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Healthy food swaps

Most of us know that foods with too much sugar are bad for us, but sometimes we need inspiration and ideas for what to eat instead

Sugar has become one of the biggest food ‘baddies’ in recent years as we have discovered more about what it does to the human body. Essentially the body becomes ‘addicted’ to sugar, so the more you eat the more you want and it has damaging consequences which include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, low energy, low concentration levels and mood swings; an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, stress and inflammation which makes us age faster.

Sugar is hidden in foods that we wouldn’t normally associate with being sweet – from bread to sauces and most processed foods. So we are often eating more sugar than we realise. Here are some suggested food swaps that should help you to kick your sugar habit and gain better health.

Swap cake for...
“Fresh fruit,” says David Flynn of The Happy Pear. “It’s high in fibre and while there is fructose in fruit it is also high in water and fibre, which will slow down the release of it.”

Other good options for cake lovers are protein energy bars, squares of dark chocolate, and more protein in your diet which can slow down the release of sugar and keep levels stable so you get less cravings. Fish, eggs, quinoa, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds are all good options.

Other healthy food swaps

Swap fruit yogurt for natural yogurt with berries
There is 3-4tsp of added sugar in a small pot of yogurt.

Swap couscous for quinoa
Quinoa leads to a slower release of energy, is a good source of magnesium, B vitamins and protein.

Swap sweets for raw energy balls
Make using nuts, seeds and dried dates – whizz in the food processor then roll.

Swap crisps for...
“Vegetable crisps,” says Von Deegan of Von’s Health Store in Limerick. “There are lots of varieties on the market now or you could make your own. Traditional crisps tend to be full of preservatives and saturated fat.”

“Swap crisps for air-popped popcorn,” says Stephen Flynn of The Happy Pear. “Or try tamari roasted almonds.”

Other options include nuts such as walnuts or almonds, but avoid dry roasted varieties.

Swap white bread for...
“Wholemeal sourdough,” says Stephen Flynn. “The combination of wholemeal and fermented bread helps to maximise nutrition and fibre.”

“Swap white bread with sourdough or spelt,” says Von Deegan. “Not everyone has the time to make sourdough or any bread, but they are available to buy. Sourdough is easier on the digestive system and packed with flavour.”

Swap all white carbs for wholegrains if you can. So swap rice and potatoes with quinoa, oats, rye bread and sweet potato.

Swap fizzy drinks for...
“Kombucha,” says Von Deegan. “There are so many varieties on offer. Try them out in original or flavoured, getting the fizzy hit and healing the gut at the same time. Kombucha is a very popular fermented tea with huge healing benefits, packed with flavour without the sugar.”

“Swap fizzy drinks for kombucha,” agrees Stephen Flynn. “It’s a wonderful fermented tea that is rich in probiotics and good bacteria for your gut and immune system.”

Swap biscuits for...
“Dried fruit and nuts,” says David Flynn. “Or dip a banana in almond butter or in a cacao infused almond butter, which will still taste sweet and indulgent but is based around wholefoods.”

“Swap biscuits for nut butters on rice, corn or oat cakes,” says Von Deegan. “There are lots of nutritious snacks available, look out for minimum ingredients listed. Why not make your own trail mix of roasted nuts with cinnamon, chilli, and add in a few raisins or dark chocolate. Biscuits are packed with sugar, saturated fats and preservatives, providing empty calories.”

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