The Kitchen Agent: Simple swaps for superior nutrition

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Contributing writer

Eat the foods you like but healthier by changing a few basic ingredients

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When you are trying to make changes to your lifestyle to improve your health, making changes to your diet is a common place to start. Most of the time, when we think of a diet or eating healthier, it means removing something from our diet that isn’t good for us.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to remove things from your diet — just swap some things out. Making small changes can have a large impact on your health overall. A food swap is a small change we can all get on board with.

Let’s take a look at some of the foods that you can swap out for healthier options. Remember — we aren’t removing things from our diet, just subbing in something better. First up, pasta. Now it’s easy to swap white pasta for the whole wheat option. It tastes the same, is loaded with fiber, and is also comparable in price. If you want to take your pasta swap to the next level, try using zucchini instead. You can thinly slice zucchini to make lasagna noodles or use a spiralizer to make spaghetti style noodles. You could also enlist the help of the trusty spaghetti squash. When roasted, the edible flesh of this winter squash comes out in strands similar to spaghetti noodles.

While we are on the subject of noodles, I’d like to direct your attention to an exciting find I recently discovered in the grocery store. In the produce section by the bag salads, there were bags of steamable sweet potato noodles. Basically they were sweet potatoes that had already been spiralized and packaged for your convenience. Awesome, right? I vote yes. Sweet potatoes are the good carbs you want to have. They’re packed with vitamins C, A, fiber and potassium. Try them out in your next stir fry.

Next up we have rice. You all know the simple swap for white rice is brown rice. Packed with fiber, brown rice is the obvious healthier option. You can make it in advance and use it alongside many of your favorite dishes. I’d like to direct your attention to another convenience food which has found its way onto grocery store shelves and that is cauliflower rice. It’s very easy to make your own by grating a head of cauliflower and steaming it but who has time for all that? In the produce section, again by the bag salad, you can find pre-grated cauliflower in a steamable bag. This is such a wonderful invention because it cuts down on your meal prep time. You can use grated cauliflower as a rice substitute and even as a base for flourless pizza crust and cheesy flourless breadsticks.

Now onto one of the most difficult swaps of all: bread. The most common simple swap here is from white bread to wheat bread. Don’t forget to check the ingredients to see that whole wheat flour is in there. If you really want to cut carbs, you could try using lettuce or cucumber as a bread substitute. Lettuce makes a great hamburger bun or taco shell for a small fraction of the calories and carbs. Cucumbers can be used as the “bread” for bite size sandwiches or “crackers” to eat chicken or tuna salad on.

Some other convenience foods you may have never tried before include broccoli slaw. This is basically cole slaw mix with shredded broccoli instead of cabbage. It’s similar in texture, super flavorful, and makes a delicious simple salad with a little vinaigrette on top. I used an Asian inspired sesame salad dressing on some broccoli slaw and it really helped make my lunch seem much fancier than normal. I guess trying new foods can have that effect on a meal.

These simple swaps can help you stick to a healthier diet because you’re not really cutting out your favorite foods, you’re just upgrading them. Remember, everything in moderation. Eat bread, pasta and rice if you want to, but just keep your portion within a reasonable limit. Make healthy choices when you can and your body will thank you.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at

Cauliflower Pizza Crust


Prep Time: 15 Min • Start to Finish: 15 Min • 4 servings (½ cup each)

1 bag (16 oz) Green Giant™ Fresh Cauliflower Crumbles® Chopped Cauliflower

1 egg white

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp each garlic powder and onion powder

¼ tsp each dried basil and dried oregano

½ tsp salt Pinch of pepper

¼ cup corn meal or flour


1. Heat oven to 425°F.

2. Tear Cauliflower bag at notch.

3. Close bag with zipper leaving a 1” opening.

4. Place bag standing up in microwave; microwave on HIGH 4 minutes, or until Cauliflower can be easily pierced with a fork*. Let stand 1 minute in microwave.

5. Carefully remove bag. CAUTION HOT!

6. Meanwhile, line large baking sheet with paper towels. Place cooked Cauliflower on baking sheet and let cool 10 minutes.

7. Return Cauliflower to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the cooled Cauliflower. Stir well to combine. The mixture should come together to form a loose dough ball.

8. Place mixture onto parchment paper; pat into a 10” circle. Place parchment paper with Cauliflower crust onto wire cooling rack. Place rack in oven. Bake 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes before topping.

9. Carefully flip cooled pizza crust over onto cookie sheet. Remove parchment paper.

10. Add your favorite pizza toppings; bake 6-10 minutes at 425°F or until toppings are hot and cheese is melted.