How to Eat Healthy: 5 Easy Nutrition Substitutions (Guest Post)

Hey guys!! How are you? I’m flying back to Cleveland today – which is bittersweet – California has been absolutely amazing but of course I miss my kitties! I cannot wait to recap all the fun we’ve been having. Today, Joe from The Frolicking Fells is sharing 5 easy nutrition substitutions you can start implementing so you can start to eat healthy! Take it away, Joe…


The Frolicking Fells Bio PhotoHey everyone! I’m Joe and I blog along with my wife at You may have seen me on Twitter or Instagram as @ClevelandJoe. In addition to being a proud lifelong resident of Cleveland, I also am a proud advocate of healthy living and healthy eating. After I graduated from law school, I was in a horrible state of health and on a fast-track towards heart problems and other common ailments related to obesity. With the support of my pastor, my wife, and My Fitness Pal, I made the decision to start pursuing health and wellness on New Year’s Day in 2012. Over the past few years I’ve lost over 30 pounds, ran a full marathon and multiple half marathons, gotten a handle on my emotional and stress eating habits, and developed a drastically different outlook on healthy living and life in general.

Before I began losing weight, one of the biggest reasons that kept me from losing weight was my fear that I would have to completely stop eating everything that I enjoyed. I’m in my thirties, but you’d probably think I’m a second grader when I list out my favorite foods, which are hamburgers, pizza, and tacos!

Fortunately, I quickly learned that losing weight and developing sustainable healthy eating habits doesn’t mean that you only can eat kale and grilled chicken. One of the biggest things that helped me lose weight was to make several small substitutions in my diet. In my opinion, none of these changes are exceptionally expensive or hard to make, so they are easy to implement for someone just starting to eat healthy.

Here are my 5 easy nutrition substitutions to help you eat healthy:

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1) Lean Ground Turkey Breast for Ground Beef

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I love a good hamburger as much as anyone. Nothing’s better than a great burger covered in barbeque sauce, spicy cheese, peppers, and onions.

What’s even better, though, is enjoying a juicy hamburger while knowing that your arteries aren’t crying out for mercy in the meantime! Swapping in lean ground turkey breast for ground beef is a great way to ensure that you can enjoy a delicious burger on a regular basis while you’re in the process of working towards a healthy weight.

According to My Fitness Pal, 4 ounces of cooked 8020 ground beef contains almost 100 calories more than 4 ounces of lean cooked ground turkey breast (and we all know that many people don’t buy 8020 ground beef!) Worse yet, the same amount of cooked ground beef contains 3 times the amount of saturated fat and much more sodium as well! Of course, cutting down on red meat is always a good thing to do for those of us with heart disease in our family bloodlines.

Some people say they can taste the difference, but I can’t. Unless you’re looking for a reason to keep eating ground beef, I doubt you will either!

2) Plain Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream and Mayonnaise

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The credit for this tip goes to my beautiful bride. In an effort to make lunchtime a bit more enjoyable and interesting, Sheila’s been cooking up a variety of salads on her days off. Over the past few months, she’s made some great egg salad and chicken salad. Normally, those types of foods are laden with mayonnaise and filled with calories and fat. Fortunately, Sheila’s able to make those dishes in a way that doesn’t make us think twice before eating them.

How so?

By substituting plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise, Sheila has transformed these foods into healthy options.

In contrast to mayonnaise, which is high in fat and low in protein, plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and it is often fat-free as well (just make sure to purchase the fat-free version!). I couldn’t taste the difference when she first made these dishes with this substitution and I had no idea that this was even possible until she told me that she did this.

For those of you who are enjoying summer picnics, Greek yogurt also works as a great substitution for mayonnaise in pasta salad and potato salad. If you have guests coming over who aren’t healthy eating aficionados, why not serve them these dishes with this substation and then ask them later if they noticed the difference? I bet that they won’t!

Plain Greek yogurt can also be used as the base for sauces. By adding a bit of cilantro and lime juice to plain Greek yogurt, Sheila is able to make a delicious sauce for tacos and burrito bowls. Throw it into the blender with an avocado, and you’ve got a delicious avocado cream sauce for chicken or fish!

3) Iced Tea for Soda Pop

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Some call it pop. Some call it soda. No matter what you call this beverage, though, you can easily cut down on your calorie intake by reducing or eliminating your consumption of soda pop.

I haven’t had a drop of soda pop since June 2013. I used to be a gigantic soda pop addict. My boss keeps our fridge at work well-stocked with Coke Zero, and I used to drink four of them per day during some of my longer work days. Last June, I gave it up cold turkey and haven’t looked back since.

