24 Food Swaps That Slash Calories
Small changes, big results
When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. "While complete diet makeovers can be overwhelming, focusing on small simple changes makes healthy eating more manageable and sustainable over the long term," says Kelly Pritchett, RD, PhD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead of throwing your kitchen, eating habits, and sanity upside down, focus on making these simple food swaps suggested by Pritchett, as well as Tracee Yablon Brenner, RD and CEO of Real Food Moms, and Kimberly Gomer, a registered dietitian at Pritikin Longevity Center. These swaps will save you calories and help you slim down.
Eat this: Oatmeal
The body benefit: A half-cup cooked serving of Quaker Steel Cut Oats contains just 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of sugar. Sprinkling 10 fresh blueberries onto your oatmeal adds natural sweetness for just 8 calories. Meanwhile, a half-cup of Quaker's Apple, Cranberry, & Almond Granola clocks in at 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and a whopping 13 grams of sugarand that's before you add any milk.
Eat this: Scrambled eggs with veggies
The body benefit: Filled with fiber, veggies will give you a longer-lasting energy boost than the empty carbs in a breakfast sandwich. Plus, a generous helping of tomato, mushroom, or spinach in your eggs is a flavorful way to sneak in at least one of your five-a-day. Two large eggs scrambled with a half-cup of spinach comes in at 150 calories, a far cry from the 290 calories you'll find in a Dunkin' Donuts Bacon, Egg, and Cheese English muffin sandwich.
Eat this: Plain yogurt with fresh fruit
The body benefit: The concoction at the bottom of yogurt containers is typically more sugar than fruit. Slice up some strawberries or plop in some blueberries for a fresher take on the fruit-yogurt combo. Switching from Dannon's blueberry-flavored fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt to their plain variety topped with fresh blueberries will save you 60 calories and 13 grams of sugar.
Read more: How to Buy the Healthiest Yogurt
Drink this: Café Americano
The body benefit: Sticking with the straight stuff gives you a more concentrated dose of coffeeand its free-radical fighting antioxidants. After all, research from the University of Scranton shows coffee is the greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet. Even if you can't stand black coffee, a splash of low-fat milk, drizzle of honey, or dash of good-for-you cinnamon can still help you save hundreds of calories over a latte, which gets its extra calories from steamed milk and added sugar.
Eat this: Broth-based minestrone
The body benefit: Don't let the word "tomato" fool you. It's so thick because it's full of heavy cream, and a serving can set you back nearly 500 calories. Stick with broth-based soups with chunks of vegetables you can actually sink your teeth into, like this tomato soup recipe, which is just 129 calories per serving.
Eat this: Spinach
The body benefit: Sure, it's sort of green, but iceberg lettuce really doesn't have much nutrition to call its own. Spinach, however, is full of iron, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A and C, which your body needs to keep your metabolism in tip-top shape. Related: How to Choose the Healthiest Salad Greens
Eat this: Potato salad
The body benefit: Chilled potatoes pack more resistant starch than any other kind of spud, according to a 2013 USDA Agricultural Research Service study. Sometimes called the third starch, resistant starch is not absorbed in the small intestine, making you eat less and feel fuller longer. Use mustard in place of mayo to cut even more calories. Plus: 26 Reasons to Love Potatoes
Eat this: Whole-wheat hamburger bun
The body benefit: While they both come in at about 150 calories per serving, a whole-grain bun has several added benefits. Compare Arnold's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Buns with their White Hamburger Rolls, for instance: the wheat version contains three extra grams of both protein and fiber, which each help you feel fuller for longer. Plus, research shows that consuming whole grains as opposed to refined can help prevent inflammation and may even help your body burn more fat.
Try this recipe: Best Backyard Burger
Eat this: Tandoori chicken
The body benefit: Besides skipping the sodium-filled soy sauce, tandoori's curry is a great source of the antioxidant curcumin, which, according to research from Tufts University, inhibits the formation of fat tissue.
Try this recipe: Tandoori Chicken Bites with Mango Chutney
Eat this: Spaghetti squash
The body benefit: Automatically make your pasta a veggie-filled one with this low-cal, high-fiber replacement. In addition to saving you close to 200 calories, the squash's generous helpings of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium will increase your energy.
