21 Days of Healthful Swaps
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 swaps to make some small changes that result in a big impact. From drinks to dessert – these tips are healthful options to try.
Day 1: Soda swap: Switch from regular soda to diet soda or unsweetened sparkling water for major calorie savings. Think 150-200 calories per can!
Day 2: Coffee swap: Order your fancy coffee drinks “skinny” and “sugar free.” This gets you skim milk with a sugar free syrup when available. Plain coffee or unsweetened tea are always calorie friendly.
Day 3: Juice swap: Instead of getting your fruit serving from 4 ounces of juice, switch to a whole fruit and get the benefits of 3 -5 grams of fiber per serving.
Day 4: 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.
Day 5: 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.
Day 6: 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.
Day 7: 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.
Day 8: 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.
Day 9: 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. Some creamy dressings are loaded with fat and sugar.
Day 10: Chicken swap: Swap fried chicken for grilled or baked chicken. You save hundreds of calories from fat. Does it come with a sauce? Ask for it on the side to save even more calories (and likely sugar).
Day 11: Steak swap: Leaner steaks include sirloin, top round or filet. Less fat means less of a negative impact on heart health. Swap your 10 oz. serving for a 6 oz. serving to make it more manageable.
Day 12: Plant protein swap: Instead of meat on a salad, swap in a plant protein like chickpeas or tofu. A great source of protein, low in fat and loaded with vitamins.
Day 13: 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.
Day 14: Bun swap: Look for a whole grain bun or bagel thin to use instead of the traditional white sesame bun. Whole grains offer more fiber and protein, which may keep you fuller for longer.
Day 15: 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.
Day 16: Dessert swap: If you always need a sweet treat after dinner, ditch the candy for fresh fruit. It will be a sweet ending to a meal with an extra fiber boost. Try grilled pineapple or baked apples as a new twist.
Day 17: 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.
Day 18: 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.
Day 19: 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.
Day 20: Sitting swap: Instead of sitting to watch TV after dinner, go for a family walk in your neighborhood or nearby park. The exercise has loads of benefits plus talking with family can reduce stress from the day.
Day 21: 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!
Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a clinical dietitian at CHI Health, working in Oncology and Functional nutrition. Ellen helps patients improve nutrition habits during cancer treatment and beyond. She is a group fitness instructor at the CHI Health Lakeside Wellness Center and enjoys helping people of all fitness abilities be active. Ellen is passionate about helping patients improve their lives through nutrition, activity and stress management.