In addition to continually reminding myself about the ways in which drinking soda pop was keeping me from achieving my fitness and weight loss goals, I also was able to drop the soda pop habit by keeping around a supply of iced tea to drink at meals. 

For those of us on a budget, another added benefit of drinking iced tea is that it is much cheaper than soda. All I use to make my iced tea is a pitcher, cold water, and teabags from Dollar Tree. That’s it. I fill a pitcher with cold water and teabags and put in the fridge before I go to bed at night. When I wake up in the morning, a pitcher of antioxidant-filled iced tea is ready to drink! For those of you who want a bit of additional flavor, squeeze a lemon wedge or put a packet of True Lemon into your tea. You can find True Lemon—which consists of nothing but crystallized lemon—at many stores around the area. I use it to add flavor to smoothies, water, and many other beverages.

4) Skim Milk1% Milk for 2% MilkWhole Milk

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I realize that this may not be an option for those of you with young children in the home. However, for the rest of us, replacing whole milk or 2% milk with 1% milk or skim milk can be another easy way to cut down on calorie and fat intake!

I know some people claim that skim milk tastes like water, and I respectfully disagree with them and encourage them to consider the health benefits.  According to the New York State Department of Health, most people can’t tell the difference between 2%, 1%, and skim milk in a taste test. I think it’s a bit like the ground beefground turkey debate; if you’re determined to taste the difference, you’ll eventually figure it out and let it become an issue. However, if your end goal is to improve your health and wellness, you may not even notice it!

(Editor’s note: I also highly recommend switching to an alternative like almond or coconut milk!)

5) Brown Rice for White Rice

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Rice is something that makes its way into a variety of cuisines from a variety of cultures. Swapping brown rice for white rice is a quick and easy substitution that you can make when cooking your next meal that involves rice. Just like everything else on this list, you won’t taste the difference! We made the switch from white rice to brown rice earlier in the year and I don’t even think that we even have any white rice left in the house.

Brown rice has fewer calories, more fiber, and more protein than white rice. Additionally, brown rice is rich in antioxidants. Furthermore, brown rice isn’t a processed food like white rice. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating white rice regularly can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

(Editor’s note: quinoa is a great gluten-free option, as well!)

BONUS! Eating Whole Fruits Instead of Drinking Juice

Many people begin their day with a tall glass of juice. I don’t blame them, because I used to think that drinking large amounts of juice was the best way to get my Vitamin C. Any teacher will tell you that germs run rampant in every school building, and I thought that the best way to keep up my immune system was to start off my day by consuming three or more glasses of juice.

Unfortunately, this meant that I took in at least 300-400 calories per day and still felt hungry afterwards. Why is this? Because juice didn’t fill my body up!

I very rarely drink juice anymore, and yet I’m still healthy and consuming plenty of Vitamin C because I’ve started consuming whole fruits and vegetables instead of drinking juice. Most of my smoothies contain pineapple, but I’m not averse to consuming a clementine or two when they’re in season or breaking out a grapefruit from time to time. For those of you who enjoy green smoothies, spinach is a great source of Vitamin C. By intentionally selecting and consuming foods that will satisfy my hunger, I’m able to take in enough Vitamin C and to stay healthy without consuming empty calories. Total win!

I hope that these tips will help you begin to eat healthy. Please feel free to stop by my blog ( for more healthy eating, healthy living, running, and fitness tips. Thanks for reading!


Thanks so much for the great tips to eat healthy, Joe! Readers, I hope you are inspired to try these tips (if you haven’t already implemented them in your routine) as they are easy & effective! It’s definitely a great starting point for revamping your nutrition. Have any questions? Leave a comment!


  • Great tips! I’m a big fan of using greek yogurt as a substitute for mayo/sour cream. I also use it as a sub for heavy cream in some recipes. I’ll make a “tomato cream” pasta, but just mix marinara sauce with greek yogurt and heat it in a saucepan with the whole wheat pasta. So delicious. I also use greek yogurt to make a healthier spinach artichoke dip. Yum!

  • Sure lean ground turkey meat is delicious – especially if you mix the meat with butternut squash – JUST SAYING lol – but don’t look over GRASS-FED/FINISHED red meats! They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids and flipping delicious 🙂

  • Good tips! The turkey burgers at Trader Joe’s are a steal! The only thing I would disagree with is on the milk. I strive for a whole foods diet and we buy whole milk. I have read that the milks with lesser fat have more sugar. I feel better drinking whole but keep my intake to a minimum and have actually been drinking almond milk lately. Another option is to simply drink more water instead of milk as milk is a big calorie hog!

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