13 simple, healthy pantry swaps

One thing we enjoy doing is helping women make simple food swaps that can easily upgrade their health.

In case you were wondering, this doesn’t involve giving anything up or being restrictive . . . just making simple changes from one thing to another.

Most of the swaps we are sharing here focus on getting rid of products that contain either unhealthy oils, unnecessary additives, or too much sugar. And honestly, these ingredients are not even needed to make the food taste better.

While it’s not good for anyone to eat too much of these unhealthy ingredients, as we get older we really need to be more careful with the quality of the food we choose to buy.

Specifically, it’s so important to be eating the right fats to keep our cell membranes healthy, and limit ingredients that can negatively affect our cells and lead to inflammation.

Watch or read below the video to discover our 13 great pantry swaps . . . which include everything from crackers, cereal, tomato sauce, and mayo to salad dressings, soups, breakfast bars and MORE.

Canned Tuna
We love how tuna offers a quick healthy protein source, but concerns about mercury levels lead us to swap out the old standbys like Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee. These are typically caught using what they call trolling methods, where they use nets or long lines that tend to go deep in the ocean to catch the fish.

However, we prefer brands that use pole caught methods, using fishing polls which have been found to be lower in mercury than the older, deep-dwelling tuna caught by long-lines and nets

In addition, a lot of the tuna cans are lined with BPA which we also want to avoid as it can be harmful to our cells and to our metabolism, and we need to pay closer attention to these things especially as we get older.

We like brands such as Wild Planet and Safe Catch, which have both been tested to be much lower in mercury and do not use BPA in their cans. As another alternative, these companies also offer canned sardines, salmon and mackerel, which are a bit have a rich omega 3 profile and less concerns with mercury.

Soy Sauce
We both love the taste of soy sauce and use it in so many dishes, but most brands contain GMO soy. In addition, they contain wheat as a secondary ingredient and many are very high in sodium. We have lots of clients who are sensitive to wheat and/or need manage their blood pressure. 

One good swap out would be organic, gluten free, low sodium tamari, which tastes just like traditional soy sauce but without the wheat and less sodium. Our favorite swap though would be coconut aminos, made from coconut tree sap and salt. They contain some naturally occurring amino acids, B vitamins, and are low glycemic. We like the one from Trader Joes or the Coconut Secret brand. There are others, but just make sure they don’t have other added ingredients like sugar.

Soups
Who doesn’t love soups, especially in the colder weather. But so many of them contain really unhealthy ingredients with chemicals, yeast extract, and excess sodium. Our swap would be brands like Imagine, Amy’s, Fire and Kettle, or Pacific. Just check the ingredients and the sodium because even the healthier ones can be high.

Along those lines, you also want to swap out some of those Broth bouillon cubes so use a brand above for their broth or we also LOVE using miso to flavor soup!

Of course homemade soups are going to be your best bet. You can grab some great recipes here, and/or also check out our soup video!  

Canola Oil 
Though canola has a reputation as a heart healthy fat, most canola oil on the market is made by going through an extraction method that renders it heavily processed and not a heart healthy choice.

If you want a neutral tasting oil we prefer avocado oil, which is made from pressing fresh avocados, and spinning at high speed to extract the oil. Of course we also love extra virgin olive oil! Avocado oil takes the heat a bit more so we use that for cooking with higher temperatures, and olive oil for lower heat cooking, pesto, salad dressings, and drizzling on food.

Mayonnaise
So many commercial mayos are loaded with unhealthy oils like soy, safflower, and canola, which in large quantities are inflammatory and overly processed. Even a Helmans or Kraft “with olive oil” contains unsatisfactory oils such as canola and/or soy oil, often listed as the first ingredient.

We favor avocado based mayos which are delicious and super clean. They only use avocado oil and simple ingredients. Sir Kensington or Primal Kitchen are two of our favorites.

Peanut Butter
Nut butters are a great option for snacks, and offer healthy fats, protein, fiber, and other nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium . . . BUT you have to watch out for sneaky ingredients.

Skippy reduced fat might sound healthy but its second ingredient is corn syrup solids, followed by a host of inflammatory oils from cottonseed, soy and rapeseed (canola).

Skippy natural is a little better, but still includes added sugar as well as palm oil, which is a fully saturated fat. This is really just so unnecessary.
Jif also includes added sugar and FULLY hydrogenated oils, the worst for your heart and your cells as this is overall inflammatory. Honestly there’s no reason to ruin nuts with added sugars and oils, so go for totally natural.

The bottom line is to read your labels – organic isn’t crucial here but you’re looking for brands that have no added oils or sugar, just nuts (or seeds). And it’s ok to have a little sodium. We love getting different varieties such as almond butter, sunflower butter, and even cashew. Some good brands include Once Again, Smucker’s Natural, and some Trader Joes brands. Many local markets have their own

Instant Oatmeal and Breakfast Cereals
There’s a reason cereals, hot and cold, are so popular at breakfast. Everyone loves quick and easy.

The issue with quick and easy is that the foods are often overly processed and don’t offer much in the way of nutrition, or are overly sweetened. Even an organic packaged oats can carry up to 13 grams of sugar in one packet! That’s over 3 teaspoons!

For oatmeal, look for plain, no added sugar. But be sure it also does not contain any artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, or any processed proteins like soy or isolated whey. We are all in favor of adding up to 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup, along with some berries or diced apple to help sweeten your oats naturally.

