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Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: 10 easy food swaps for a healthier diet and a healthier you

Try switching to 70 per cent cocoa chocolate for a healthier treat
Jane McClenaghan

WHEN it comes to eating well and feeling good, it is the little things that matter. So, if we can make a couple of simple little swaps to our shopping list, we can end up getting more variety in our diet, which means we are much better nourished and likely to end up feeling a whole lot healthier.

I have been thinking about some easy swaps for you. This is not about going on a diet, but just re-thinking what's on your plate and in your trolley and how you could make a couple of easy changes that you would hardly even notice.

Choose one or two of the suggestions and get into the habit of these before trying a few more.

10 EASY SWAPS

1) WHITE PASTA TO WHOLEMEAL PASTA: more fibre, more minerals, more nutrition. The wholemeal stuff is lower GI, so will leave you feeling fuller for longer, and a little less will be more satisfying. Wholemeal pasta used to taste like wholemeal, if you know what I mean. These days, you are unlikely to notice much of a difference between the white and wholemeal versions, especially if you have a tasty bolognese to top it off.

2) BRAN FLAKES TO WEETABIX: despite their healthy image, bran flakes are loading your breakfast with a sugar hit. Swap to Weetabix for a lower sugar option.

3) CRISPS TO NUTS: Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios are all packed with loads of nutrition. Calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, protein, healthy fats – you name it, they've got it. A handful of nuts makes a great mid-afternoon snack to perk your energy up and will leave you feeling better than a packet of crisps.

4) FIZZY POP TO FIZZY WATER: even if you choose no added sugar or diet versions, fizzy drinks are bad news. Switch to sparkling water – add a slice of orange or lemon, or a dash of cordial for a bit of taste, or check out 'cold infusions' (beside the tea bags in your local supermarket) for a flavour hit.

5) MARGARINE TO BUTTER: butter wins, hands down, any day of the week, and not just on the taste front (but that too, of course). Margarine is made with inflammatory sunflower or vegetable oils. I am talking real butter here, not the spreadable stuff, as that is also likely to be blended with vegetable oils.

6) LOW FAT DRESSINGS TO OLIVE OIL DRESSINGS: we know the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and one of the reasons is the health effects of olive oil. Drizzle it, dress it and pour it – it is good stuff. Read the label of your low fat dressings and notice how much rubbish is packed in there – emulsifiers, sweeteners, vegetable oil – junk food disguised as health food.

7) JAFFA CAKES TO DIGESTIVE BISCUITS: Jaffa Cakes contain a whopping 53g sugar per 100g (that is 6g per 'cake', or one and a half teaspoonfuls), compared to 16g per 100g in Digestives (equivalent to 2g per biscuit, or half a teaspoonful). Digestives pack more fibre too, so are a lower GI choice.

8) LATTE TO FLAT WHITE: lower in saturated fat and calories, a black coffee or a flat white is a better option than a cappuccino or latte.

9) MILK CHOCOLATE TO 70 PER CENT COCOA CHOCOLATE: the higher the cocoa content, the less sugar, and the more antioxidants you'll be hit with. You see? Chocolate can be good for you.

10) HAM AND BACON TO CHICKEN OR TUNA: Do yourself a favour and cut back on the cured meats. Swap your ham sandwich to a tuna or chicken version to save on the salt.

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