Healthy Substitutions

I really like this visual list of foods, by category. This is the not the whole picture of everything you should or shouldn't eat, but it is a good place to start to understanding how to eat to maintain a healthy gut (else our digestive system gets thrown off). Trust me, I know from experience.

Variety is always the best, so eat along the spectrum and don't be too hard on yourself. Small and simple changes with healthier, ex: raw honey in baked good, in place of white sugar (when you can--you don't always, at first), or real maple syrup instead of imitation.

Keep adding healthier alternatives and slowly start getting away from the not so good alternatives. You will be amazed how much you get away from foods you just eat because you are used to them and how much your taste buds will thank you for being able to appreciate healthier food more. No joke. I feel a much more heightened sense and appreciation for the things I eat by trying to eat more whole foods. And my gut it happier.

Once you get a feel for these general guideline, you can start slowly improving the quality of the substitutions. When thinking about substitutions, you have to have an idea of what the ideal is, otherwise you won't know what to substitute. For example...if I was trying to count calories, I would rate healthy substitutes differently that if I was looking at overall nutritional content. I look for minimally processed whole foods.

Here's a simple list of good, better and best (and what to avoid) in your quest for eating more healthy. 

Red Meat & Pork

  • Best: Wild game or local grass-finished meat and pasture-raised pork purchased from a rancher you know.
  • Better: Non-local grass-finished meat and pasture-raised pork purchased through a good-quality company (see sources)
  • Good: Organic or free-range beef and organic or natural pork.
  • Not-as-Good: Conventional meat from confinement operations.
  • Tip: If purchasing the best quality meat stretches your budget too thin, don’t give up and purchase CAFO meats; instead, consider purchasing less expensive cuts and supplementing with highly nutrient-dense, but inexpensive organ meats.

Poultry & Eggs

  • Best: Wild birds, local pasture-raised poultry and eggs from local, pasture-raised hens purchased directly from the farmer.
  • Better: Pasture-raised poultry and eggs from an indirect source like a local market.
  • Good: Organic, omega-3 eggs and meat from “free range” chickens.
  • Not-as-Good: Conventionally raised meat and eggs from battery cage industrial chicken farms.
  • Tip: There probably is someone locally raising chickens and selling eggs, don’t be afraid to ask around or take a trip to the country.


  • Best: Frequent and heavy use of fish and roe from wild-caught,   ocean-going fish from cold waters.
  • Better: Periodic use of fish and roe from wild-caught ocean-going fish.
  • Good: A spoon full of cod liver oil or fish oil.
  • Not-as-Good: Fish from fish farming operations.

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Best: Fresh locally, organically or biodynamically grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Better: Fresh and frozen organically grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Good: Purchasing as much organically grown fruits and vegetables as possible while supplementing with conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with low-pesticide residue (vinegar/water rinse).
  • Not-as-Good: Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with high-pesticide residue. Most canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Dairy Products
  • Best: Raw whole milk, butter and cream from grass-fed cows producing milk containing A2 beta casein (see sources).
  • Better: Raw whole milk, butter and cream from grass-fed cows containing A1 beta casein.
  • Good: Vat-pasteurized, non-homogenized dairy from grass-fed cows.
  • Not-as-Good: Non-organic dairy products from cows of unknown origin.   Ultra high temperature pasteurized organic milk.
  • Fats & Oils
  • Best: Traditional fats including raw butter from grass-fed cows, suet & tallow from grass-fed cows, organic unrefined coconut oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, poultry fat from pastured chickens, lard from pastured pork (see sources).
  • Better: Butter from grass-fed cows, unrefined coconut oil, poultry fat from “free-range” chickens, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Good: Organic butter, refined coconut oil, olive oil.
  • Not-as-Good: Canola oil, margarine, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oils (excluding coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, olive oil and flaxseed oil), shortening.

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