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What we eat matters. Food is a source of nourishment for our body and mind and choosing the right kind to eat is essential for good overall health. Good nutrition is even more important than the hours we spend in the gym. Foods that are good for us are the ones packed with nutrients that make up a healthy, balanced diet. The good news is that there’s a lot of ways to eat healthier meals without compromising on taste.  

With some rules of thumb and incorporation of ingredient substitutes, you can enjoy delicious meals while also feeling good about what you’re eating! 

Always choose whole grains over refined grains.  

When it comes to breads, rice, pastas, and the like, opt for whole grains; they’re a much better option than refined wheats. Look out for food labels with brown rice, whole wheat, sprouted grains, rye, and flax the next time you’re grocery shopping. Whole grains are high in fiber and help you feel fuller, for longer, making it less likely you’ll want to snack again later. They’re also linked to lowering the risk of heart disease and certain cancers (Source)

Oats might take gold when it comes to healthy grains. Oats have a ton of minerals and nutrients and are easy to cook with. Try your hand at oat pancakes, desserts, granola, or overnight oats. The options are practically endless.  

Use vegetables as carb bases.  

Carbohydrates are in a variety of healthy and unhealthy foods. Of course, the idea here is to choose the healthier kind of carbs. 

When making pizza, swap your regular crust out with cauliflower crust, you’ll hardly even notice the difference in taste. You can also use cauliflower to make rice, fritters, and more.  

Flour-based pastas don’t offer many nutrients, while zucchinis on the other hand are full of vitamins and are low in calories. Try replacing your regular pasta with zucchini noodles for your next Italian night.  

Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, sweet potatoes are a superfood that can be paired with any meal. From roasted, air fried, baked, or mashed, you can add them as a side to your main dish when making eggs, poultry, or rice dishes. You can even use them in salads or for pancakes. Sweet potatoes are a healthier choice over regular ones, although both can fit into a balanced diet.  

Be mindful of sauces and oils.  

Healthy dishes can quickly take a turn when sauces high in sodium and sugar are used. When possible, use a lighter low-fat version or try an alternative: 

  • Try plain Greek yogurt to replace sour cream 
  • Combine apple cider vinegar and olive oil for salad dressing 
  • Use salsa and hummus for dips when snacking 
  • For dishes like sweet sesame chicken, replace a store-bought teriyaki sauce with a light-soya sauce and unpasteurized honey.  
  • Always choose light, less refined oils to cook with your food, such as olive, coconut or avocado. Canola, sunflower, and soybean oils should be avoided since they have higher unhealthy fat contents.  

Opt for lean meat.  

When making burgers, tacos or anything requiring ground beef, choose the lean option for a better source of protein and fewer calories than regular meat. 

When it comes to chicken, the breast is usually the healthiest cut compared to the wings or thighs.  

For breakfast, try turkey bacon, peameal or even sausage, which are all healthier alternatives to regular bacon.  

Enjoy nature’s candy.  

Eating fruit can help satisfy sugar cravings. You’ve probably heard all the hype by now about frozen grapes, but there’s also dried fruit, homemade popsicles, and fruit-based ice cream to rave about.  

Trail mix makes a great snack for on the go. A mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate tastes great and will keep you energized throughout the day from all the fiber and protein.  

Guess what? Chocolate’s good for you, you just have to choose the right kind. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, and it can help protect against cell inflammation, improve brain function, and boost your immune health. (Source). When it comes to choosing the right one, look for cocoa percentages of at least 70.   

It is possible to eat clean and enjoy food. A healthy life is one with balance. Slight changes can make a significant difference over time and help you form better eating habits. Next time hunger strikes remember these chef secrets, so you won’t have to sacrifice taste for health!