By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
It is totally possible to have your cake and eat it too. When trying to lose weight, so many people complain about all the foods they can’t eat, rather than focusing on all the delicious food they can eat. There are plenty of ways to tweak your favorite recipes and snacks by swapping out a few unhealthy ingredients for some calorie-saving ones. Not only will your waistline slim down, but your taste buds will approve and so will your overall wellness. Try these eight simple food swaps to cut calories for weight loss.
When looking to cut back on calories for weight loss, analyzing your current food choices and cooking methods is a great place to start. Begin by learning more about which cooking methods preserve the most nutrients. You’ll also need to track your food intake for three days total: two during a typical work week, and one on the weekend. A great tool for tracking is MyFitnessPal.
Look for hidden areas of extra calories. You may not even realize where all those extra calories are coming from until you take a good, hard look at the data. For example, one of my clients who used the food journaling method was surprised to discover that she was using ½ cup of olive oil just at dinner—some slathered on her chicken, several tablespoons for the roasted vegetables, and more added on her salad. All of this excess olive oil was adding 955 calories and 108 grams of fat to her daily total! Once this was discovered, it was easy to reduce her olive oil intake. Soon after she made this change, the weight loss began.
You can still enjoy some of your favorite comfort foods and lose weight in the process. Here are some food hacks that will help cut calories to lose weight without sacrificing flavor. All you need to do is make small tweaks to your favorite recipes to replace a few of the unhealthy ingredients with some more nutritious ones.
You can save roughly 200 calories by replacing your traditional pasta with spaghetti squash. You’ll also get a boost of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. It’s extremely easy to make. Just cut it in half (if it is difficult to cut, pop it in the microwave for a bit to soften); rub it with olive oil; and roast it in the oven, flesh-side down, until soft. Scrape the inside with a fork to get an angel hair pasta texture. Dress it up with your favorite sauce, pesto, or garlic butter.
We all know yogurt is great for gut health and full of protein. However, the majority of the store-bought flavored yogurts are way too high in sugar and can contribute to weight gain if eaten regularly. It’s best to choose either low-fat or full-fat Greek yogurt and then add toppings like fruit, nuts, or seeds. You’ll get an impressive 20 grams of protein, calcium, and digestion-aiding probiotics. One of my favorite breakfast meals is to microwave some frozen berries, add a good scoop of Greek yogurt, and then top with unsweetened shredded coconut and nuts. This keeps me full and satisfied until lunchtime.
Beef a great way to meet your protein and iron intake for the day. Switching from conventional beef to grass-fed beef can cut calories and add a boost of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, a nutrient that is difficult for many people to get. Conventional beef is made from cows that have been fed grains, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other medications. Eating this meat can transfer those substances directly into your body and eventually make you sick! When consuming a steak dinner, it’s best to go for quality, not quantity.
White bread and many whole wheat breads contain over 20 ingredients, many of which are impossible to pronounce and include high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is known to spike blood sugar levels and can leave you feeling hungry very soon after eating. Additionally, there is very little protein or fiber in these types of breads. A better choice is Ezekiel sprouted bread. It is made from ingredients like sprouted wheat, barley, millet, and soybeans. Food for Life has gluten-free options for those with sensitivities. Sprouted grains are better absorbed, making all the vitamins and minerals more bioavailable for the body to use. Ezekiel bread is diabetic friendly thanks to its four grams of fiber, and it contains all nine essential amino acids and five grams of protein per slice.
A typical Frappuccino can contain around 300 calories and about 50 grams of sugar, most of it added. That’s a lot for just one coffee drink. However, I understand the need for a midday java fix. To lighten things up, try a plain or vanilla latte made with low-fat milk. You can satisfy your coffee craving while saving at least 100 calories and a ton of added sugar.
The next time you find yourself craving a salty snack, don’t reach for high-calorie chips. Instead, make some good old-fashioned popcorn. Most chips are low on nutrition and high in fat, salt, and calories. Popcorn, on the other hand, gives you the salty flavor you were looking for without all the fat and calories. You can eat about three full cups of popcorn verses about 12 chips for the same amount of calories. Also, you’ll be adding some powerful antioxidants and fiber to your diet. To spice things up, sprinkle some of your favorite spices or parmesan cheese on top. One of my favorite combinations is a bit of parmesan cheese and this delicious Truffle Zest.
Just because you’re trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you need to give up your favorite dessert. I use the Magic Bullet Dessert Blender to whip up healthy “ice cream” in a flash using frozen bananas. It also comes with a recipe book to get you started. Add a few flavorings and toppings, like cocoa powder or peanut butter, to mimic your favorite ice cream. The combinations are endless!
Although white potatoes contain a good amount of potassium, they are very high on the glycemic index (GI), which is a ranking of how food affects your blood sugar levels. Foods high on the GI tend to cause energy slumps and food cravings. Try high-fiber options instead. There are many benefits to adding fiber to your diet, and sweet potatoes have a lot of it. They are a complex carbohydrate and rank much lower on the GI than white potatoes. Also, they are packed with beta-carotene (aka vitamin A), and the fiber will keep you satiated. Sweet potatoes are delicious roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil and spices.
Losing weight can be difficult. But once you know what areas of your diet you need to focus on and create an action plan to replace some unhealthy habits with healthier ones, you will be on your way toward your health goals. You can enjoy your favorite foods and still lose weight by simply tweaking them a bit to make them healthier. You’ll also feel more energized due to all the additional nutrients from your healthy food choices. These swap suggestions can help you reach your weight loss goals.