Changing your diet doesn’t require a complete menu overhaul. Clever swaps and tweaks to your favorite meals can produce great results! We bring you the best practical tips and ideas to achieve powerful diet changes through simple food swaps.
A plant-based diet will help you achieve your absolute best but it may be daunting to make your first steps. You might know all the nutrient requirements and what to aim for, yet it may seem impossible to imagine pizza without dairy cheese. Don’t despair! There are smart tricks to satisfy your taste buds and elevate your diet to the next level at the same time.
Milk – that’s probably the easiest as there are so many plant-based milks. The tricky part is finding your favorite because there are so many! Soy, oat, almond, rice, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, and more. It’ll take perhaps a few cartons to find the one that works for you but you will find it! Most of them are fortified with calcium, easy to digest and super low in fat.
Yogurt – also an easy one as there are plenty of plant yogurts on offer. If your supermarket is no good, try health food stores.
Cheese – ok, this is not easy as cheese is addictive. There are plant-based alternatives made of cashew nuts, coconut oil, pea protein and lots of other ingredients. They don’t taste exactly like cheese but some come pretty close. The thing is, you want something that’s also good for you and not just a slice of fat. For that reason, it’s worth trying to go without cheese for a while, and – if your bank balance allows – treating yourself to some nice nut-based cheese occasionally. Your body will thank you!
When it comes to pizza, many chains started offering vegan cheese. It’s the cheaper, fatty kind but it does the job and satisfies a craving. Don’t eat it daily but it’s fine as a treat.
In some dishes, try swapping other foods for cheese – for example you can use marinated or smoked tofu in salads or sandwiches; or add tahini (sesame seed paste) and nutritional yeast to pasta and rice dishes. Nutritional yeast has a slightly cheesy and savory taste so sprinkling it on your meals will give them the right flavor. It has a lot of B vitamins to boot and if you combine it with tahini, you’re also getting healthy fats, protein, calcium and a bunch of other minerals!
Parmesan cheese – easy to make your own! Combine equal amounts of ground almonds with nutritional yeast flakes and add salt to taste, keep in a jar and use as you would Parmesan. Healthy and delicious!
Ice cream – this is where plant-based diets win big. There’s a growing range of plant-based ice creams that are not just yummy, and indistinguishable from dairy, but healthy too. They are made from almonds, cashews, coconuts or soy. Or you can make an even healthier version yourself – freeze sliced bananas, then blend them, add whatever other fruit and/or flavor you like. Result – creamy, healthy and scrumptious ice cream!
Whey protein powder – a super easy swap. Plant-based protein powders are now available everywhere. Blends tend to taste better than single ingredients ones, and they come with other beneficial nutrients too. Aside from making shakes and smoothies, they are a great addition to your morning cereal.
Milk chocolate – another addictive food! There are, of course, dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolates but for your health, it’s best to build a better habit. Go for dark chocolate. It tends to be dairy-free, is much higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar and fat. It doesn’t have to be ultra dark, 70% is enough and if it has nuts or dried fruit, even better!
Burgers and hot dogs – an extra easy swap, there are lots of plant-based alternatives. Some are made of soy protein, some of tofu (healthier) and some of a mixture of ingredients such as mushrooms, lentils or beans, pea protein, etc. They are all better for you than meat – lower in fat, saturated fat in particular, high in protein and fibre. Garnish them with all your favorite sauces, pickles and have a healthy feast!
Ground beef – in chilli, pasta, lasagna or meatballs. The easiest swap is vegan mince but you can also use lentils, chopped walnuts or mushrooms – or all of these together for a variety of textures and flavors!
Meat pieces – in chilli, curry, stew or stir-fry. Of course, there are meat alternatives that do the job but try smoked tofu, garbanzo/chickpeas or seitan, and you’ll be nicely surprised. Seitan is wheat protein with an excellent amino acid profile, so unless you have a wheat sensitivity, it’s a great diet staple!
Kebab – seasoned, thinly sliced seitan is the perfect kebab meat swap. Chances are you may even find it on offer in some bigger city kebab shops. Otherwise, throw seitan slices and seasoning into a pan, and quickly fry with a small amount of oil – the whole process takes less than five minutes.
Bacon – the healthiest swap is thinly sliced smoked or marinated tempeh. Or, if you have a health store near you, you can even buy tempeh bacon ready-made! Tempeh made from fermented soy beans pressed into dense cakes. It’s high in protein, and thanks to the fermentation, contains beneficial bacteria that make your guts extra happy. It’s best to buy marinated or smoked tempeh, rather than natural as that one requires further seasoning and cooking.
Meaty sandwich fillings – if you’re a fan of sliced meats, salami, patés, or other meaty fillings, there are many swaps that will help transform your meals and performance. Try replacing the sliced meats with tempeh, smoked tofu, falafel, mock meat slices, or a bean patty. When it comes to spreadable stuff that isn’t hummus, try nut butters, bean or garbanzo spreads, mushroom paté, or tofu spreads.
Easy spread: mash beans/garbanzo/peas with a fork, add a little vegetable oil, salt, spices, perhaps some mustard or chilli sauce – and you have a super-nutritious and inexpensive sandwich filling!
Scrambled eggs – swap for an easy tofu scramble, it tastes delicious, is much healthier and bursting with protein. It’ll help supercharge your performance and is great for your heart!
Mayo – there are many plant-based mayos on the market, even big brands are joining in these days. If you feel adventurous and own a blender, you can make your own in about five minutes.
Bread, pasta and rice – a swap that makes a world of difference. Replace white bread, pasta and rice for their wholegrain versions. It’ll help make your energy last longer, improve your blood sugar levels and gut health.
Morning cereal – swap sugared, processed stuff for unsweetened muesli, or minimally sweetened granola, grape nuts, shredded wheat or other wholegrain options.
Chocolate mousse – ok, this requires a little food prep but is ready in five minutes. Melt dark chocolate and blend with silken tofu or avocado, add a natural sweetener to taste and you have a delicious chocolate mousse. You can add chilli or cinnamon, nuts, fruit, crumbled cookie or even protein powder if you go for the avocado version (tofu is full of protein so no need to add more). Of course, there are also ready-made chocolate puddings too but they are not as good for you.
Cookies, fruit and chocolate – if you have a sweet tooth and can demolish a full pack of cookies in one go, it’s time to upgrade your game. First step is to swap the white flour cookies for a wholegrain or oat version. Second step is to reduce the amount you eat and add something healthier to it – a piece of fruit and or a couple of squares of dark chocolate. You don’t have to give up things you love but can always adapt to make them support your goals. You’ll feel better and will feel more energised when exercising.
Fuel your body right
These swaps, along with our Supercharged Ten, will help you achieve the best diet to fuel your hard-working body. Ditching animal products, white flour and processed snacks will help you perform better, recover faster, and feel more at peace. The clean plant protein along with complex carbs helps your muscles grow better than meat. More fiber and less saturated fat also makes your heart healthier and your blood vessels better able to regulate blood flow, which in turn improves your performance.
If you feel like you wouldn’t handle too many changes that well, don’t stress. Building new habits takes time so go at your own pace, perhaps one swap at a time. If you’d like to know more about how to successfully change your diet, check out our 9 Steps blog. And don’t forget, with every step towards a healthier diet, your body will reward you by working better.
As Brendan Brazier, former Ironman triathlete and ultra marathoner, says about going plant-based:
“There’s massage, there’s light training, there’s stretching, there’s yoga. There’s all these things that are great. But nutrition…I found that good nutrition was the thing that really made the huge difference in recovery.”