Eat healthier and feel better with these smart food swaps

Woman sits holding a bowl of muesli topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries and kiwi fruit

Nourishing our bodies with healthier food options is something we should all prioritise, but few of us are. Less than 7% of Australian adults eat enough vegetables every day, and less than half (44%) are eating enough fruit. Add to this the fact that the average Australian is eating almost double the recommended amount of salt per day and it’s no surprise that the number of people living with obesity or chronic illness is on the rise.

The good news is that developing healthier eating habits doesn’t have to mean huge, drastic changes to your diet all at once. In fact, research suggests that making 1 or 2 changes at a time can be an effective strategy for achieving long-term healthier habits. Here are some smart food swaps that don’t take much effort but can have a big impact on your health over time.

Breakfast swaps to fuel your day

Sugar-coated cereals may offer that sugar hit you’re craving in the morning but deliver little in the way of nutrition and sustained energy. They can also be packed with hidden salt (sodium).

Opt for wholegrain breakfast cereals, like porridge or overnight oats, or wholegrain wheat cereals, which will provide your body with fibre and sustained energy for the morning. Other great alternatives to cereal include wholegrain toast with fresh avocado or tomato, or a delicious smoothie.

Smart food swap a bowl of colourful sugary cereal for a bowl of porridge topped with nuts and freshly sliced pear

Remember, it is best to use unsweetened and unflavored milk with your cereal to avoid consuming large amounts of hidden sugar.

Healthy snacks to keep you going

When you’re feeling peckish, it’s easy to reach for ultra processed, convenience foods. However, these are often overloaded with sugar and/or salt, offering little benefit to our bodies. Replace the biscuit tin with some fruit toast, a homemade fruit muffin, or some fresh fruit or low-fat yoghurt. If you’re craving something crunchy, switch out the chips for some cheese and crackers, veggie sticks and dip, lightly salted popcorn, or unsalted nuts instead.

Smart food swap a handful of potato chips for a bowl of hummus with sticks of vegetables

Simple swaps at dinner to up your veggies

Rich, creamy or cheesy sauces are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar and salt that can leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. Swap them out for no added sugar tomato or veggie-based sauces instead. Whether it’s a quick mid-week pasta, curry, casserole, meat or fish dish, choosing tomato or veggie-based sauces is a simple way to increase your daily veg count without much effort.   

Smart food swap a bowl of creamy pasta for a bowl of spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce

Healthy dessert ideas to curb those sugar cravings

Is dessert your downfall? Arm yourself with healthier options for when those sugar cravings hit. Instead of reaching for overly sweet dairy desserts, like crème caramels, ice cream or cheesecake, stock the fridge with small tubs of yoghurt or reduced fat custard. Or have some fruit washed and pre-cut (if necessary) so that it’s ready to grab when you feel like breaking out the chocolate. Fresh watermelon, mango, blueberries, or grapes can deliver that sugar burst you’re looking for. A small handful of unsalted trail mix or dried fruit is also a great option!

Smart food swap a slice of strawberry cheesecake for a small bowl of reduced-fat custard

Quench your thirst with these healthier drink options

A healthy diet isn’t just about what we eat, but what we drink as well. Replace sugar sweetened drinks, like cordials and fruit juice, with water. If you need something extra, flavour it with fresh fruit (e.g. orange, lemon, lime, berries) or mint. If you fancy something fizzy, ditch the soft drink for soda water flavoured with fresh fruit instead.

Smart food swap a glass of soft drink (cola) for a glass of soda water flavoured with fresh lemon

By making 1 or 2 smart food swaps at a time that you can stick with, you’ll be well on the road to creating healthier eating habits to benefit you now and into the future.


Content developed by Health and Wellbeing Queensland’s team of expert nutritionists and dietitians as part of our Pick of the Crop program for schools, which aims to increase opportunities for Queensland primary school children to learn about and eat more vegetables and fruit.