We also really like Qia cereals, which are packed with oats and seeds and also make great overnight oats. You can also check out Purely Elizabeth. Both are available in most supermarkets. 

As far as healthy cold cereals, the options are few and far between. Most are highly processed with loads of sugar. Love Grown (made from bean flour) is one decent swap out. Their plain variety has no added sugar and a few grams of protein. The downside is it’s pretty bland, so you’d want to spruce it up with berries, banana, and extra nuts or seeds. The sweetened Love Grown flavors contain 8 grams of sugar per cup. We’ve suggested using ½ the serving and then combine with plain.

Three Wishes is also a favorite, which uses monk fruit as a low sugar approved sweetener. Its base is chick peas and pea protein and has 8 grams protein per serving.

Granola Bars/Breakfast Bars
Another pet peeve of ours is breakfast bars. We see lots of people grabbing bars like Nutrigrain or Belvita, but these have lots of added sugars and use poor quality oils.

In fact, Belvita boasts on the package: “A nutritious, convenient, and portable on-the-go breakfast choice that contains slow-release carbs from wholesome grains to help fuel your body for 4 hours.” Though they have 4g fiber that is NOT outweighed by the 12 grams of sugar!

We talked a lot about protein bars here, but we can say here that most are glorified candy bars with artificial sugars and poor quality processed proteins added.


We have been liking and REALLY enjoying Aloha bars (Jane’s fav) and Stephanie likes IQ bars. They use healthy protein sources like brown rice and pumpkin seed, and are low in sugar and high in fiber, mostly from tapioca fiber which has been shown to act as a prebiotic fiber that feeds good gut bugs.

Light salad dressings 
Most salad dressings made with poor quality oils. Even the ones that say olive often have other oils added, along with added sugars, gums and thickening agents.

We like Primal kitchen which uses avocado oils, but honestly, they don’t all taste the best. For this reason, here’s one time we encourage you to make your own! The simplest version is a 1:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar or lemon juice, with salt and pepper to taste. Upgrade with a tsp of honey and tsp of mustard and you’re good to go.

You can also make dressings out of mixing yogurt (regular or plant based) with lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper for a creamy dressing – added dill and parsley are great too. Or puree avocado and lemon with spices. Then your dressing is actually adding benefit instead of detracting from your salad. Check out our download here for salad dressing brands and recipes. 

Marinara/Spaghetti Sauce
The two biggest caveats with bottled marinara is the type of oil and amount of sugar added. Ideally you want to look for brands that use no added sugar and only olive oil. Otherwise you end up with a sugar bomb, and inflammatory oils like soy or processed canola. Keep in mind you may still see sugar grams on the label, but that will be from the natural sugar in the tomatoes.

We also favor organic brands for the most part. According to the Environmental Working Group, they are one of the veggies that tend to have higher pesticide residue.

Brands we like include Amy’s and Muir Glen. Bertolli Marinara is also okay though not organic. Also, if you can buy glass containers vs plastic that is an added bonus to avoid BPA. 

Crackers 
Sometimes you’re just looking for a good crunchy cracker. They can make a GREAT snack paired with some organic cheese, fruit, hummus, guac, or nut/seed butter. However, many brands are very processed and contain inflammatory oils.

A few alternatives we like are Mary’s Gone Crackers, and Simple Mills, both made with simple, natural ingredients. A close second would be RyVita or Wasa which are made with only 2-4 ingredients. For example, RyVita Sesame only has whole grain rye flour, sesame seeds, and a touch of salt. 

Pasta 
So pasta, although yummy and a comfort food, is high in carbs, high glycemic, and doesn’t have many nutrients.

However, there are LOTS of great swap-outs that can give you more protein, fiber and other nutrients. For example the lentil or chickpea pastas that have taken over supermarket shelves are high in protein and fiber. And while they aren’t low carb, protein and fiber is not only good for our “mature” bodies but they will also help us feel full longer. Other alternatives we like are Palmini made from hearts of palm, and of course zoodles, which are zucchini noodles. Both of those are superb for really low carb options. 

Sports drinks 
Ok, during and after a workout its really important to hydrate and replace electrolytes, but oh my!

Some of the super yukky ingredients in the sports drinks actually can do more harm than good, including artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. We strongly advise against these and encourage you to go for something more natural.

Coconut water is a natural electrolyte – we like Harmless Harvest brand as it doesn’t have added ingredients and is not overly processed. However, coconut water is high in sugar, although naturally, so you still want to watch your servings. A few good brands of powder that you can mix with water are Nuum and Ultima replenisher.

Looking for more info on how to make simple, meaningful changes to your diet? A great place to start is by following the guidelines in our PM Meal Mastery program. For less than the cost of a bag of groceries, you can have access to this amazing resource that provides a scientifically-backed nutrition plan for optimal health, energy, and confidence after menopause.

stephanie goodman and jane schwartz

THE NOURISHING GURUS

Jane and Stephanie, creators of The Simply Nourished Solution™, are nutritionists who help women over 50 go from overweight, frustrated, and inflamed to lighter and healthier so they can be more active, feel good in their bodies, and live the second half of life with energy and confidence. Their 3-pronged approach, which can fit into any lifestyle, encompasses not only wholesome energizing foods but powerful habit and mindset shifts.

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