89 Simple Swaps That Could Change Your Life
Whole grains for white, quality for quantity, Wii Fit for Mario Kart—just one smart swap can pave the way to a healthier and happier life. We decided to go all out and provide 89 “this for that’s,” so there are no excuses when it comes to making healthier choices!
1. Planks for crunches. Okay okay, have we said this enough? Crunches may not be the secret to six-pack abs. Give planks a try instead to work that wholecore. Extra points for holding it for a minute straight!
2. Interval workout for relaxed run. Congrats on that 26.2-mile marathon. Now try a 20-minute interval run that involves lots of sprinting with some walking recovery. It may kick up the heat even more.
3. Incline for flat treadmill. In a perfect, outdoor world, flat roads rarely exist. (Sorry, midwestern readers!) Add some hills to that treadmill run by cranking up the incline, and feel the muscle-building burn!
4. Zumba for elliptical. Trash that Cosmo-reading elliptical routine and surprise the body with a fun, calorie-burning cardio session. Sure beats staying stuck to a machine.
6. Warming up for rushing right to it. We know that barbell looks tempting. But before hitting the weight rack, do an active warm-up to loosen up limbs and get the most out of the workout.
7. Standing for sitting at a desk. How often does someone complain about having to sit in a cubicle all day? We have a simple solution (no college degree required)… stand. Use a pile of books to prop up the computer, or purchase one of these.
8. Exercise ball for office chair. Okay, we get it. Some people really don’t want to stand at their cubicle. So stay seated, but on a Swiss ball! It can help with balance and that six-pack. Fitness at the fingertips!
9. Gym for napping. Falling asleep at the wheel? Pull over. Tired in front of the TV? Hit the gym. It provides a big boost of energy and burns calories.
11. Pull-ups for bicep curls. Isolating muscles is so 2012. Pull-ups are not only impressive (I can do two, thankyouverymuch) but they work way more than one muscle. Talk about multitasking.
12. Squats for leg press. Forget staying seated to work out the legs. Amp up the training sesh and do some squats to strengthen all the leg muscles, with some gluteus maximus work in there too!
14. Foam rolling for static stretching. Need to get the knots out? Try using a foam roller instead of sitting and stretching to the toes. It’s almost like a personal massage.
15. Exergames for Mario Kart. Mario may be booking it through the race course, but holding the remote control does next to nothing for our own heart rate. Try out Wii Fit or Just Dance—they’re designed to provide light to moderate exercise.
16. Rowing for biking. How often can we row, row, row a boat indoors? Take advantage of the rowing machine instead of the good ’ol bike; it’s a super upper and lower body exercise.
17. Stairs for escalator. We’ve heard the tip a million times, so here it is for the millionth plus one. If the option’s available, go the old-fashion route and climb the stairs to burn some extra calories.
18. Fun workout for dreaded one. Loathe the elliptical? Try the stair-master. Hate the bench press? Do push-ups instead. We can still challenge ourselves without doing exercises we hate.
19. Active date for dinner and a movie. Save a night at that French restaurant for retirement and go on a fun, active winter date with a special someone. Sledding can be just as intimate as duck confit, and it sneaks in a hill-climbing workout, too.
20. Parking farther away for getting a spot up close. There’s no need to circle the parking lot five times looking for the perfect spot. Just park further away and walk the extra 100 feet to Target. (Doesn’t count as a trip to the gym, though!)
21. Walking further for running shorter. New to running? It’s okay. Even if a mile is all that’s possible, keep walking for a good cardio workout. Hold some light weights to up the intensity even more!
22. Working out with a pal for exercising by yourself. Grab that special someone or just a friend and hit the gym; working out with others may strengthen trust. Plus he or she could help motivate us through that final set of push-ups!
23. Hands-free running for holding handles. Hands off! On the treadmill, don’t rely on the handlebars. They take some of the stress off the body and make that workout less challenging.
25. Homemade post-workout snack for a protein bar. Bring a PB&J or another post-workout snack to the gym rather than buying a protein bar. We need some after-exercise fuel, but don’t get it in the form of excess sugar!
26. Cooking for eating out. Even if we try to eat healthy at a restaurant, that pesky bread bowl or sneaky salad may pack more calories than we planned for. Trust those top-chef skills and turn on the (skillet) heat. Cooking at home will more likely result in a healthier meal, not to mention a happier wallet.
27. Whole fruit for fruit juice. A glass of O.J.’s missing the pulp, skin, and full fiber content of an orange. Skip the glass and go with the whole piece of fruit to reap the benefits of this sweet, healthy snack.
28. Pan-fried for deep-fried. Obvious news flash: Deep-fried food is unhealthy. Keep things crispy by pan-frying lean protein or veggies in the skillet with some cooking oil. We promise it’ll be just as tasty!