Try this recipe: Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Asparagus and Rosemary
Eat this: Mashed cauliflower
The body benefit: The skinny starch delivers almost a day's worth of vitamin C for the small price of 27 calories per cup. (Compare that to potatoes, which clock in at 116 calories per cup.)
Try this recipe: Cauliflower and Green Onion Mash
Eat this: Hummus and red pepper
The body benefit: Pita loves to masquerade as a healthy snack, but nutritionally it's not that different than white bread, and no one's calling that a health food. Trade in the enormous amounts of sodium (one serving has about 13% of your recommended daily intake) and munch on some equally crunchyand much more flavorfulred pepper slices. Red peppers are packed with fiber as well as vitamins A, C, and K, and you'll save about 135 calories.
Eat this: Kale chips
The body benefit: You can eat a cup and a half of kale chips for just 84 calories, while the same amount of potato chips will set you back more than 200. A serving of kale hits your entire daily requirement of vitamins A and C, not to mention delivering a generous helping of calcium and folate.
Try this recipe: Crispy Tamari Kale Chips
Eat this: Cheese and apple slices
The body benefit: It doesn't take long to put a big dent in your box of crackers. Do the same to apple slices, and your body rejoices. One apple packs about 17% of your daily filling fiber needs, and with significantly fewer calories. Plus, eating apples may help erase signs of aging.
Try this recipe: Cheddar & Apple Melt
Eat this: Handful of almonds
The body benefit: Far too many bars (snack bars, protein bars, meal-replacement bars) contain high-fructose corn syrup. And even the ones that don't are generally high in sugar and binding additives. For protein without all of the fillers, a handful of almonds will do the trick. A recent Harvard study found a daily dose of nuts can lengthen your lifespan by cutting your risk of conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Eat this: Fresh goat cheese or feta
The body benefit: The low-fat processed cheeses you'll find hanging in the dairy section are filled with additives and preservatives, not to mention they lack much flavor. Instead, go for fresh goat cheese or feta. They contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which rmay help your body burn more fat.
Try this recipe: Baked Brie with Honey
Condiments: Sour cream
Eat this: Greek yogurt
The body benefit: Plain Greek yogurt and sour cream are so similar in taste and texture that you really have no excuse not to use the lean, protein-packed alternative to fattening sour cream. As a fajita-topper, sauce base, or chip dip, a dollop of Greek yogurt can save you 20-plus grams of saturated fat while more than doubling your protein intake.
Try this recipe: Greek Nachos with Feta
Condiments: Salad toppings
Eat this: Nuts
The body benefit: Besides lending your salad a healthier crunch, the unsaturated fatty acids in nuts can help you get the most nutrients from said salad. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble, meaning your body can't absorb them unless you eat fat (like those in nuts!) along with them.
Try this recipe: Updated Waldorf Salad
Condiments: Cooking oil
Use this: Extra-virgin olive oil
The body benefit: Both pack fat, sure, but not all fats are created equally. While butter is a big source of artery-clogging saturated fat, extra-virgin olive oil has healthy unsaturated fats. Olive oil promotes higher levels of the satiety hormone serotonin, which prevents overeating, according to a 2013 study from the Technische Universitat Munchen in Germany.
Try this recipe: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Instead of: Ice cream
Eat this: Frozen banana
The body benefit: Replacing a huge splurge with fruit is a win-win. You not only sidestep tons of sugar, but you score plenty of potassium, folate, and vitamin C. If you have a few minutes, you can even throw the banana in the food processor to give it the same creamy, spoon-able texture as your favorite soft serve.
Try this recipe: Banana Ice Cream
Eat this: Dark chocolate covered peanuts
The body benefit: The darker your chocolate, the less sugar and milk and the more antioxidant-packed cacao it has. No wonder why research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar, markers of diabetes and heart disease. Meanwhile, peanuts give the treat a salty and protein-packed crunch.
Eat this: Fig bars
The body benefit: Fig bars are technically still cookies, but since figs are deliciously sweet all on their own, you'll use much less refined sugar in your recipes. Plus, they are a great source of fiber, meaning you won't plow through the whole batch in a single sitting.
Eat this: Fruit tart
The body benefit: Chocolate cream, banana cream, cheesecake, it doesn't matter. A single slice can set you back hundreds of calories, and all with little nutritional benefit. A tart can give you a similar taste with less fat and more good-for-you fruit.