Are you ready to start eating clean and healthy, but afraid to give up on all of the foods you love? Good news, you don’t have to!
These clean eating food swaps allow you to continue eating your favorite foods, but in a healthier way!
I started following a clean eating diet about 5 years ago. At the time, I was sluggish, I had gained a lot of weight, and I just didn’t feel well.
However, I was also a newlywed and I knew that if I wanted to eat healthier, I had to find a way to balance my husband’s preferences with a healthier diet.
These healthy food swaps are easy to make but make a big difference for weight loss and overall health.
Plus, these clean eating food swaps a great starting point if you’re not ready to completely change your diet or if you have a family or other people to feed.
What Is Clean Eating?
There are many different variations of clean eating, but to me, clean eating is eating ingredients that are less-processed and higher in nutrients.
This includes a lot of plant-based foods (think fruits and vegetables), plus grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Technically, meat and dairy can be part of a clean eating diet as long as it’s high quality and minimally processed.
Clean eating is a way of eating that focuses on the quality of the foods you eat, not how many calories you eat.
When you’re starting out eating clean, reading food labels is a must.
You want to aim for ingredients that you’ve actually heard of.
If you’re new to clean eating, read more about clean eating for beginners here.
Clean Eating Food Swaps
If you’re ready to lose weight and start eating clean and healthier, start using these healthy food substitutions today!
Grab my free clean eating pantry guide for a complete list of healthy foods to start eating.
Whole Wheat for White Flour
One of the first substitutions to start making is replacing your heavily processed white flour for whole wheat flour. White flour is heavily processed and broken down into sugar rapidly by your body.
Alternatively, whole wheat flour is a more complex carbohydrate which means it takes longer for your body to digest and break it down into sugar.
Replace white flour with whole wheat flour 1:1.
You can also take it a step further and ditch wheat completely. Try almond flour, chickpea flour, or coconut flour for even cleaner recipes.
These flours are less processed and don’t cause the same sugar spikes in your blood as wheat.
Hummus for Dressing
If you love dipping chips or veggies into ranch or creamy dressings, try to substitute with hummus.
Hummus is high in fiber, healthy fats, and protein. This will keep you full longer and provide important nutrients.
Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream
Sour cream is high in fat and low in nutrients. Try to swap it out with Greek yogurt instead. Greek yogurt has healthy probiotics and protein.
The next time you make tacos, try this swap. I guarantee you won’t even taste the difference!
Zoodles or Chickpea Noodles for Pasta
If you’re a true Italian, this swap might take some time for you. For me personally, I love the sauce more than pasta so this was an easy swap.
Zoodles (zucchini noodles) are the perfect low-carb, low-calorie substitution for traditional pasta. Simply use a spiralizer, heat for 1-2 minutes and top with your favorite sauce.
If you crave more the pasta texture, try chickpea pasta. This comes in many styles like regular pasta, but is high in protein and fiber.
Honey or Maple Syrup for White Sugar
White sugar is one of the most heavily processed parts of a typical American diet. When you’re baking or cooking, try to substitute white sugar for maple syrup or honey.
Brown Rice or Quinoa for White Rice
White rice is another simple carbohydrate that’s highly processed and broken down rapidly by our bodies.
Try to substitute for brown rice or quinoa as a healthier, complex carb. These are higher in fiber.
Avocado Oil or Coconut Oil for Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is another common cooking aid that’s highly processed. Have you looked at a raw vegetable lately and seen a lot of oil on it? Me neither!
Ditch the vegetable oil for good and start cooking with avocado oil or coconut oil. These are both healthy fats that retain their benefits and composition when heated up.
Olive oil is a great oil to use at room temperature, but once it’s heated it’s broken down and less healthy.
Seltzer for Soda
If you’re still drinking soda, this is the first thing I recommend trying to swap out. Soda has zero nutritional benefits and is harmful for you.
If you drink regular soda, you’re consuming more than a day’s worth of sugar in 12 ounces. Diet soda is no better, since it’s loaded with aspartame which is a known carcinogenic.
Say goodbye to soda and start drinking seltzer instead. There are loads of flavored seltzers on the market now. Make sure to read ingredients though because some of these are flavored with artificial flavorings.
