Does the warm weather have you in spring cleaning mood? While you are tossing out the old to make room for the new, why not give your refrigerator a makeover? Here are my top 5 healthy food swaps to make today:
The creamy goodness of mayo is why it is a long-loved condiment; nothing else goes best on a turkey sandwich. But as I've previously mentioned HERE and HERE, most commercially available mayo is full of preservatives, chemicals, and ingredients you cant pronounce. Homemade mayo depends on eggs for the creamy texture, but there aren't even eggs listed in the ingredients of most of the stuff you find sitting on your grocery store shelf. I would personally rather not guess about the ingredients of my food; plus, commercial brands typically use oils such as canola, which are highly inflammatory.
REPLACE WITH: Avocado Oil Mayo or Homemade Mayo
If you are purchasing mayo from a store, aim for one that has the least number of ingredients and is made from an anti-inflammatory oil such as avocado. There's a reason avocados are always buzzed about by health foodies; it contains 'good' fats, it is high in omega 3 fatty acids, and it packs a lot of flavor. If you have an immersion blender, you can make your own avocado oil mayo with only three ingredients at half the cost of a store bought version.
2. Peanut Butter
Who doesn't love a PB&J? I know I do, but before you make your next one, flip the PJ jar over and have a look at the ingredients. In theory, peanut butter should contain 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt. But most commercially available PB brands are processed with hydrogenated oils, artificial sugars, or preservatives. All of this adds up to a very inflammatory product that strips out any potential benefits the peanut may have.
REPLACE WITH: Natural Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
If peanut butter is your jam (ha ha), replace the big-brand stuff with an all natural brand that only contains peanuts and salt (yes, the kind you have to mix the oil into). Some grocers offer an on-site grinder so you can grind your PB fresh from just peanuts, which is even better. HOWEVER, if you suffer from skin conditions including ACNE, ROSACEA, ECZEMA, etc., then you may want to consider replacing peanut butter (and peanuts) with almond butter/raw almonds. Peanuts are notoriously inflammatory, especially to the skin. Make the swap to almond butter for at least 30 days and notice a difference in your skin.
3. Sports Drinks
Looking to hydrate? Neon-colored sports drinks are so ubiquitous, it's hard to imagine a sporting event or gym without them. Except they aren't good for you, period; they are less nutritionally sound than drinking a soda! Sports drinks contain an extreme amount of sugar and salt; only professional athletes sweating for extended periods of time would require such high calorie and salt replacement. Plus, they are full of naughty ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and food dyes (you didn't think that color was natural, did you!) - all of which have been proven in research studies to be carcinogenic.
REPLACE WITH: Coconut water
All-natural coconut water is nature's sports drink; containing a small amount of natural sugars and a balanced electrolyte profile, coconut water does a better job of hydrating than most sports drinks, plus it doesn't contain any of the no-no ingredients found in sports drinks. Look for a coconut water that doesn't have added sugars or flavors; take full advantage if your grocer offers fresh coconut that you simply need to put your straw into.
While dairy is a known allergen; allergies to cow's milk are the most common food allergy worldwide. Over-consumption of milk can lead to constipation, gut inflammation, and skin problems such as acne. Not to mention that most conventional milk is full of antibiotics.
REPLACE WITH: Almond Milk
While the above may seem like bad news for your morning cereal, almond milk is an excellent swap for cow's milk. The calcium contained in almond milk is better absorbed by your body than cow's milk. Other non-dairy beverages such as coconut milk and rice milk offer similar benefits. Always be sure to read labels, and try to select a plant-based milk that doesn't contain extra sugars or preservatives.
5. Salad Dressing
Say you have a big organic salad full of fresh produce from your farmer's market. It wouldn't make sense to pour a chemical and preservative-laden dressing all over it, would it? That could be exactly what you are doing if you consistently reach for a packaged salad dressing. Again, reading ingredients here is key; most commercially available dressings are full of unpronounceable ingredients as well as SUGAR!
REPLACE WITH: Refrigerated or homemade dressing
Most salad dressing located in the refrigerated case have less preservatives than their shelf-stable counterparts. Again, get into the habit of reading labels so you can protect yourself from hidden health traps. Also - salad dressing is a snap to make at home: whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, spices, salt and pepper for a quick and tasty vinaigrette.