Healthy Food Swaps: Nutritious Alternatives to Unhealthy Foods

A lot of Americans still hold the strange misconception that eating healthy is a hassle. They’re afraid that this lifestyle choice costs too much money (it doesn’t), requires too many “weird” ingredients (nope), or doesn’t taste good (nothing could be further from the truth).

One of the biggest lies people tell themselves is that healthy eating is about deprivation: We have to take too many things off our shopping lists and dinner plates. But healthy eating is really about abundance, choosing the cornucopia of delicious foods that the earth naturally provides. And, in most cases, it’s a cinch to replace any old unhealthy standbys with beautiful whole foods that look, taste, and—most importantly—make us feel great.

Omni Diet-Inspired

To counteract the Standard American Diet (SAD), I created The Omni Diet, which is based on solid science, not fads. It’s centered around nutrients from whole, living plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds), balanced out with the perfect amount of high-quality protein (fish and lean meats).

Essentially, the diet breaks down to 70% plant foods and 30% protein. Your body wants for nothing while operating at peak performance. The Omni Diet boosts your energy, decreases the risk of many diseases, optimizes brain and hormone functioning, and makes your body healthy from the inside out. With so many nutrient-rich foods to choose from, you don’t need to feel deprived or hungry. And it’s easier than you think. To get you started, I’m going to provide you with plenty of simple and healthy food swaps you’re going to love.

Healthy Food Swaps: Sweets

Healthy Swaps for Sugar | Best Sugar Alternatives | Tana Amen

No doubt about it—America has a sugar crisis. This addictive additive has been called a “public health hazard” and “the new tobacco” for its terrible effects on health, plus its “hidden” presence in a wide variety of foods. However, sugar alternatives are also disastrous, including the carcinogenic saccharin (known under the brand name Sweet’N Low), as well as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), and acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett).

If you need to replace sugar as an ingredient, try stevia, monkfruit, or coconut palm sugar. Just make sure you choose varieties without additives, and use all sweeteners sparingly.

If it’s a sweet snack or dessert you’re seeking, don’t reach for a doughnut, cookie, candy, cake, or any of the thousands of other ultra-processed sugar bombs available on grocery store shelves. Eat a piece of whole fruit instead. (The good news is, once you ditch the sugar for good, you’ll be able to truly enjoy the taste of fresh fruit.) Since most fruit does have high sugar content, choose carefully and don’t overdo it. I recommend organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Berries have less impact on blood sugar and offer more nutritional value, compared to starchy or high-sugar fruits like bananas and pineapples.

Maybe you’re a dedicated chocolate lover. You can still satisfy a sweet tooth with better-for-you options. Chocolate doesn’t have to mean the junk food candy bars next to the checkout line. These cause spikes and then dips in blood sugar, which make you want even more sugar. Instead, try a square of dark chocolate (look for 70% cacao) served with ¼ cup of raw, unsalted nuts.

I love BrainMD’s Brain in Love chocolate bar, which allows you all of the decadence of chocolate without any sugar, artificial flavors, or dairy, plus 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein per serving. That’s a true treat for your body.

Healthy Food Swaps: Condiments, Dips, and Sauces

A little splash of this, a smear of that—condiments, dips, and sauces can make our food that much more delicious. But if you choose the wrong options here, you can easily turn a healthy dish into a disaster. Many Americans routinely slather their vegetables with butter or pour gobs of ranch dressings onto their salads. Why drown delicious, healthy food in sugar, salt, and fat?

No matter what ingredient you’re seeking, there’s likely a healthier replacement. When a recipe calls for soy sauce, I swap out a gluten-free low-sodium tamari sauce. When a meal includes butter, cheese, ketchup, or mayonnaise, I reach for homemade, sugar-free guacamole, salsa, or hummus. These dips are also great for parties, sports nights, or just for midday snacks. I replace chips, pretzels, or popcorn with chopped vegetables, which are delicious when dipped in hummus or mashed avocados. Use broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, snow peas, cauliflower, jicama, cherry tomatoes, or celery. Pairing these with avocado-based dip adds fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

I also recommend a peanut butter swap. Peanuts are a common allergen (which can lead to inflammatory problems), and prone to molds and fungi that can also result in inflammatory reactions. They contain aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen, and are high in omega-6 fatty acids.

I opt for raw organic almonds or other tree nuts and butters instead. (In fact, peanuts are a legume, not a nut.) Nut butters can be used in all kinds of great ways, including as a dip for apple slices as an easy dessert or snack.

Sprinkle with cinnamon for added benefits—this humble spice assists in regulating blood-sugar levels, which helps make you less likely to reach for those ultra-processed sweets you’re trying to avoid.

Healthy Food Swaps: Breads and Grains

Healthy Pasta Alternatives | Zucchini Noodles | Tana Amen Junk-food carbs, refined carbs, white carbs—whatever you call them, they should be avoided at all costs. Not only do foods like bread and pasta create spikes and crashes in blood sugar, they can trigger inflammation and are highly addictive. That means the more of them you eat, the more you crave. While not all carbs are evil (such as my amazing keto bread recipe), we should be mindful about which we choose.

For example, many Americans love the comfort-food favorite, potatoes. That’s an easy fix—just swap out sweet potatoes. They have more flavor, but they also have a lot more nutrients: beta-carotene, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber, to name a few. Unlike the white kind, they have also been found to improve blood sugar regulation. I love these served roasted or in mashed form. Meanwhile, cauliflower is a great substitute for rice or, if mashed, for potatoes. Other heartier veggies include yams, pumpkin, and butternut squash.

Speaking of squash, this versatile veggie can also be used to replace pasta. I reach for a zucchini or a yellow crookneck squash, then simply use a vegetable peeler or julienne slicer to make squash “ribbons” that are just like pasta, only much healthier.

You simply toss them with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt, or with a fresh homemade pesto—so simple, so delicious, and no blood sugar crashes in sight. Or, instead of pasta, use shirataki noodles, which are made of only fiber and water, so they don’t pose the usual carb pitfalls.

You can also refer to The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook for tasty bread alternatives, like Pumpkin Muffins, or try making The Omni Diet’s Omni-Style Crepes. If you’re making burgers or wraps, go green by using the leaves of lettuce, collard greens, or cabbage instead of a bun. I also use storebought coconut wraps instead of bread or tortillas. Utilize my extensive recipe bank for more ideas!

Swap Out for Better Health

When you give simple carbs, ultra-processed foods, and unhealthy fats the heave-ho and instead choose items like fresh veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats, you’ll look and feel better in the short-term, of course. But the real benefits will compound over time: more energy to do the things you love, a longer life to spend with your family, and fewer mood swings to make your days lower-stress overall. What’s not to love? You can literally eat your way to better physical and mental health with a few simple switches.

Tana Amen, BSN, RN
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Thank you, Tana! That’s an eating plan we all can benefit from without the extremes.


I can change most things, but things like Stevia and Monk fruit make my stomach unhappy and leave this horrible after taste. I just cant eat them. Any one else with this issue?