By Lauren Christman, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

Along with exercising consistently and avoiding smoking, your diet is an important way you can control what your life looks like decades from now. That’s why it’s so important to cut back on foods with minimal nutritional value in favor of foods that are good for your heart, body and mind. 

The good news is you don’t have to try the latest diet fad to eat healthier. All it takes is a few easy tweaks to your diet. Here are some simple food swaps to consider:

  • Start your morning off right. Begin the day with a fiber rich breakfast instead of sugary cereals, white toast, or high carb pancakes. Studies suggest eating more fiber helps prevent unwanted weight gain, keeps you fuller longer, promotes good digestion, and can improve heart health. Create your own oatmeal bowl topped with berries and nuts or try a piece of avocado on whole grain toast. Make a green smoothie with added flax or chia seeds, or swap out flavored yogurt for plain, Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and nuts. 
  • Mid-day snack exchange. Hungry throughout the day and need a snack? If you are craving salty, go with a handful of lightly salted nuts or air popped popcorn with a sprinkle of spice instead of a traditional bag of chips. Need something sweet? Choose a few ounces of dark chocolate over milk chocolate or processed cookies and cakes. In fact, spreading some mini dark chocolate pieces over a bowl of raspberries can give you extra fuel to keep you going in the afternoon. 
  • Dinner trades to consider. Serving colorful veggies with your dinner instead of white rice, pasta, bread, or potato gives you added vitamins and minerals and helps keep blood sugar from spiking. You can always replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower or a white potato with a sweet potato, too. When preparing meats, try to grill or broil instead of frying in a pan. In addition, trick your brain into thinking you are eating more than you are by serving your dinner on a small plate rather than a large one.  
  • Easy beverage substitutions. Don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day. Water helps to keep our joints lubricated and it’s important for our digestive system. Ditch the sugary juices and soda and opt for water, seltzer, or tea instead. Add a piece of fruit like lemon or watermelon to your water for extra flavor. 

Remember, eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. There are many easy swaps and substitutes you can start making today to increase your nutrient intake, reduce calorie consumption, and improve your overall health and well-being.  If you are looking for a variety of healthy and delicious food ideas and recipes that you can enjoy throughout the day, visit the Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options website.