I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard the story of someone who eats really well, but when confronted with the cookies in the cupboard, loses all self-control! You know that half the battle is not bringing it into the house in the first place! But what about the food groups that are a little less obvious and harder to distinguish between in terms of healthy choices? It can be a bit overwhelming, which is why I’ve created this list of swaps for you to reference if you’re looking to overhaul your kitchen cupboards or if you’re looking for a reference to get started, this may be the thing you need.
Keep in mind that everyone’s nutritional needs are slightly different and you should definitely take that into consideration if you have any sensitivities, intolerances or allergies that may interfere with this list.
In short, this guide will help you toss out foods that are not health promoting and give you suggestions on how to replace them with healthier options.
Vegetables and Fruit
Toss Out: over processed, low nutrient content fruits and vegetables (think canned mixed vegetables and canned fruit, fruit juices and fruit cocktails)
Choose: fresh local or organic produce whenever possible. If buying all organic is not in your budget look at the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides to learn about the Dirty Dozen https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ and buy organic for the most sprayed crops.
- Fresh vegetables: onion, garlic, yam, potato, carrot, beet, radish, squash, rutabaga, leafy greens, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, celery, broccoli and others in season. Eat a rainbow!
- Sprouts and microgreens: sunflower sprouts, buckwheat sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, pea shoots etc.
- Frozen vegetables: kale, spinach, rapini, peas, corn
- Tomato sauce and paste (look for cans that are BPA free or in glass jars and do not have sugar in the ingredients)
- Fresh fruit in season, as well as some nutrition packed tropical fruit like papaya,pineapple, mango, banana
- Frozen berries and other mixed fruits
- Lemons and limes
- Dried fruit (figs, dates, apricots, apples, currants, raisins, goji berries, coconut, etc. – buy unsulphured and organic if possible)
Whole Grain Products
Toss Out: white flour and whole wheat flour products (sugary cereals, white bread, store-bought muffins, crackers, chips, etc. – look at the ingredient list…don’t buy anything that has unreadable or unrecognizable ingredients)
Choose: a variety of whole grain or gluten-free products below.
Note: kamut, spelt, rye, and barley are not gluten free but if you can tolerate gluten these are a much better choice than refined wheat based products.
- Flours (kamut, spelt, rye, oat, gluten free flours: brown rice, teff, quinoa, buckwheat)
- Brown rice (long-grain, short-grain, basmati, jasmine, wild, etc.)
- Grains in whole form (barley, quinoa, millet, steel cut oats, buckwheat (no relation to wheat), teff, amaranth).
- Hot cereals for porridge (oats, quinoa, brown rice, teff make a delicious porridge!)
- Whole grain pastas (kamut, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa etc.)
- Whole grain crackers (avoid trans fats and chemical preservatives)
- Breads: look for whole grain, minimally processed or sprouted breads
made from the grains mentioned above NOTE: if it says “enriched” it’s not whole grain
Beans and Bean Products
Toss Out: low quality canned beans that contain table salt and preservatives and BPA in thecan lining.
Choose: dried peas and beans and cook from scratch whenever possible but for convenience use organic frozen or BPA- free canned beans and peas.
- Try some of these: green and yellow split peas, kidney beans, black beans, chick peas, red and green lentils, navy beans, mung beans, adzuki beans, white beans.
- When choosing canned beans Eden Organics beans are an excellent choice, they contain sea salt not table salt and has no BPA in the tin’s lining, go to www.edenorganics.com for over 900 recipe ideas!
- When using soy products always choosing organic (almost all non-organic soy is genetically modified). Organic and fermented or sprouted soy products are even better (sprouted – tofu, fermented – tempeh and miso)
Meat, Meat Products and Fish
Toss Out: factory farmed meats, meats raised with antibiotics and hormones, grain fed meats, lunch meats preserved with nitrates, meat products additional processed ingredients, farmed fish and seafood.
Choose: naturally raised and/organic meats (grass fed, antibiotic/hormone free), meat products that are 100% meat with no added ingredients (spices are okay), lunch meats preserved with out nitrates, wild caught fish and seafood.
Nuts, Seeds, Fats & Oils
Toss Out: conventional nut butters made with hydrogenated oils and sugar, roasted nuts and seeds (some are okay just make sure they are dry roasted or roasted in a high quality oil such as coconut oil), highly refined oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and peanut, butter made from factory farmed dairy.
Choose: nut and seed butters made without added sugar or hydrogenated fats (they should just have one ingredient on the label i.e almond butter should just contain almonds), raw nuts and seeds, high quality oils listed below
- Nuts (raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, organic peanuts, brazil nuts etc.)
- Nut butters (almond, hazelnut, cashew etc.)
- Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, sesame, hemp, flax and chia (look for sprouted versions)
- Tahini (sesame paste)
- Extra virgin olive oil (good for low heat cooking)
- Coconut oil (good for cooking/baking)
- Hemp seed oil (do not cook with this)
- Flax oil (do not cook with this)
- Organic grass fed butter (Kerrygold is a great option) and ghee (good for cooking/baking)
- Other cold-pressed oils – walnut, sesame, avocado, grape seed
Dairy and Substitutes
Toss Out: Traditional dairy products produced from factory farmed dairy, dairy substitutes that are sweetened or contain a lot of processed ingredients and preservatives, factory farmed eggs.
Choose: Organic, grass fed dairy products, dairy substitutes that are unsweetened and have minimal ingredients.
Note: dairy may not be appropriate for everyone.
- Milk (organic grass fed cow, goat, sheep). Look for un-homogenized milks.
- Cheese (organic dairy, raw if possible)
- Yogurt and kefir (organic and unsweetened
- Butter and Ghee (organic, grass fed)
- Alternative milks (dairy substitutes): almond, hemp, coconut, soy (Eden Organic only – properly prepare soy for consumption)
- Organic or farm fresh eggs
Herbs, Spices, Seasonings, Condiments & Miscellaneous
Toss Out: Highly processed condiments and seasonings that contain white sugar, preservatives, table salt, and low quality oils, spices and seasonings that contain MSG.
Choose: Minimally processed condiments and seasonings with better quality ingredients, use more fresh and dried herbs and spices, vinegars and oils for flavor
Herbs and Spices:
- Fresh herbs – parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, tarragon, coriander, sage, etc.
- Dried herbs and spices (make sure you buy non-irradiated – Frontier is a good brand): Allspice, Basil, Cayenne, Celery seed, Chili powder, Cinnamon, Cloves, ground Coriander, Cumin, Curry, Dill, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mustard powder, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric etc.
Seasonings and Condiments
- Tamari or Braggs Liquid Seasoning
- Ketchup made with natural sweeteners
- Mustard made with apple cider vinegar and sea salt
- Bottled salad dressings made with high quality oils and natural sweeteners
- Sauerkraut (raw/unpasteurised)
- Natural mayonnaise (made with high quality oils and without white sugar)
- Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider, rice, red wine
- Red pepper flakes, chipotle peppers
- Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt, Herbamare
- Dulse flakes, kelp or dulse shakers
- Nutritional yeast (gives a cheesy flavour without the dairy) Miscellaneous
- Arrowroot powder (to use instead of cornstarch as a thickening agent)
- Real vanilla extract (Frontier Organic is a good brand)
- Aluminium- free baking soda/powder
Toss: white sugar and anything that contains it, anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and anything that contains them (aspartame, Splenda, Nutrasweet, Equaletc.)
Choose: natural sweeteners in limited amounts
- Coconut sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Raw Honey
- Stevia (will not affect blood sugar)
- Lakanto (monkfruit)