike bread that has a muffin consistency and taste. “Sprouting” a grain activates enzymes and increases the nutritional profile, making it easier for your body to digest and assimilate the nutrients.
Plus, the complex carbohydrates in manna bread are great for boosting mood and mental performance when under stress. They also promote a feeling of calm and increase levels of our feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain—which is why we tend to reach for carbs when we’re feeling overwhelmed. However, complex carbohydrates (versus simple carbs) are slow-releasing, helping us feel less anxious for longer periods of time.
Try zucchini noodles instead of pasta
Pasta is an easy dinner that can be whipped up in no time. However, the simple carbohydrates in white, refined pasta quickly convert to glucose in our bloodstreams and provide little nutritional value.
Zucchini noodles are an easy alternative to prepare at dinner. You can make long, spaghetti-like noodles using a spirooli kitchen gadget or linguini-like ribbons with a potato peeler. Simply work your way around a raw zucchini or summer squash by running a potato peeler from top to bottom, making long ribbons until you reach the core. Zucchini provides a great source of vitamin C, which is important to keep your immune system in check and stress hormones regulated.
Try fruit and chia spread instead of store-bought jam
Many commercial jams are just another form of refined sugar. One serving of jam can contain up to 50 percent sugar (sometimes more!) and is typically void of nutrients and fibre.
Instead of commercial jams, try fresh fruit chia spread. Blend your favourite fresh fruit with ground chia (or even ground flax) to create a gelatinous fruit spread. Chia and flax fibres have gelatinizing properties, giving the spread a jamlike consistency. Plus, chia and flax are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids—the most important fat for our brains and for alleviating depression. So not only is this healthy swap delicious, but it can also help you cope with everyday life.