The next time you reach for a fizzy drink or white bread, pause and think about swapping it out for something healthier, such as water or wholegrain bread.
Eating a wide range of healthy food ensures you get all the energy, vitamins and minerals you need to live a well-balanced and healthy life.
Overall it's better for you and your whānau to eat home cooked meals from scratch rather than relying on energy dense fatty, sugary and salty ready-to-eat foods. But that's not always easy to do, it takes time and effort to make changes. However by starting off small you can gradually swing the balance towards healthier alternatives little by little.
Have a go at replacing some unhealthy food and drink choices with something that’s good for you, but still tastes really good. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking a habit and trying something new. Try a new healthy recipe once a week – it might become a favourite.
Remember to look at food labels for guidance when you choose packaged foods. Read more about understanding food labels.
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Here are some swaps for better health. Swap out:
1. Fizzy drink for water
Fizzy drink is high in sugar and too much sugar increases your risk of putting on unwanted weight, tooth decay, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Drinking water instead of fizzy drink also saves you money as water is free. Watch out for sports and energy drinks – they may sound healthy but have a surprising amount of sugar in them.
2. Fruit juice for chilled water and a piece of fruit
Fruit juice is also high in sugar, so if you’re after a refreshing drink, have a glass of chilled water and a piece of fruit instead. Another idea is to add some pieces of fruit (eg, strawberry or peach) or a splash of lemon juice and some ice to your water to add a bit of healthy flavour.
3. Full-fat milk for reduced fat milk
Next time you buy milk, make sure you get one that is reduced in fat. It’s still milk – but better for you. If you or your tamariki are in need of calcium for your bones try a brand of milk with added calcium.
4. White bread for wholegrain bread
Wholegrain bread is packed with way more nutrients (such as fibre) than white bread, is less processed and is better for you. So replace white bread, bagels and muffins with wholegrain varieties.
5. Muesli bars/potato crisps for fresh fruit or a small handful of unsalted nuts
While muesli bars may seem healthy, they can be loaded with sugar and saturated fat. Instead, try some fresh fruit and a small handful of unsalted mixed nuts. Nuts and seed are good for your heart health.
6. Chippies with creamy dip for raw vegetable sticks with hummus or homemade popcorn
Raw vegetable sticks (eg, carrot, cucumber or capsicum) with hummus or homemade popcorn are great substitutes for processed chippies and creamy dip.
7. Dried fruit for fresh fruit
Dried fruit is relatively high in sugar and calories, so having fresh fruit is a better option. The stickiness of dried fruit is also bad for teeth and can contribute to decay. Fresh fruit also fills you up for longer due to the water content.
8. High-fat cheeses for reduced-fat cheeses
Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein but can be high in saturated fat. Instead of high-fat cheeses like brie, blue cheese or camembert, try lower fat options like edam, quark, cottage cheese or feta.
9. Butter for margarine
Butter is high in saturated fat so swap it out for margarine or, even better, don't use it at all and put an unsalted nut butter on your bread or toast instead.
10. Coconut cream for lite coconut cream or milk
Coconut cream is a staple in many people’s pantries. Buying the ‘lite’ version or coconut milk instead will reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume.
11. Coconut oil for a small amount of canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil
Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat, so replace it with a lower fat option such as canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil.
12. Lard or dripping for a small amount of canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil
Similarly, lard or dripping is high in saturated fat so try an alternative such as a healthy oil instead.
- Cheese – the good, the bad and the ugly British Heart Foundation, UK
- Eating and activity guidelines for New Zealand adults Ministry of Health, 2020
- Swap this for that Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand, 2022