The other night, a friend mentioned her “COVID-15” as she sighed over not giving up sugar this summer as she had planned. With everything changed, less activity available, and almost zero safe socializing, it’s been easy for a lot of folks to put on these extra pounds. Especially since, apparently, everyone’s becoming a baking expert these days.

I work from home all the time and live about 45-minutes from most of the folks I know. We only recently moved to this area, so we never got the chance to make local friends. So, in many ways, the quarantine hasn’t changed our day-to-day life much.

It has, however, helped me become even more conscious of the things I’m eating and doing. I had wanted to focus on my health this year anyway, but after having COVID, I’ve especially felt this need.

One of those ways we’re making changes for health’s sake is substituting healthy items for less healthy.

1. Sparkling Water Instead of Soda

I’ve never been big into soda pop myself, but my husband has always had soda somewhere in his peripheral. I was getting bored with plain old water and felt like my own fruit-infused water was a waste of the fruit, so I decided to give naturally essenced, no sweetener added, sparkling water a try.

I quickly found a few flavors I love and tried introducing them to Matt. It took a while, but he began drinking the water as well and now we no longer keep Sprite for his upset stomach. Lemon or lime flavored carbonated water has all the qualities he was looking for without all the sugar.

2. Fruit Instead of Sweets

We generally only buy candy once a month – when I’m craving chocolate during my period – but otherwise, sweets haven’t been a huge issue for us. Except last year when I was developing a dessert-heavy cookbook for Ulysses Press. All those rich, buttery, British baked goods sucked us in.

Now, when I’m craving baked goods, candy, ice cream (my weakness!), or other sweets, I’m eating a piece of fruit first. Plums, peaches, nectarines, tangerines, apples, berries, etc. all provide that sweetness that I’m looking for without unnatural sugars and empty calories.

There’s some debate in the diet-world on whether or not fruit is good for you. If you have specific medical conditions, like diabetes, these concerns are valid. However, most of us should be eating a variety of fruits for the nutrients they provide. Restrictive diets (elimination of whole food groups) aren’t particularly healthy in the long run.

You can be selective about which fruits you consume, of course, and you should be. Some are much higher in carbohydrates than others, some are higher in fiber than others, and some are much higher in certain nutrients than others. Do a little study to learn which fruits fit best with your lifestyle and focus on those, but even then, don’t exclude the others you love altogether.

3. Hummus and Veggies Instead of Chips and Fries

We are a savories household. We love fries and chips (plantain chips for me!). But we know how unhealthy these can be. So instead of noshing on starchy potatoes, we whip up some hummus and baked or raw veggies wedges. We cut up sweet potatoes, green plantains, and other veggies that will crisp when baked and enjoy these with hummus dip made from dried chickpeas and Tahini. Or we cut up raw carrots and celery and green peppers and dip those in.

This substitute provides us with not only less fat and grease in our diets, but packs a punch of protein and veggies in when we’re craving junk. The trick is limiting the amount we eat.