4 Easy Whole Foods Substitutions To Boost Your Health

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So you’ve decided to start a whole foods lifestyle, and you’ve gotten a head-start on transforming the three core areas of your diet (link to other article). Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle? I always start by putting the edge pieces together first, so I have a solid framework to work with. That’s where you’re at now in your whole foods journey. Now it’s time to fill in the middle pieces—the details!

I, for one, love toppings, condiments, spreads and crunchy snacks. But most of them, when conventionally purchased, are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and additives. The great thing about whole foods is that they are full of flavor and nutrition by themselves. Just figure out how to harness their power.

Here are 4 easy (and delicious) whole foods substitutions to boost your health.

1. Sunflower seeds for croutons

Next time you reach for that box of Pepperidge Farm Croutons to sprinkle on your salad, have a look at the ingredients list—high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. Now set it right back down again. That added crunch to your lettuce is appealing (maybe even evolutionarily programmed), so don’t get rid of it. Substitute with the crunch of sunflower seeds. Not only are they full of vitamin E, they are chock full of phytosterols which, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, help lower cholesterol and possibly fight cancer.

2. Avocado for mayonnaise

Unless you are whisking together your own egg yolk and oil, your mayonnaise probably has unhealthy additives. Even Hellmann’s, which advertises “real, simple ingredients”, has sugar, undefined “natural flavors”, and something called calcium disodium edta on its ingredient list. For a creamy, rich, spread-able substitute, try mashing an avocado. High in antioxidants, healthy fat and cartenoids, avocados have anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-regulating qualities. Squeeze a bit of lime just for a better tang than Miracle Whip will ever zip.

3. Salsa for ketchup

I used to put ketchup on everything – eggs, sandwiches, burgers. I stopped using it when I became a label reading fiend: no more high fructose corn syrup and unidentified “natural flavors”. With salsa, you get the same tomato-y goodness, but fresher, crisper and spicier. It even makes for a tasty topping on your baked potato (because with your whole foods framework, you’re eating a simple potato instead of oil-drenched fries, anyway). Try making your own (here’s an easy recipe), or buying an organic version at the store.

4. Hummus for deli meats

Stumped on whole food sandwich ideas after cutting out your nitrate-laced deli turkey? Once you’ve exhausted peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts), give hummus a try. From simple recipes consisting of chickpeas, lemon juice, oil and garlic to more complex and yummy ones like this, hummus delivers a wealth of health benefits. Lots of fiber and great for your heart. Add sprouts for a crunchy finish.

What whole foods substitutions have you tried?