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The Best Healthy Food Substitutions

06 January 2022

With the start of a new year, getting into better shape is one of the biggest goals on everyone’s to-do list. Not everyone is going to have the time or ability to completely overhaul their life and start a brand new diet, however. But little changes can go a long way, and over time they really start to add up.

If you’re looking to pare back your diet for a healthier new year, you don’t need to learn a whole new repertoire of recipes to get started. Simply learning about healthy food substitutes can put you on the path to a brand new diet - with little to no noticeable changes! Here’s a guide to the absolute best healthy food substitutions that you can use to eat healthier with minimum effort.

1. From noodles to zoodles

Pasta and noodles are some of the most crave-worthy foods out there. They cook quickly, taste delicious, and serve as the perfect base for any midweek meal. But all those heavy carbohydrates can pile up, and if paired with cream-based sauces, pasta dishes can quickly become heavier in calories than you might realise. A plate of pasta carbonara, for instance, can easily run upwards of 600 calories! In recent years, “zoodles” (zucchini noodles), also called “courgetti” (courgette spaghetti) by others, has become a highly popular low-carb substitution for traditional noodles. Simply shave a courgette into thin strips and toss them into the pan as you would with traditional noodles for a healthy extra serving of veg.

2. Cauliflower crusts

Another near-irresistible food that is unfortunately very calorie-dense is pizza! A delicious bread base topped with all kinds of goodies really adds up, and some pizzas easily reach 1500 calories - enough for some people’s entire daily intake! Rather than cut this delicious dish from your diet altogether, experiment with alternative bases. Cauliflower bases, made from a dough of mashed cauliflower, have become popular in recent years, and this switch alone can shave off around 40 calories per slice, as well as reduce sodium and gluten intake.

3. Veggie rice

As with noodles and bread crust, veggies can make for a healthy and satisfying substitution when it comes to rice. It’s becoming more and more common to use “rice” made from broccoli or cauliflower instead of traditional grain rice. Simply throw a head of the vegetable into a blender and you’re good to go! Many supermarkets now stock these alternative rices in the frozen section, so you can keep some in the freezer for when you’re running low on time.

4. Baking with applesauce

Just because you’re trying to eat more healthily doesn’t mean you have to give up on cakes and other delicious baked goods! It’s the sheer amount of sugar and butter used in many baking recipes that makes these sweet treats so unhealthy, but swapping out butter, oil, and some of the sugar from a recipe and replacing it with applesauce is a fantastic healthy alternative that has little to no impact on the taste of your finished cake.

5. Cut the cream

So many great recipes - chilli, burritos, curry - are made even more delicious by the addition of a big dollop of sour cream on top. Unfortunately, eating this much heavy cream is far from the healthiest - but can easily be replaced with a much healthier substitution. Fat-free or low-fat Greek style yoghurts, blended with a dash of lemon juice and salt, adds the same sour, cooling side to hot, peppery dishes, without all of the extra calories and fat.

6. From ice cream to “nice cream”

“Nice cream” is the nickname for a popular dessert substitution that has blown up over the past few years. The recipe is as simple as it gets - simply toss a few ripe bananas into a blender, add ingredients to taste - such as berries, nuts, honey, vanilla essence, cocoa powder - and stick it in the freezer. Alternatively, you can keep frozen bananas on hand in the freezer and simply whip up a bowl of “nice cream” whenever you fancy a 100% healthy after-dinner treat.  

7. Avocado swap

Avocado is beloved for its soft, creamy texture and mild, refreshing taste - making it the perfect substitution for high-fat foods like butter and mayonnaise. As a spread, avocado works equally well, and possesses a whole range of healthy fats that your body needs to process nutrients. Avocados are also a great source of potassium, and contribute to healthy hair and nails - so you can both look and feel at your best!

8. Mash cauliflower for mashed potatoes

If waving goodbye to good old bangers and mash is too much of an ask, even with your new and improved diet - fear not. Cauliflower (truly the star of healthy substitutions!) also makes for a fantastic low-calorie alternative for mashed potatoes. Simply cook up a head of cauliflower and blend it with some light cream or ricotta cheese for a creamy, delicious, and healthy serving of mash!


Making the transition to a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to mean massive changes - with small and simple substitutions such as these, you can eat your way to a healthier lifestyle with minimal changes!