24 Food Swaps That Slash Calories

By K. Aleisha Fetters

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, Ph.D., 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.

Instead of granola, eat 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 sugar -- and that's before you add any milk.
Instead of an egg sandwich, eat 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.
Instead of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, eat 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.
Instead of a latte, drink an Americano.
The body benefit: Sticking with the straight stuff gives you a more concentrated dose of coffee -- and 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.
Instead of tomato-based soup, eat 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.
Instead of iceberg lettuce, eat 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.
Instead of French fries, eat 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.
Instead of a white bun, eat a whole-wheat 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.
Instead of chicken stir-fry, eat 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.
Instead of white pasta, eat 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.
Instead of standard steak, eat grass-fed steak.
The body benefit: Grass-fed steak cuts have 92 fewer calories and up to a third less fat per serving, and the fat they do have is higher in omega-3s and more similar to that found in seafood.
Instead of mashed potatoes, eat 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.)
Instead of hummus and pita, eat 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 amount of sodium (one serving has about 13 percent of your recommended daily intake) and munch on some equally crunchy -- and much more flavorful -- red pepper slices. Red peppers are packed with fiber as well as vitamins A, C and K, and you'll save about 135 calories.
Instead of potato chips, eat 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.
Instead of cheese and crackers, eat 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 percent of your daily filling fiber needs, and with significantly fewer calories. Plus, eating apples may help erase signs of aging.
Instead of a snack bar, eat a 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.
Instead of low-fat cheese, eat fresh goat or feta cheese.
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 may help your body burn more fat.
Instead of sour cream, eat 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.
Instead of croutons, eat 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.
Instead of cooking with butter, use 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.
Instead of ice cream, eat frozen bananas.
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.
Instead of a milk chocolate bar, eat 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.
Instead of chocolate chip cookies, eat 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.
Instead of cream pie, eat 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.

24 Food Swaps That Slash Calories originally appeared on Health.com