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Healthy Lifestyles that Last Blog

Shift your habits for better nutrition

healthy shift ideas like using olive oil instead of butter, eating quinoa instead of white rice and choosing sugar-free beverages over soda and juice.

Happy National Nutrition Month®! This is a great time of year to reevaluate your eating pattern to determine if it’s working for you. Are you getting the healthful foods you need to live your best life?

An eating pattern represents all of the food and drink choices you make from day to day over the course of your lifetime. It’s more important to focus on healthy shifts you can make to your eating pattern than on individual foods. Be careful of fad diets that eliminate entire food groups (more to come on this on future posts!).

How are we, as Americans, doing?

  • About three-fourths of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.
  • But we’re exceeding the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a big difference down the road. Start small with one or two shifts than gradually add more.  

Small shifts are much more manageable and more sustainable than the latest fad diet. You don’t have to be perfect all the time but don’t let immediate gratification trump the feeling that healthy habits create. Shift your daily habits for optimum control.

Here are several small shifts you can try today! What other healthy shifts can you make in your eating pattern?


Instead of…


Try this!


All-purpose flour

Substitute up to ½ of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Example: 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour in a recipe calling for 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Increased fiber/vitamins/minerals

White bread

100% whole wheat or 100% white whole wheat

Increased fiber/vitamins/minerals

White rice

Long-grain brown rice, quinoa or bulgur wheat

Increased fiber/vitamins/minerals


Oil or butter in baking


Substitute part of the fat with applesauce, prune puree, mashed banana, shredded zucchini, canned pumpkin, or pureed beans. Note that liquids may need to be adjusted and there may be some taste differences.

Less fat and more fiber/vitamins/minerals  


Full fat sour cream or mayonnaise


Low-fat versions, plain low-fat/non-fat yogurt, buttermilk, or blended cottage cheese

Reduced fat and increased protein if using Greek yogurt over regular

Meat for all your protein


Plant-based protein sources: beans, lentils, hummus

Less saturated fat and more fiber/vitamins/minerals


High-fat meats


Lean cuts with visible fat trimmed and skin removed

Less saturated fat


Parmesan cheese as a topping


Nutritional Yeast

Increased B-12 and less saturated fat and sodium


Solid fat (butter, lard, etc.)


Liquid oil– try olive, avocado, sunflower or peanut oils.

Less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat

Thickening sauces and gravies with butter

Mix cornstarch with a small amount of cold water, then stir slowly into hot liquid and bring to a boil

Less saturated fat


Serving soups, gravies, and stews immediately


Chill first and skim off hardened fat, then reheat and serve

Less saturated fat


Regular canned vegetables

Use reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions; if not available, rinse under running water

Less sodium 


Fruits canned in heavy syrup

Fruits canned in 100% juice or water

Less added sugar 

Sugar-sweetened beverages

Infused water, 100% fruit juice or unsweetened teas and coffee

Less added sugar and more phytonutrients