Smart Swap Outs for Sugar and Unhealthy Fats

by Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer

We’re surrounded by tempting, unhealthy foods. Sugary drinks, highly processed baked goods, fast food and candy are so easy to access and willpower can only go so far. Eating foods with added sugars is associated with risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and eating foods high in trans fats and saturated fats also raises your risk of heart disease and weight gain. Smart swap outs can help you to limit eating these unhealthy foods.

Identifying high sugar drinks and liquids

Soda, juices and blended shakes are notoriously high in sugar. So are flavored milks, tomato sauces, jams and jellies, salad dressings, sauces and gravies, soups, canned fruit packed in syrup or juice, and the list goes on. It’s crucial to recognize sugar names so you can navigate labels.

Recognizing high sugar foods

Yogurts with added fruits, frozen desserts, processed baked goods and refined grains (cold and hot cereals, breads, pastries, pies, puddings, granola bars, many nutrition bars, dried fruit, frozen breakfast and meal entrees) are all notoriously rich in added sugars.

Swap out for sugar

You can turn to artificial sweeteners which current research suggests are safe when used in moderation. It’s important to recognize that we sometimes compensate by eating more when we use these types of sweeteners. So consider using waters flavored with a bit of fruit juice and unsweetened teas in lieu of soda, juice and energy drinks.

More swap outs for sugar

Limit refined cereals and grains and choose protein-rich foods instead like eggs, turkey or soy bacon and Greek yogurt for breakfast. Use broth, vegetable stock, flavored vinegars and wine instead of sugar when cooking. Use pureed fruit instead of sugar when baking. Learn about protein-rich flours like chickpea flour, quinoa flour, and soy flour. Whole and ancient grain flours also have lower sugar levels.

Common foods with unhealthy fats

Trans fats and saturated fat consumption can raise your risk of heart disease. Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) are especially unhealthy. Meat and animal products like whole milk, butter, and cheese are high in saturated fats. Lard, tropical oils (coconut and palm oil, and cocoa butter) are also high in saturated fats. Fast foods and fried foods, creamy sauces and soups, pizza, frozen foods, pastries and packaged cakes, and chocolate candies are also high in trans fats and saturated fats.

Foods with healthy fats

Olive oil, soybean and nut oils all contain either mono or polyunsaturated fats, considered the heart healthy fats. Nuts and nut butters, seeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, winter squash and fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a specific healthy fat that is also being added to certain foods like eggs, cereals and peanut butter. Make sure to choose unprocessed nuts and read labels to see if there are added sugars and sodium. Fish oil supplements can also provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Swap outs for unhealthy fats

Choose skim milk and nut milks instead of whole or 2% milk. Use evaporated skim milk and non-fat Greek yogurt instead of cream, butter or margarine. Blend cashews and water to create a cream and use in soups and other dishes that call for cream. Remove skin from chicken and turkey; choose very lean cuts of red meat. Use vegetable broth instead of full fat chicken stock.

More ways to cut unhealthy fat

Refrigerate meat stock and soups and skim off the fat which rises to the top. Pureed fruits can substitute for oils in baking. Salsa, mustard, and hummus can substitute for mayonnaise in sandwiches. Since even healthy fats are very caloric you can cut the calories in guacamole by blending edamame beans with avocado.

Amy Hendel, P.A.
Meet Our Writer
Amy Hendel, P.A.

Known as "The HealthGal", Amy Hendel P.A. is a medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, find her on Twitter @Healthgal1103 and on Facebook @TheHealthGal. Check “Daily Health News” at Her personal mantra? “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”