Healthy Substitutions and Additions to Improve Your Diet

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

New ways to improve nutrition can always be found. Sometimes being stuck in an eating rut can perpetuate unhealthy habits because those foods that you are used to may not be the best for you. Good health starts at the point of purchase, in this case, the grocery store. Let's look at some healthy substitutions and healthy additions for your grocery cart.

Substituting is a great way to shift to a slightly healthier food repertoire. You might be used to eating one type of food, but maybe another option can be just as satisfying and more nutritious. Here are some of the substitutions that I have made in my grocery cart.

Instead of rice or couscous, buy Quinoa. Quinoa is a whole grain that is loaded with vitamins and proteins. It cooks just a quickly (or more quickly) than rice or couscous, but does not have all the carbohydrate calories that go right to my butt. My favorite recipe is Roasted Vegetables with Saffron Quinoa.

Instead of spaghetti pasta, buy spaghetti squash. Let's face it; pasta is a diet killer, especially the way we Americans tend to abuse it. The simple carbohydrates in pasta get converted into sugar quickly, causing the blood sugar to spike and the waistlines to grow. Spaghetti squash has the same look and mouth feel as spaghetti pasta, but without the problems. Topped with a good tomato sauce, this substitution will not make your butt look bigger.

Instead of crackers, buy nuts. Sure nuts are high in calories. But eaten in moderation, the health benefits are enormous. Walnuts are high in Omega 3. And cashews are considered a Superfood for Immunity because of the selenium and zinc content.
Same crunch as a cracker with more nutritional bang for your crunch.

Instead of regular yogurt, buy Greek Yogurt. The preparation of Greek Yogurt adds to its health benefits by raising the protein and calcium content. Think of it as a concentrated yogurt which multiplies its health benefits.

Instead of white button mushrooms, buy cremini mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms just have more nutrients than those plain ol' white mushrooms. They cook the same and practical taste the same; so, there is no reason why you cannot substitute your usual white mushrooms for a healthier cremini mushroom.

Now that you have learned some key substitutions that can help you improve your nutrition. Let's talk about adding some new foods (or old friends) to the grocery cart.

Kale: This green leafy vegetable is one of the highest sources of calcium found in the produce department; thus, it is a Superfood for Bones. The mild flavor goes well in fruit smoothies or in salads.

Acorn Squash: This winter squash actually does look like a giant green acorn. Cooked in the microwave or in the oven, eating acorn squash gives you a large amount of fiber, vitamins, and even magnesium.
No wonder it is considered a Superfood.

Figs: Packed polyphenols, figs can help improve immune function. Packed with iron, figs can fight anemia. Figs just might deserve a spot in your grocery cart.

Raspberries: Admittedly expensive, but easy to grow in some parts of the country. Found in the produce department, but sometimes better found in the frozen food isle. These tasty morsels are the powerhouses of antioxidants and a major Superfood for Heart Health.

Coconut Oil/Milk: Unlike animal based milks, coconut milk is high in healthy fats called medium chain fatty acids that promote healthy cholesterol levels. This food may also help you lose that belly fat.

Looking for ways to improve your nutrition can be as easy as finding the healthy substitutes and the nutritious additions for your grocery cart. As you are pushing your cart with the broken wheel that has an annoying clanking sound, shake things up a bit and grab some new foods that you have never tried before. Remember, good health starts at the point of purchase.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.