If you’re new to 90/10, you may be finding out that a lot of your favorite or familiar foods are yellow or red tier, and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I know I was when I first started!
But, what I’ve come here to say is that there are many EASY and healthy substitutes so that you can still eat many of your most familiar foods, with just a slight tweak.
Check out this list of simple healthy substitutes or “swaps”.
Simple Healthy Substitutes For Your Favorite Foods
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1 – American Cheese
You might know them as Kraft Singles, or individually wrapped orange squares. This is not actual cheese, and if you read the label, it even says “processed cheese food”. As in, not cheese, but a cheese-like substance. (Yes I know you like them but just hear me out.)
The simple healthy substitute here is to just buy REAL American Cheese. If you want to stick with the Kraft brand, look for Kraft Deli Deluxe. These will not come individually wrapped, but they’re still orange squares and they still taste like American cheese (better, if you ask me).
2 – Ketchup
Most ketchups will be red tier due to the inclusion of sugar in the ingredients, but there are some brands out there that are yellow, even green tier! Being a label reader is how you’ll know, but here are some known brands to get you started:
- Primal Kitchen: green tier
- Tessemae’s: green tier
- Organicville: yellow tier
- Heinz sweetened only with honey: yellow tier
- Heinz traditional: red tier
- Simply Heinz: red tier
- Hunt’s: red tier
- Red Gold: red tier
3 – Bread
You probably already know that a lot of bread brands are not that great, but what you might not know is that you CAN STILL HAVE BREAD in the 90/10 Nutrition program! Bread (and bread products) are the only exception to the no-sugar rule.
In 90/10 Nutrition, bread is green tier if it is 100% whole grain (wheat and/or any other grain as long as it’s 100% whole grain) with no high fructose corn syrup. Sugar plays a necessary role in allowing bread to rise, so it’s allowed here. More on the 90/10 rules for bread here.
Please note there are brands of bread that you can get that use honey instead of sugar, and those would be preferred if you can find them, but any bread that is 100% whole grain with no high fructose corn syrup is green tier. This counts for bagels and English muffins and pizza dough as well. Any bread product.
My favorite green tier breads are:
- Dave’s Killer Bread (green label—note not all DKB is green tier)
- Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat
- Orowheat 100% Whole Wheat
- Oatnut is a great bread too but it is on the yellow tier because it’s not 100% whole grain.
4 – Pasta
Ah, another carby question mark. Can I have pasta on the 90/10 Nutrition program? Is pasta healthy? The answers are yes and yes!
Regular pasta is yellow tier because it’s not 100% whole grain. It might say “wheat flour” or “semolina wheat flour” or even “semolina” but while those are wheat, they are not WHOLE wheat. Parts of the wheat are removed during processing.
The simple healthy substitute here is any 100% whole grain pasta or even 100% bean or vegetable pasta. I personally like 100% whole wheat pastas the best, but if you’re gluten free or looking for more veggies in your life you might like the 100% brown rice pasta or some of the veggie ones.
Don’t forget about spaghetti squash too! Those are some tasty green tier noodles right there!
5 – Cereal
Ok so I fully admit that healthy, 90/10-compliant cereal is a very tricky one to find in the store. Most cereals have added sugars. A lot of cereals, including granolas, have A LOT of added sugars. Then if you go down the road of artificial colors, processed grains, and more, you’ll be so far down the red tier you might never find your way back! Believe me: I LOVE cereal, even the junky ones! But I save them for my planned treats.
There are some cereals available that are green or yellow tier, but not many:
- Lara Bar brand recently started making cereals that are yellow or green tier!
- Engine 2 granolas are yellow tier (maple syrup)
- Grape Nuts are green tier
We also have a bunch of homemade granola recipes on the site. Check them out here!
6 – Carbonated Beverages
You already know soda, even “zero” soda and “diet” soda, is bad for you, but what happens if you don’t particularly like water or just want something different now and then? If you follow the 90/10 Nutrition program, are you stuck drinking flat water the rest of your life?
No, but you’ll be surprised how much you’ll start to crave water once you stop drinking the junk.
Flavored or “essenced” carbonated water is technically green tier if the ingredients are compliant. I especially like La Croix.
Even newer to the market is Spindrift, which is flavored with a small amount of real fruit juice. No natural flavors or any of that.
The part I really want to stress, however, is that your body needs real water most. The flavored carbonated waters are ok, but not to replace real water.
7 – Maple Syrup (processed)
If you have a big bottle of Hungry Jack in your fridge or pantry right now, go check the ingredients. I can almost guarantee there is not one speck of pure maple syrup in it. Instead, it’s basically maple flavored corn syrup. Extremely processed and refined. Smack dab on the red tier!
The simple healthy substitute here is, of course, pure maple syrup. Look for the word pure. It will usually come in a smaller package, and, yes, it will be more expensive than the imitation stuff. But it is actually much sweeter than other table syrups, so you can use less!
Pure Maple Syrup is on the yellow tier, and can be used in recipes in place of sugar for a healthier sweetener
8 & 9 – Peanut Butter and Jelly
I’m putting these two together, because, well, they often go together! I love me a good PB and J, so I had to find a way to make it comply. Luckily it wasn’t as complicated as making my own PB or Jam. Easy easy swaps here and these products can be found in even the most basic grocery stores.
Most peanut butters have added sugar or even corn syrup. In fact, if you don’t have to stir your peanut butter, I can pretty much predict that it has some sort of refined sweetener in it. Canola oil (yellow tier) is another common ingredient in peanut butter. Even some peanut butters labeled “natural” still have sugar added.
Always read ingredients, but Smuckers Natural is green tier. And any other peanut butter whose ingredients are “peanuts’ or “peanuts, salt” is green tier. Trader Joe’s, Adam’s, and even some store brands like Kroger are starting to make green tier peanut butters.
You can also make your own with a good blender.
Obviously, jelly is going to be red tier. Hello, sugar! However, you can bump one level up to the yellow tier if you look for “fruit only preserves” that are sweetened ONLY with fruit juice. Concentrated fruit juice is yellow tier, but it’s a huge step up from the red tier. I like Polaner All Fruit (not the sugar free kind, though, which has artificial sweeteners in it and is also on the red tier) or Smuckers Simply Fruit. Again, read the labels.
10 – Potatoes
Potatoes are on the yellow tier due to their calorie-to-nutrient ratio. They offer a lot of calories and carbs, but not very much nutrition. Best eaten in smaller amounts, hence the yellow tier. Sweet Potatoes, however, are green tier and a simply healthy substitute. Lots more nutrition here. So sub in sweet potatoes where you would normally eat potatoes and you boost yourself from the yellow tier to the green tier with a very easy swap!
If you’re not a sweet potato fan, I suggest you try Hannah sweet potatoes, which are a white-fleshed sweet potato that is less sweet than traditional orange sweet potatoes or yams. (Also good for the visual eater who prefers to see white potatoes on their plate). You can also eat purple potatoes as they are on the green tier as well.