Simple Ingredient Swaps

If you can’t find what you’re looking for at the grocery store or don’t have an ingredient on hand at home, don’t fear! Check out our list of simple ingredient swaps.

  • Don’t have canned beans? Use dried instead! Remember to wait to add salt to the beans until they are almost done cooking.
  • Swap out fresh fruit for frozen or canned fruit. When purchasing canned, just look for “no sugar added” on the label or canned in juice, instead of syrup.
  • Out of fresh vegetables? Canned or frozen can be just as nutritious! When shopping canned, choose the low-sodium or no salt added option. You can also rinse canned vegetables to remove excess sodium.
  • Can’t find bread or pizza crusts at your local grocery store? Put your baking skills to the test and make your own pizza dough at home.
  • Getting bored of plain water? Try making your own infused water. You can even add club soda to make your infused water sparkling!
  • No fresh herbs on hand? Simply swap them out with dried herbs. Just remember, you don’t need as much when the dried version.
  • Down to the last drop of vinegar? Swap it out for fresh lemon juice, which mimics vinegar’s acidity.
  • Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream! The thick, tangy consistency makes a great replacement.
  • Running low on rice? Experiment with a different grain instead! Some good options are quinoa, barley, farro, couscous, and bulgur.

For more ideas, ask our experts using our Ask a Dietitian tool.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy During Self-Isolation

  1. Involve your children in cooking. Get the whole family in the kitchen to make fun, simple meals. Children are more willing to try new foods if they have had a hand in creating it. Check out our website and social media (@CHEFSanAntonio) for healthy, family friendly recipe inspiration.
  2. Enjoy your favorite fruits and vegetables. Many farmers markets and produce wholesalers are offering curbside pickup for fresh, local fruits and vegetables. If you’re headed to the grocery store, add fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables to your list. Make sure to check for labels with “no sugar/salt added”.
  3. Reward your children with fun activities. Use fun activities to reward your children for completing online homework or household chores instead of candy.
  4. Make a daily infused water to keep in the fridge. You can add any combination of herbs and fruit or vegetables to flavor your water. Add club soda for some bubbles! Our Cucumber Mint Infusion is a great place to start.
  5. Wash your hands and produce. While this is something you should always be doing, it’s especially important now. Remind your family to wash their hands for 20 seconds and wash your fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them. We know 20 seconds feels like a long time, so turn this into a fun activity by singing the chorus of a popular song while you wash! Here’s some suggestions.
  6. Avoid drinking alcohol in excess. While there are benefits to drinking a glass of red wine, too much alcohol can be harmful to your health. Enjoy in moderation!
  7. Get adequate sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone, not just growing children. Inadequate sleep is linked with certain diseases including Type II Diabetes and Obesity.
  8. Practice mindfulness daily. Take some time each day to have a quiet moment and think of all of the things you are thankful for, such as time with your family.
  9. Eat meals at the table with your family. Turn off the TV and have a conversation while you eat. This is a great way to eat more mindfully and connect with your family.
  10. Go easy on yourself. Self-isolation is tough on everyone – don’t worry if every meal you serve your family isn’t the most Instagram-worthy or even the most nutritious. Allow yourself to acknowledge that you are doing the best you can.

Understanding the Glycemic Index and the Benefit of Low Glycemic Foods

By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD

What is the glycemic index (GI)? The glycemic index ranks foods according to their effect on your blood-sugar levels. Foods that are high on the GI (more than 70) — such as white bread or white potatoes — break down quickly in the bloodstream, rapidly raising blood-sugar levels. With high glycemic meals, you find that soon after you’re done eating, you’re hungry again — and tired!

On the other hand, foods farther down the GI (lower than 55) are metabolized more slowly, keeping your hunger satisfied and your appetite on a more even keel. In other words, low glycemic foods are better at providing a slow energy release throughout the day. There are experts who believe that by avoiding blood-sugar surges, you can help prevent many dangerous health conditions.

The goal is to eat foods that gradually raise blood sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream, thereby keeping your energy levels up and your hunger under control. More importantly, choosing low glycemic foods helps your body lose those extra pounds around your waist and decreases your risk factors for inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease.

What are the benefits of low glycemic meals?

  • Help with weight loss, especially around the waist
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Reduce the risk for heart disease
  • Improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Decrease inflammation inside the body
  • Reduce hunger and keep you satisfied longer
  • Maintain energy levels and promote physical endurance

Why is knowing more about glycemic index important?

Becoming familiar with the glycemic response of foods will help you make smarter choices. The goal is not to eliminate carbohydrates and breads from your daily diet. Your goal should be to include more nutrient-rich choices, such as whole grains and colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding these types of foods into your diet will promote health and are linked with higher energy levels, better sleep patterns, and happier moods.

Food is Fuel, Especially for Athletes

By Lauren Weaver, Texas A&M Dietetic Intern

Edited by Andi Champion, Marketing Manager, CHEF

The common phrase “food is fuel” takes on a special meaning for athletes. They need the proper combination of nutrients not only to complete the daily tasks of life but also to perform well in their sport. Help your athlete on and off the field by giving them the right foods to be their best. Athletes who want to win the race can use proper nutrition to start strong and finish fast!

 What does fueling an athlete properly look like?


Despite what we may hear on the internet, there’s no magic food or supplement that helps an athlete perform their best. The most important thing for athletes is eating the right combination of macronutrients. A macronutrient (macro for short) is a nutrient that the body needs in large amounts. They also happen to provide calories. The 3 types of macros and their functions are:

  • Carbohydrates: provide the body with energy
  • Proteins: build and repair muscle
  • Fats: help the body make hormones


To support good performance, a carbohydrate rich snack with some protein is best, ideally 1-4 hours pre-exercise. Consuming some fat is okay but too much can make you feel sluggish, so it’s best to keep fat to a minimum.  Here are some great pre-workout ideas:

  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Whole wheat toast with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana
  • Oatmeal made with dried fruit and milk
  • Almond butter on an apple

During the Workout

Drinking water is the most important thing to do during exercise. When you sweat, your body is losing water so make sure you continue to hydrate during your workout. If your athlete works out or performs for more than an hour, you can give them simple carbohydrates, such as fruit or a low-fat granola bar, every 30 minutes to keep their energy up.


After working out, the body needs carbohydrates to replenish the energy that was used, and protein to repair the muscles. Depending on the timing of your meals, your athlete can have either a meal or snack. Try one of these tasty combinations:

  • A fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt
  • Chocolate milk
  • Salmon, sweet potato, and green beans
  • A whole grain muffin with peanut butter and a glass of milk
  • A rice bowl with chicken, black beans, and sautéed vegetables

Remember to continue to hydrate post workout as the body loses a lot of water during exercise.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

This can’t be emphasized enough. Making sure you’re hydrated before, during, and after exercise is so important! In most cases, water is the best drink to hydrate with. If your athlete works out for more than an hour and sweats a lot, one bottle of Gatorade or other sports drink might be helpful. Then back to water.

For every pound (16 ounces) of sweat lost, the body needs 24 ounces of water to be fully rehydrated. If you lost multiple pounds that can be a lot to drink at one time, so it’s best to stay on top of hydration throughout the day.

For more information on sports nutrition, sign up for our new CHEF for the Student Athlete Classes at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. These classes are specifically designed for young athletes and performance artists ages 12 to 18 years old. In these hands-on, engaging classes, students will learn how to take their athletic performance to the next level by fueling their body with all the right nutrients. Classes are open to athletes or teams participating in any sport or in the performance arts and their parents. Click here for more information and to sign up.