The best way to drink seltzer is to make it yourself. Use a soda streamer and make it at home. Flavor it with fresh lemon or lime. You’ll end up saving a lot of money long term and a lot of calories!
Whole Wheat or Sprouted Wheat Bread for White Bread
Similarly to white rice, white bread is highly processed and is “simple” carbohydrate. Swap your white bread for whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread.
These breads are higher in fiber. Look for breads with seeds and nuts for even more nutrients and benefits. I love Ezekiel breads or Dave’s Killer Bread.
Old Fashioned Oats for Instant Oatmeal Packets
Have you looked at the package labels of your instant oatmeal? Most of them are high in sugar and low in protein.
Save money and buy a tub of oatmeal next time. Simply cook 1/2 cup of oats and add your own toppings. You can sprinkle cinnamon and walnuts if you like sweetness. Or, try peanut butter and honey for a savory breakfast.
Coconut Sugar for Brown Sugar
Coconut sugar is a perfect substitution for brown sugar that is less processed and higher in nutrients. Coconut sugar can be substituted 1:1 for brown sugar while you’re baking.
Lettuce Wraps for Tacos
The next taco night, swap out your flour tortillas with homemade lettuce wraps.
Romaine lettuce wraps add a nice crunch and hold your tacos together, without the loaded calories.
You can also skip the “taco” altogether and make it into a taco salad for an even healthier alternative.
Nice Cream for Ice Cream
If you love a sweet treat on hot summer days, you have to try Nice cream! Simply freeze a banana, puree it in your food processor and enjoy.
You can eat it as is or flavor it with your favorite toppings. I love this peanut butter and chocolate Nice cream recipe.
Sweet Potato Fries for French Fries
Replace fried and greasy french fries with baked sweet potato fries.
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite nutrient-dense foods that we always keep on hand. Cut into strips, add a little oil, salt, and pepper and bake until they’re crispy.
Whipped Coconut for Frosting
The next time you’re baking cakes or cupcakes, skip the frosting and use whipped coconut.
This light and fluffy frosting will save you loads of calories and sugar.
Roasted Chickpeas for Potato Chips
If you love to crunch on something salty throughout the week, try to replace your chip habit with roasted chickpeas.
They’re easy to make and are crunchy salty just like regular chips. But, they’re lower in calories and higher in fiber!
Organic Snacks for Crackers or Chips
Although a lot of snack foods are still unhealthy, I get it if you still want some in your diet.
Try to replace them with less-processed organic options when possible. Annie’s is our favorite brand for family-friendly snacks including Cheddar Bunnies and crackers.
Also, any snack foods from Thrive Market are organic and less processed than their popular counterparts.
Real Peanut Butter or Almond Butter for Peanut Butter
Replace your jar of Jiffy with real peanut butter or almond butter. Once you make the switch, you’ll never go back.
Look for peanut butter that only includes “peanuts” on the label. Peanuts are naturally oily and don’t need added oils or sugar.
Almond butter is another great alternative that’s higher in healthier fats. However, it’s more expensive and doesn’t have quite the same peanuty taste.
Avocado or Mustard for Mayo
The taste isn’t exact, but avocado is a perfect creamy topping for sandwiches, in salads, or even on bagels.
Avocado is loaded in healthy fats and nutrients unlike mayonnaise which is high in calories and low in nutrients.
Beans and Lentils for Meat
As I mentioned before, meat can be part of a clean eating diet. However, I do recommend trying to eat less of it.
Add more plant-based protein to your diet including beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Start with some family-friendly vegetarian meals like this hearty lentil dal. You won’t miss meat at all.
Dark Chocolate or Cacao for Milk Chocolate
Eating clean doesn’t mean you can’t have sweet treats sometimes! If you love chocolate, opt for darker chocolate which is higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar.
Almond Milk for Milk
Although this is contrary to what a lot of us were taught as kids, we do not need milk in our diet.
Any of us, at any age. Dairy milk doesn’t provide any nutrients that you can’t find elsewhere in your diet. Plus it’s high in fat and causes inflammation for many people.
Swap out your dairy milk for almond milk to save calories, fat, and possibly feel better if you have a lactose intolerance.
Don’t let this list overwhelm you. This is meant to be a helpful guide to get you started eating clean and living a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy changes don’t happen overnight.
Work on gradually making these clean eating food swaps and eating healthier each day.
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