Some of our favorite foods can also be very high in calories, fat and sodium to name a few things. Whether you are ordering out or making food at home, a few simple swaps can make a big difference. Think fewer calories, decreased stress or an increase in antioxidants. Let’s look at 21 healthy swaps to make some small changes that result in a big impact.
Healthy Drink Swaps
- Soda swap: Switch from regular soda to diet soda or unsweetened sparkling water for major calorie savings. Think 150-200 calories per can!
- Coffee swap: Order your fancy coffee drinks “skinny” and “sugar free.” This gets you skim milk with a sugar free syrup when available. Sugar free syrup can save 19 grams of added sugar! Plain coffee or unsweetened tea are always calorie friendly.
- Juice swap: Instead of getting your fruit serving from 4 ounces of juice, switch to a whole fruit and get the added benefit of 3 -5 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber promotes heart health and fullness.
- Tea swap: Ditch sweet tea for unsweetened tea. Try brewing or steeping your own at home. Unsweetened tea offers a source of antioxidants without added sugars. Your large sized sweet tea can have 38 grams of sugar – almost double that of a snickers bar!
Healthy Snack Swaps
- Bar swap: Opt for diet sodas or water as mixers when out for adult beverages. Watch out for sugary mixes used in margaritas or daiquiris.
- Nacho swap: Instead of loaded nachos while out for dinner, try chips and salsa or hummus with vegetables. Watching your portions is key – salsa and hummus are much more calorie-friendly than a cheese sauce.
- Bread swap: If you are at a restaurant that brings rolls or a bread basket, you have two options: ask the server to not bring any or that they only bring you a certain number. If there are two of you at the table, ask for only two rolls. The average calories per roll are
- Freebie swap: Some restaurants offer freebies on the table, think popcorn or peanuts. If you are a mindless eater, ask the server to take them off the table. You will save on calories you weren’t accounting for.
- Salad swap: Adding a side salad to your meal – great idea! Choose a light or low fat dressing and always ask for it on the side to control the amount. Better yet, ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing. This adds a boost of healthful omega 3 fatty acids.
- Side swap: Opt for mixed vegetables, baked potato or a side salad instead of the traditional side of fries. This will increase the fiber and vitamins in your meal, ask for butter on the side so you don’t sabotage your vegetables with 200 calories of butter.
Healthy Meal Swaps
- Chicken swap: Swap fried chicken for grilled chicken - when dining out this could equal 200-300 calories per serving! Does it come with a sauce? Ask for it on the side to save even more calories.
- Steak swap: Leaner steaks include sirloin, top round or filet – meaning they have less saturated fat that impacts heart health including cholesterol. Swapping your 10 oz. steak for a 6 oz. serving saves around 270 calories.
- Plant protein swap: Instead of meat on a salad, add a plant protein like chickpeas or tofu. These offer a great source of protein and fiber, while being low in fat.
- Bun swap: Look for a whole grain bun or bagel thin to use instead of the traditional white sesame bun. A whole grain bun offers 3-6 grams of fiber – the average person needs 25-35 grams daily, making this swap a nice nutritional boost!
- Meal swap: Not as much of a swap, as a share. Going to an indulgent restaurant? Split a meal with a friend to enjoy the food you love, but save on calories.
Healthy Dessert Swaps
- Dessert swap: If you always need a sweet treat after dinner, ditch the candy for fresh fruit. Try grilled pineapple or baked cinnamon apples as a new twist. Most fun-sized chocolate candies are around 70-80 calories. While one might fit into your plan, eating 4 pieces puts you at 320 extra calories after your meal.
- Chocolate swap: Swap your milk chocolate for dark chocolate with a higher percent cocoa, think 70% or more. This boasts a higher amount of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that may be protective against cancer.
- Baking swap: Love to bake at home? Save calories by substituting applesauce or plain Greek yogurt for oil. The applesauce adds a serving of fruit and the Greek yogurt adds an unexpected protein boost. Be sure to do a few test runs at home before bringing to a party!
- Portion swap: Enjoy your cake, just have less. Sweet treats will often be around, but swap your large piece of cake for a banquet sized piece – think a 2” x 2” square. You get the taste without all the extra calories and sugar.
Healthy Exercise and Activity Swaps
- Sitting swap: Instead of sitting to watch TV after dinner, go for a family walk in your neighborhood or nearby park. Exercise has loads of benefits plus talking with family can reduce stress from the day. A 30 minute walk can burn between 130-200 calories, depending on your weight and speed. Exercise after a meal also helps with blood sugar regulation.
- Cell phone swap: Try stretching or mindful breathing before bed, rather than playing games on a device. Tuning out from technology helps to relax the mind and may improve your sleep.
Try these simple swaps and see a big impact. Better yet, find ways to make over your favorite recipe or evening routine to make it more healthful!
If you have additional questions, reach out to our CHI Health Nutrition Services team. We can help you find healthy food options to help you decrease your caloric intake!
Original Post Date: May, 2018. Revised: Dec. 2019.