Ask Ally: Easy Pantry Swaps
By: Ally, resident nutritionist and overall foodie
One of the easiest steps to take for your overall health is simply swapping out some pantry/fridge staples for more nutritious alternatives. A quick look at nutrition labels and ingredient lists can help you select the best choice without sacrificing flavor.
Replace vegetable oils with avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Oils are essential for cooking, but if heated to temperatures above their smoke point, oils begin to oxidize and become inflammatory to the body. Avocado oil has a high smoke point (500 degrees F!), which means it doesn’t oxidize until it hits that temperature, making it perfect for higher heat cooking (think searing meat, sautéing veggies, etc.). It is also packed with healthy fats that may help naturally lower cholesterol. I use avocado oil for almost all of my cooking, and stick with extra-virgin olive oil for making salad dressings, drizzling over dishes, or baking.
Replace refined white flour with whole grain flour
All-purpose flour is made from wheat that has been stripped of its fiber and nutrition, meaning it has a big impact on your blood sugar. Try swapping in whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour. If you can’t make the jump to baking with all whole grains, try substituting whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe for more fiber and protein, as well as a smaller impact on your blood sugar levels.
Replace high sodium broths with low sodium broths
Packaged broths are packed with sodium and often contain added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2300 mg of sodium per day. A cup of regular broth may contain as much as 25% of this sodium limit! Your best bet is to make your own broth, but if you don’t have the time for that, look for a low-sodium version and check for sugar in the ingredients list.
Replace white rice with whole grains
While grains are a great way to make a meal go a little further, being selective about your grains is a great way to make the nutrition go a little further. White rice doesn’t have a lot going on, nutritionally speaking. A simple swap for brown rice or wild rice increases the fiber and protein content exponentially, lowering rice’s impact on your blood sugar. But branching out from the rice category altogether, farro and quinoa are great options for diversifying your grains.
Replace sugary nut butters with natural nut butters
Let me start by saying that the term “natural” means nothing in the food world, but it can be helpful in directing you toward the best nut butter options. A lot of nut butters have added sugars, which are absolutely unnecessary to make them tasty. Skip the ones with added sugars (along with oils and other mysterious ingredients) and look for an ingredients list of only “nuts and salt.” These nut butters often require stirring, as the oils tend to separate without the stabilization from added sugars. Is it annoying to have to stir your peanut butter before using it? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
Replace fruit juices with whole fruit
Fruit juice contains a lot of fruit’s great qualities: vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But without the fiber content of whole fruit, juice has a lot of sugar to slam your body at once. Instead of drinking a glass of orange juice in the morning, try eating an actual orange. Instead of apple juice, try an apple. In general, avoid drinking your calories, as beverages contain a lot of calories and sugar without leaving you satiated.
Replace soy sauce with coconut aminos
The research on soy tends to go back and forth from year to year. Sometimes it causes cancer; sometimes it prevents it. Either way, I try not to pack a lot of soy into my diet. Soy sauce is also a secret sodium transport device, with around 950 mg (of that recommended 2300 mg daily limit) in just one tablespoon! The same serving size of coconut aminos contains about half the amount of sodium. Both soy sauce and coconut aminos deliver that important umami flavor, but using coconut aminos allows you to avoid a common allergen and get a little more nutrition.
Replace refined sugars with natural sugars
Refined sugars come in many forms, but the ones in your home pantry probably include white sugar, brown sugars, and corn syrup. All of these have a hefty impact on your blood sugar without adding anything positive to your body. Try swapping these out for local honey (which can help with allergies), pure maple syrup (a surprisingly good source of zinc), or dates (a fiber and potassium powerhouse).
Who's ready for a pantry overhaul now?
i love how all of these things are (mostly) simple switches. what are some pantry swaps you've already incorporated? Were you surprised by any of these?