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Healthy Food Swaps to Make in 2022

January 10, 2022

Get your year started right with small changes that are actually livable — no drastic resolutions here! Our experts share healthier everyday food picks you can swap for not-so-healthy options.

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Make Small Changes That Add Up to Better Health

Vowing to completely overhaul what we eat and drink is certainly a dramatic way to kick off a new year — but that momentum is tough (and often miserable) to maintain. “When I’m talking to patients about making beginning-of-the-year changes, I’m never going to say there’s something you can absolutely never have, because this is life. There has to be some kind of middle ground,” says Alejandra Ellison-Barnes, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. When it comes to making health-conscious changes, “making little shifts bit by bit is much more sustainable over time than trying to do something radical and cutting out all of your favorite food for all time.”

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Focus on Substitutions That Work for You

So what’s the recipe for a healthy, realistic new plan? Replace less-than-optimal items and ingredients with appealing alternatives. “Your swaps shouldn't feel like a sacrifice,” says registered dietitian-nutritionist Samantha Cassetty, co-author of Sugar Shock. “They should feel fun and tasty and fit within the way you enjoy eating.” Consider the 15 tweaks we highlight here for what you can eat and drink going forward. Implement these expert-approved changes as often as you can, and you’ll be going strong when another new year rolls around.

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Snack on Nuts Instead of Chips

When you find yourself craving something savory and crunchy, scratch the itch with a handful of nuts (about one ounce) instead of a greasy pile of chips. You’ll be consuming healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats, and you’ll skip the blood-sugar spike (and crash) associated with refined carbs. “Nuts are great,” Ellison-Barnes says. “If I have to work a long shift I take along a little container of nuts and then [I have] something that’s easy to eat on the go that’s not messy.” Her snack has well-documented benefits: A 2017 study that analyzed data from more than 200,000 subjects for up to 30 years found that regular consumption of nuts was associated with a 13 percent to 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 15 percent to 23 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease in particular.

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Build Breakfast Around Eggs, Not Processed Meat

A 2020 swap-specific study crunched three decades’ worth of dietary and disease data from more than 40,000 subjects to find out how substituting protein sources might reduce our risk of coronary heart disease — and found that plant-based proteins, whole grains, dairy and eggs all lowered that risk when they replaced processed meat. Fancy a stick-to-your-bones breakfast that provides a wallop of flavor and those health benefits? Try shakshuka, a spicy, saucy egg dish that’ll start your day with a bang.

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