Crowding out is based on the idea of adding wholefoods (foods in their natural state or as close as possible to their natural state) into your diet rather than removing or restricting particular foods from your diet. Essentially you are creating new habits by crowding out the bad stuff with good stuff.
Restrictions result in cravings which turn into binges. This is the exact reason why diets are unsustainable. Dieters are emotionally connected to their food. Dieters think about food all the time. Dieters deprive themselves. Once deprived, our primal bodies think food is scarce and turn on survival mode. In survival mode, our metabolism slows and we store food as fat for leaner times ahead, rather than using it for fuel and energy now. Crowding out is essentially the opposite approach of dieting and it works! Let’s face it, if traditional diets worked, we’d all be healthy, but we’re not.
In order to get started, I recommend changing one thing each week – in time these small changes will become your way of life. After a year you will be living a completely different life. Do not clear out your fridge, pantry and cupboards – this may feel symbolic and empowering but it will overwhelm you. When you run out of an item, simply replace it with a healthier option if available. In time, you will crowd out unhealthy foods with fantastic wholefood options. I believe there is a good version of everything and a bad version of everything.
These are my favourite simple food swaps to get you started:
Swap ice cream for fruit ice cream. Simply process a frozen banana in your blender and you have a delicious vegan ice cream. You can add raw cacao powder, nuts, berries or flaked coconut for different flavours. Take a look at the recipe for my Berry Banana Protein Ice Cream.
Swap chocolate for raw cacao powder. Raw cacao powder is a great source of antioxidants and magnesium. Take a look at my Homemade Chocolate recipe.
Swap potato chips for popcorn. Kale chips are another fantastic option when you have the munchies, add a little Himalayan salt to satisfy your cravings.
Swap soft drinks for coconut water. If you struggle to drink water, try making your own Vitamin Water with diced fruit and herbs. My favourite combinations are Minty Watermelon and Strawberry Lime. Kombucha is also a great alternative to soft drink.
Swap energy drinks for green juices and smoothies. Give yourself a natural energy boost with greens. My favourite smoothie is my Minty Fresh Green Smoothie. My favourite juice is my Green Cleansing Tonic.
Swap coffee for herbal tea. Peppermint tea is my favourite because it assists with digestion so is perfect after meals.
Swap vegetable oil for coconut oil. Choose organic cold pressed oils if available. Other great options are olive oil, macadamia oil and flax oil.
Swap margarine for organic butter. Margarine is highly processed and often made from genetically modified oils. Coconut oil and fresh avocado are also great replacements for margarine.
Swap table salt for Himalayan salt. Table salt is so refined that it has very little nutritional value as all the trace minerals are destroyed during processing. Processed table salt can also contain additives to prevent clumping.
Swap white sugar for raw honey, maple syrup, dates or stevia. White sugar is processed, devoid of nutrients and depletes vitamin and mineral levels. If you’re avoiding sugar completely, cinnamon and vanilla powder make great substitutes.
Swap cereal for sugar free granola. Cereals are filled with hidden sugars and processed grains which do not provide a sustained source of energy. You can make my Gluten Free Cereal or my Chocolate Granola.
Swap white bread for good quality rye or spelt sourdough or a rye wrap. Other alternatives are flax crackers, rice cakes, corn thins or rice paper. Bread is refined, bleached, stripped of valuable nutrients, often coloured to appear wholemeal or wholegrain (seriously check the ingredients!) and high in sodium. I wrote in detail about bread here. I also shared some bread alternatives here.
Swap couscous for quinoa. Couscous is processed wheat flour. Quinoa is a wholegrain packed with protein to help keep you feeling full.
Swap white rice for brown rice. If you can source them, black or wild rice are also fantastic options. Buckwheat is an excellent grain free option.
Swap white pasta for buckwheat pasta. Brown rice pasta, black bean pasta or mung bean pasta are also great alternatives.
Don’t get tricked! Don’t mistakenly crowd out unhealthy foods with the fake health foods. These days many packaged and processed foods are marketed as ‘health foods’. It’s important to concentrate on wholefoods. Think lean protein, wholegrains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruit. Avoid fake health foods such as agave, subway, anything labelled low fat, soy flour, artificial sweeteners and fruit juice.