29. Local produce for supermarket veggies. Take a trip to the farmer’s market instead of Walmart’s produce aisle. According to the USDA, local, seasonal fruits and veggies may be more nutritious. It helps out local economies, too!
30. Oil and balsamic for other dressings. Ever flip that dressing bottle around and see a million ingredients listed? Think “less is more” and lightly dress a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar—no additives included!
32. Greek yogurt for sour cream. Sour cream can taste pretty good in a burrito. To get that same creamy coolness, add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to amp up the protein and slash the fat.
33. Cinnamon for sugar. Here’s a spicy suggestion: Using cinnamon, rather than sugar packets, in coffee can heighten the flavor without adding extra calories. Try it in oatmeal too!
34. Salsa for cream cheese dips. You say tomato, I say salsa. Dip the chip into this healthy alternative to cheesy spreads. Plus, salsa packs a fiery, flavorful punch!
35. Frozen grapes for popsicles. It may sound a little weird, but hear us out. Stick a bunch of grapes in the freezer and snack on them a few hours later—it’s like eating bite-sized Popsicles with no added sugar!
37. Fresh fruit for syrup at brunch. Every now and then, there’s nothing like a good stack of pancakes. Cut calories by skipping Aunt Jemima and spreading those cakes with fresh fruit.
38. Air-popped popcorn for chips. On a salt spree? Air-pop some popcorn and add a dash of salt—three whole cups is only about 100 calories. That’s way more satisfying than six measly and greasy chips.
40. Brown rice for white. It’s in our manifesto, so we can’t ignore it: White rice is stripped of many essential nutrients (like fiber), so get the full, nutritious benefits of brown rice that’ll also help fill us up!
41. Whole-wheat pasta for white. Just like rice, whole-wheat pasta has a nutty flavor that’s filled with antioxidants and fiber. White pasta just doesn’t do the trick!
42. Oatmeal for sugary cereal. Cap’n Crunch and Frosted Flakes should stay a part of our childhood past. One bowl of cereal can be filled with sugar (and who eats only one bowl?), so choose some heart-healthy oatmeal instead.
43. Biking to work for driving. If the office is a few miles away, skip the Sedan and hop on the bike (weather permitting). A little bike-ride can boost endorphins before the workday starts ! (Paying for gas is no fun, anyway.)
44. Packing lunch for eating out. Lunch boxes aren’t just for middle school. Pack a sandwich or some leftovers to bring to school, work—wherever. It’ll make that vending machine look far less appetizing.
45. Eating three meals for skipping out. We should only eat when we’re hungry, but being too busy to squeeze in a mid-day meal can leave us feeling tired and grouchy—not to mention depriving us of essential nutrients to get us through the day!
46. Mustard for mayo. For tomorrow’s turkey sandwich, skip the fat-filled mayo and spread some tasty (and naturally fat-free) mustard on the bread!
47. Avocado for butter. Take plain old bread to the next level with avocado spread instead of butter. Add a dash of sea salt and some sliced tomato for a mid-day snack!
48. Lean meats for fatty ones. Bacon is overrated. For a boost of protein when watching fat intake, go after lean meats like turkey and chicken over pork and beef.
49. Marinara for white sauce. We doubt penne ala vodka is made with Grey Goose, and besides, all the extra calories in white sauce aren’t worth it. Choose marinara sauce for that next bowl of spaghetti—the garlic and tomatoes will spice the meal right up!
50. Doggy bag for food coma. How often do we leave a restaurant actually having room for dessert? Forget trying to lick the plate clean, and take half the meal to go. To avoid eating more than planned, ask the waiter to wrap half of it up before serving!
51. Chewing slowly for speed eating. What’s the rush? Slow down and chew food—studies show people who eat faster consume more calories.
52. Eating at the table for chowing in front of the TV. Dining in front of the television can lead to serious over-eating. So forget multitasking and carve out time in the day to enjoy a meal at the table.
53. Eating breakfast for hitting snooze. It may be temping to hit the snooze button more than once in the morning, but allow some time for breakfast—it may help jumpstart metabolism, and at the very least could help some of us wake up before heading to the office.
54. Black coffee for latte. If that caffeine fix is calling, order a simple black coffee. A soy-mocha-extra-shot-frappuccino extravaganza isn’t worth the calories (or dolla dolla bills).
55. Toast for bagel. How often do we eat five slices of toast for breakfast? Well, that’s what a bagel can amount to, so fight that Dunkin’ Donuts craving and enjoy a slice or two of whole-wheat bread.
56. Medium plate for large one. Using a larger plate may have us eating more than planned. Switch to a smaller one (about 8 to 10 inches) and save more than 20 percent of the calories a large plate could pile on.
57. Eating from the bowl over digging into the box. Some mindless handfuls of cereal can turn into more than a bowl’s worth. So portion out food rather than eating straight from the (soon-to-be-empty) box.
58. Hard-boiled eggs for fried. Who needs extra grease in the morning? Drop some eggs in boiling water and cook them up for a protein-packed breakfast.
59. Chopsticks for forks. Slow down and eat that Pad Thai with some chopsticks. It may be a challenge, but it’ll stop us from speed-slurping those noodles with a fork.
60. Grocery shopping when full for shopping while hungry. Whole Foods may damage our bank account if we head in with hungry eyes. (Wait, how did three packages of all-natural cookies get in the pantry?) Shop when full to avoid buying more than what’s necessary.
61. Stopping when full for cleaning the plate. Sorry mom, but telling us to clean our plates before leaving the table has led to some bad habits. Listen to the body and stop eating when it’s had enough—a plate half-full means more leftovers and fewer calories!
63. Power nap for energy drink. For a quick pick-me-up, take a 10-minute snooze rather than grabbing a Red Bull. Energy drinks can pack as much sugar as six Krispy Kreme donuts, while a catnap is always calorie-free.
64. Gratitude for complaining. Feeling thankful can actually make us happier and healthier, so don’t forget to appreciate every bit of good in life!
67. Meditation for comfort food. When stress strikes, don’t grab a tub of ice cream for comfort. Try dimming the lights and meditating for as little as five minutes—it’s totally calming.
68. Yoga for Facebook. Got a spare 30 minutes? Those Facebook friends won’t post any shape-shifting statuses. Use the free time to roll out the yoga mat and work on flexibility and strength while alleviating stress and anxiety.
69. Being upfront for acting passive aggressive. Roommate forgot to clean the dishes again? Rather than bottling up that anger, be forthright (but nice!). Working out issues is better than building up inner frustration.
70. Journaling for emotional eating. Sometimes a cookie or two can lift our spirits, but writing down our thoughts can be just as therapeutic—no calories involved.
71. Working at a desk for working in the bedroom. Finish that assignment at a desk rather than between the sheets. Working in bed could make it harder to fall asleep!
72. Fun alarm clock song for annoying ringer. Who wants to be woken from a peaceful slumber thanks to an irritating beep? (Waking up early is hard enough.) Choose a fun little melody on the cell phone to wake up to instead!
73. Fancy silverware for plastic. Let’s get a little classy— even in that shabby apartment. Using some nice forks and knives will add some style to that bowl of ramen noodles, making us feel like real adults.
74. Carpooling for driving alone. H.O.V. lane aside, carpooling with a pal can make a morning commute less boring. Besides, it reduces air pollution and cuts down on gas money.
75. Breathing for bein’ a stress mess. Calm breathing can boost relaxation and calm the mind. Take a long, deep breath to relax the bod rather than stressing out.
76. Smiling for frowning. Even when we’re alone, smiling can improve mood. Try grinning in the shower or on the way to work—it may really make us feel cheerful.
77. Color for drab shades. Science suggests wearing red can boost confidence and self-esteem. So save the black for the Batman costume and brighten up that wardrobe.
78. Keeping the same bedtime for winging it. Setting a bedtime schedule may help us fall asleep faster, so pick a good time and try to stick to it!
79. Little milestones for big goals. Thinking big is great, but huge goals may take time to reach. Don’t forget the small achievements we can make—they’ll also add up to big, positive change!
80. Clean workspace for clutter. Take some time to put away the laundry and organize the paper-piled desk. Having a clean space may make us more organized and eager to tackle the day.
81. Venting to a friend for bottling it up. Sometimes life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. When sad or stressed, reach out to a trusted friend instead of holding in the feelings. Just talking could make us feel better!
82. Self-love for self-criticism. We often focus on our faults rather than our worth. Stop pointing out the negative and focus on all those redeeming qualities!
83. Focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. Don’t focus on yesterday’s issues. Think of the possibilities and go after that goal!
84. Moderation for deprivation. We can still be healthy without skipping dessert. As long as we regulate our indulgences, they can help keep that smile around. So go ahead—treat yo' self.
85. Planning for procrastination. Got a lot to do? Making a plan, rather than waiting ’til the last minute, helps ensure we get things done.
86. Honesty for excuses. The gym wasn’t too crowded, and the bus actually didn’t come late. Skip the excuses—being honest with others and ourselves is the best option.
87. Comfy shoes for fancy footwear. Blisters and sore soles are never fun, no matter how suave those shoes may look. Better keep it comfy in the foot department.
88. Saying no for over-committing. Sometimes saying no is hard, but agreeing to too much can be overwhelming and bring on sickness. Figuring out what we can realistically commit to will help keep stress away.
89. Calling a friend for texting. Phone a friend rather than shooting them a text. It’s more personal, and hearing a friendly voice may lift the spirits.
Reading Greatist for reading anything else on The Internet. We recently discovered the website Greatist, which is packed with health and fitness information that’s trusted and super-relatable. We’ve become so hooked that it’s the only site we visit!
This article originally posted January 19, 2012 and was updating on March 12, 2014.
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