Upgrade Your Plate: Simple Food Swaps for Healthier Eating

By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES

As a dietitian, I am often asked, “What’s the best __ (bread, crackers, cereal…) for me to eat?” While there is no “best” option, we want to offer you some nutritious selections, and share some tips on how you can judge different foods for yourself. As a general rule – the fewer ingredients, the better, as it’s normally less processed. Look at the nutrition facts label, and aim to minimize sodium and saturated fat, while maximizing fiber. Certainly, taste is important. (If you don’t like it, don’t bother!) Price is also a consideration. With so many different products available, this guide will give you great options for yogurt, cottage cheese, pasta sauce, desserts, breakfast cereal, & protein bars.

Both yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) and cottage cheese are great sources of protein while staying low in carbs. However, when flavorings are added the sugar & carbs can go up considerably. We encourage you to start with plain (unsweetened) and add your own flavorings, but sometimes you want a little sweetness, so this list compares vanilla Greek yogurts and several kinds of cottage cheese:

Keeping a few jars of pasta sauce in your pantry is an easy way to start a quick meal  Get in the habit of checking the label before you buy. Basic marinara sauce can vary greatly in the amount of carbohydrates – some varieties even have between 10-12 grams of added sugar. Here are a few that have no added sugar:

Many varieties of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are high in added sugars and have a long list of ingredients – making them highly processed. However, there are some great options for a quick breakfast. Don’t be thrown by the big difference in calories and carbs in some of these. This is due to concentrated sources of grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit – which are higher in calories.

Whether you’re craving ice cream or a frozen treat on a stick, there are a growing variety that are lower in sugar and carbs. If these foods are an occasional treat, eating a small portion of your favorite regular variety is fine! These options are great to consider if ice cream is something you eat more often:

There are so many kinds of bars on the market. Some are designed to give a protein boost, others are a quick snack. Check the label to know what you are getting! All examples below have less than 10 grams of added sugar:

To watch episodes of our live interviews with diabetes experts, click here.

The medical information on Diabetes – What To Know’s website is provided as an information resource only. The content is not in any way intended to be nor should you rely on it as a substitute for professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, advice and treatment.

Get the support you need!

We interview diabetes experts and answer your questions.