Top 10 healthy food swaps

The government's Change4life campaign aims to encourage families to make healthier choices to help cut some of the excess saturated fat and sugar from our diets. Kevin Fenton, Public Health England's director of health and wellbeing, shares his top 10 Smart Swaps to get you started...

Top 10 healthy food swaps

Smart Swaps launched at the beginning of January 2014 and is a new Change4Life campaign that asks families to choose just one like-for-like swap from a selection of five, to help reduce sugar and fat in the diet. Here, Professor Kevin Fenton details his top swaps for those who want to make small, simple changes that will make a big difference to everyday health...


1. Swap sugary drinks for diet or sugar-free options, low-fat milk or water

You’d be surprised by how much sugar you could cut from your family's diet by simply swapping sugary drinks for diet or sugar-free versions, water or low-fat milk. In fact, you could save up to three quarters of a 1kg bag of sugar per household!


Cheese2. Swap cheese for reduced fat cheese

By simply swapping from full-fat to reduced-fat cheese your family could save nearly a third of a pint of fat. So next time you’re doing your regular grocery shop, why not opt for the reduced-fat version instead. Or when you’re next whipping up your family’s favourite dish, such as a shepherd’s pie, try sprinkling grated reduced-fat cheese over the top - they’ll never notice the difference.



3. Swap butter for lower fat butters and spreads

You can help lower your family's fat consumption by just swapping from butter to lower fat butter and spreads. By doing so you could save up to three quarters of a pint of fat. 


cereal4. Swap sugary cereal for plain cereal

It’s important to eat a healthy breakfast to ensure you have enough energy to get through to lunchtime without reaching for unhealthy snacks. If cereal is your breakfast of choice, try swapping from sugary cereals to plain cereals, for example plain porridge, whole wheat cereal biscuits or plain shredded whole grain. In doing so, you could reduce your intake by 83 sugar cubes a month.




5. Swap whole milk for semi-skimmed; or semi-skimmed to 1% fat or skimmed milk

By making the simple swap from whole milk to semi-skimmed milk, you could save up to a third of a pint of fat per family over four weeks. If you’re already drinking semi-skimmed, why not try swapping to skimmed or 1% fat milk, this could still save over half a small wine glass (125ml) of fat.


Salt6. Swap your salt                                                                          

To help reduce the amount of salt you consume on a daily basis, try swapping salt for herbs and spices to add flavour to your dish instead. Or if you like your dishes a little spicy, opt for ginger, basil, coriander or curry powder, which are great for those who want to add a bit of heat.



7. Swapping to smaller portionsportion size

Often people fill their plate with the intention of eating it all, without acknowledging that actually a much smaller portion may be sufficient. Next time, why not try halving the amount of food you initially put on your plate. If you’re still hungry, you can always go back for a little more. Chances are, you’ll realise that the first portion was enough to fill you up.


Packed lunch8. Swapping from packed lunches to school dinners

If you want to ensure your kids are eating nutritious and healthy meals whilst they are at school, as well as at home, check what's on the menu at your child's school as these days, school's often offer healthy choices and a hot meal at lunch may help to keep them satisfied for longer.


9. Choosing healthier snackshealthy snacks

It’s always tempting to reach for a bag of crisps, or a bar or chocolate when cravings hit between meals. We all probably eat unhealthy snacks more than we realise and they’re often full of high levels of fat, sugar and salt. But there are other quick and easy snacks that could act as a sufficient replacement. If you have a sweet tooth, try a low-fat or fat-free yogurt. Pitta and low-fat dips, or a small handful of unsalted nuts act as a good substitute for the less healthy savoury snacks.

Remember, if you don’t have unhealthy snacks in the house, you won’t be able to eat them!


Active10. Get active

If you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, you’re half way there, but building activity into your daily routine is important too. Daily activity keeps your heart healthy, reduces your risk of serious illness and strengthens muscles and bones. Many people can be overwhelmed by the thought of exercise, but it needn’t be a burden on your daily life. By making simple swaps to your current daily routine, like walking to work or doing the school run by foot, you’ll soon notice the difference in your fitness levels.



Are you trying to be healthier this year? What simple swaps will you be making? Let us know below...

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
26th Jan, 2014
Lots of recipes use oil to fry. I ditchedcall my oil and now use the 1 cal sprays, which work just as well and are much lower in fat. :-)
susannadimilo's picture
20th Jan, 2014
I am not sure about swapping butter, low fat spreads are processed and the processing is not always a healthy option. I think it is better to stick to natural products that have not been processed, but moderation is key. Eat better quality ingredients but not as much!
18th Jan, 2014
Can I have an alternative 2 as I can't stand cheese anyway. (nor yogurt or mayonnaise BTW) ?
Mrs Cookie
16th Jan, 2014
My tip would be 'Sit & Enjoy'. It is all to easy to stuff things in our mouths without really thinking about it. By taking 10-15 minutes to sit at the table with a drink and/or snack helps our brain register that we have eaten. So often it is our head telling us we must eat rather than our stomachs!
15th Jan, 2014
In a different article you recommend staying away from low-fat foods as they contain more sugars. However, these swaps encourage to change to low-fat options. This is confusing. Can you elaborate a bit more, please? Thank you.
2nd Sep, 2014
Try hot water with lemon and a spoon of honey early morning and before bedtime. This has stopped me craving carbohydrates. Worth a try!