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Healthy Food Alternatives for a Happier Body

It’s January again and many of us are starting the New Year with a decision to eat healthier and make better food choices. 

Has bread caused you to bloat? Is red meat off the menu? Is sugar giving you the blues? Perhaps you have discovered a certain food isn’t good for your health and you need to eliminate it from your diet. Going without this particular food can make you feel deprived, so why not swap it out for something else? This way, you can discover new and exciting ways to enjoy food without missing what you have removed from your diet. Let’s take a look at some quick and easy swaps you could try.

Wheat

Many people find they have issues with wheat, which is often at the root of digestive disorders like coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating and constipation. It may be an auto-immune condition (like coeliac) or a simple food intolerance. The best thing is to check with your doctor who will be able to advise which you might have. If you find that wheat is no longer your friend, then here are some handy substitutes: Try these: You can make your own bread, pancakes and other baked goods from the following flours:

  • Buckwheat (despite the name, there is no actual wheat involved)
  • Rice flour
  • Potato flour
  • Millet
You can also have:
  • Rice cakes
  • Potato farls (check packet to ensure no wheat is added)
  • Soba noodles
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes

Take a look in your local supermarket for wheat-free products. You may be surprised at the range of goods on offer.

Dairy

Decided to drop the dairy? Maybe you have developed a lactose intolerance. If so, the good news is there are some tasty and healthy alternatives out there. If you are worried about calcium deficiency or osteoporosis, fear not. Many other foods such as green leafy veg, sesame seeds, chia seeds, quinoa and sardines are rich in calcium and as long as you include these in your diet, you can avoid dairy but still have strong bones and teeth. Try these:

  • Soy milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Rice milk
  • Almond milk
  • Soy yoghurts
  • Kefir
  • Soy spreads
  • Soy-based ice-cream

If you are avoiding just cow’s milk products for ethical reasons, then goats cheese or feta cheese could be preferable. You can also buy non-dairy chocolate in many health food stores.

Meat

Whether you are cutting out meat for better health or turning vegetarian for ethical purposes, you have several choices. Some people choose to become ‘pescatarian’, meaning they still eat fish. Fish is a great source of protein and nutrients and there are so many varieties available that you would hardly miss meat at all. If you don’t like fish, then you could try meat substitutes like Quorn or Tofu. The good news is that supermarkets are increasing their range of vegetarian alternatives so they are no longer ‘specialist’ food items. It’s also much easier to eat out as a vegetarian so don’t be afraid to experiment. Try these: Quorn Tofu Eggs (if you choose to include them) Fish Quinoa Nuts Beans Greek yoghurt Any diet that increases your intake of plant-based foods is a good thing but make sure you continue to eat protein in some form.

Sugar

Did you know that sugar is a highly addictive food item? It’s in more foods than you’d realise and has contributed in no small part to the modern worlds’ obesity problem. The addictive nature of sugar means you crave the foods that contain it. Eating them causes a ‘high’, followed by a ‘low’, leading you to eat more of that food to feel good again. It’s a vicious cycle which contributes to mood swings, weight gain, obesity and can even lead to diabetes. Cutting sugar from your diet is challenging, but by being label-aware and eating more natural, unprocessed foods, you are taking a big step towards better health. Try these: If you are not yet ready to give up sugar in your tea or coffee then try some sugar substitutes. There are many on the market but a natural sweetener such as stevia is a good choice. Aspartame has had a lot of bad press so might be best avoided. If you crave a little sweetness, try including some fresh fruit in your diet. Your body is better able to process natural sugars like fructose without the ‘sugar crash’.

Caffeine

Is your coffee habit out of control? Is tea taking over? There’s nothing wrong with a brew as long as you keep it in moderation. However, too much can cause restlessness, insomnia and sometimes even anxiety. So if you have decided to kick the caffeine habit, you may be wondering what you can drink instead. Try these: There are a wide range of caffeine-free tea and coffee substitutes available. So you can still enjoy a hot cup of ‘joe’ if you wish. There are also many kinds of herbal and fruit teas which can open a whole new world of flavour and choice to you. If you like a hot drink before bed, then cocoa or hot chocolate is the answer. For cooler days, water is your best drink of choice. Remember! Cutting out caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches so it may be best to wean yourself off caffeine gradually. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Making better food choices is easy if you know you can have something to replace what you are removing from your diet. It may be hard at first, but stick with it and your body and tastes will adjust leaving you feeling happier and healthier for the coming year.

About the Author

Jennifer Roche lives in North Dublin with her husband and two children. An avid content writer, Jennifer is passionate about food, nutrition and healthy living. Currently, Jennifer is studying at Griffith College, loves music and is a radio show DJ with her local community radio station, NearFM on The Grove Show.

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