Healthy eating – swaps for better health

Key points about food swaps for better health

  • The next time you reach for a fizzy drink or white bread, pause and think about swapping it out for something healthier, such as water or wholegrain bread.
  • Eating a wide range of healthy food ensures you get all the energy, vitamins and minerals you need to live a well-balanced and healthy life.
Happy young woman holding her sunglasses
Print this page

Overall it's better for you and your whānau to eat home cooked meals from scratch rather than relying on energy dense fatty, sugary and salty ready-to-eat foods. But that's not always easy to do, it takes time and effort to make changes. However by starting off small you can gradually swing the balance towards healthier alternatives little by little. 

Have a go at replacing some unhealthy food and drink choices with something that’s good for you, but still tastes really good. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking a habit and trying something new. Try a new healthy recipe once a week – it might become a favourite. 

Remember to look at food labels for guidance when you choose packaged foods. Read more about understanding food labels.

Girl holding apple and doughnut in each hand

Image credit: Canva

1. Fizzy drink for water

Fizzy drink is high in sugar and too much sugar increases your risk of putting on unwanted weight, tooth decay, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Drinking water instead of fizzy drink also saves you money as water is free. Watch out for sports and energy drinks – they may sound healthy but have a surprising amount of sugar in them.

2. Fruit juice for chilled water and a piece of fruit

Fruit juice is also high in sugar, so if you’re after a refreshing drink, have a glass of chilled water and a piece of fruit instead. Another idea is to add some pieces of fruit (eg, strawberry or peach) or a splash of lemon juice and some ice to your water to add a bit of healthy flavour.

3. Full-fat milk for reduced fat milk

Next time you buy milk, make sure you get one that is reduced in fat. It’s still milk – but better for you. If you or your tamariki are in need of calcium for your bones try a brand of milk with added calcium. 

4. White bread for wholegrain bread

Wholegrain bread is packed with way more nutrients (such as fibre) than white bread, is less processed and is better for you. So replace white bread, bagels and muffins with wholegrain varieties. 

5. Muesli bars/potato crisps for fresh fruit or a small handful of unsalted nuts

While muesli bars may seem healthy, they can be loaded with sugar and saturated fat. Instead, try some fresh fruit and a small handful of unsalted mixed nuts. Nuts and seed are good for your heart health.

6. Chippies with creamy dip for raw vegetable sticks with hummus or homemade popcorn

Raw vegetable sticks (eg, carrot, cucumber or capsicum) with hummus or homemade popcorn are great substitutes for processed chippies and creamy dip.

7. Dried fruit for fresh fruit

Dried fruit is relatively high in sugar and calories, so having fresh fruit is a better option. The stickiness of dried fruit is also bad for teeth and can contribute to decay. Fresh fruit also fills you up for longer due to the water content.  

8. High-fat cheeses for reduced-fat cheeses

Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein but can be high in saturated fat. Instead of high-fat cheeses like brie, blue cheese or camembert, try lower fat options like edam, quark, cottage cheese or feta.

9. Butter for margarine

Butter is high in saturated fat so swap it out for margarine or, even better, don't use it at all and put an unsalted nut butter on your bread or toast instead.

10. Coconut cream for lite coconut cream or milk

Coconut cream is a staple in many people’s pantries. Buying the ‘lite’ version or coconut milk instead will reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume.

11. Coconut oil for a small amount of canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil

Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat, so replace it with a lower fat option such as canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil.

12. Lard or dripping for a small amount of canola, olive, sunflower or rice bran oil

Similarly, lard or dripping is high in saturated fat so try an alternative such as a healthy oil instead.

Ingredients and healthier alternatives(external link) Heart Foundation, NZ
Choose healthy snacks(external link)(external link)(external link) NSW Government, Australia, 2021 English(external link)(external link)Arabic(external link)(external link)Bengali(external link)(external link)Chinese (simplified)(external link)(external link)Chinese (traditional)(external link)(external link)Dari(external link)(external link)Hindi(external link)(external link)Korean(external link)(external link)Mongolian [PDF, 3.3 MB](external link)Nepalese(external link)(external link)Persian(external link)(external link)Tamil(external link)(external link)
Healthy eating tips(external link) Healthline
Eat More Fruit and Vegetables(external link) NSW Government, Australia, 2020 English(external link), Arabic(external link), Bengali(external link), Chinese (simplified)(external link), Chinese (traditional)(external link), Dari(external link), Hindi(external link), Korean(external link), Mongolian [PDF, 448 KB], Nepalese(external link), Persian(external link), Tamil(external link)
Swap this for that(external link) Healthy Kids, NZ and Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
Healthy Heart Visual Food Guide Poster(external link) Heart Foundation, NZ


  1. Cheese – the good, the bad and the ugly(external link) British Heart Foundation, UK
  2. Eating and activity guidelines for New Zealand adults(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora, 2020
  3. Swap this for that(external link) Healthy Kids, NZ and Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora

Need help now?

Healthline logo in supporters block

Need to talk logo

Healthpoint logo

Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Page last updated: