The difference between gaining and losing weight comes down to one thing and that is whether you eat more calories than you burn in a day. What this means is that you have two weapons at your disposal to lose weight. You can exercise to burn more calories and/or eat less calories.
However, the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet” is painfully true and has been proven time and time again. There are even studies demonstrating this fact. An example of why this is an unavoidable fact is because a medium fry at McDonald’s contains 330 calories. To burn that off, you would need to run 3 miles and I don’t know about you, but after eating some McDonald’s fries, I really do not feel like running.
Because of this reality, the most important weapon we have in our weight loss arsenal is cutting back the calories we eat. This is a lot easier to say than do, especially because of how calorie dense a lot of food choices are. These calorie dense foods, like chips, peanut butter, Chick-fil-a sauce, burgers, etc. can quickly add more calories into your diet than you realize. Fortunately, there are plenty of food swaps we can make in our lives to help keep the calories we consume throughout the day lower while still enjoying what we eat. These food swaps, paired with making other healthier food choices, can help us lose weight while staying full and enjoying what we eat. Here are a few of my favorites that I have used through the years.
Rice For Cauliflower Rice
I love a tasty dish made with rice. While rice is not the worst option, you can easily cut 100s of calories from your meal by making the swap to a cauliflower based rice. A cup of cooked rice is typically about ~200 calories, while a cup of cauliflower rice can be as low as 25 calories.
The best part of the cauliflower rice is it takes the flavor of however you are cooking it. This is a great way to take several hundred calories out of the next meal you prepare.
Fried French Fries to Oven/Air Fried French Fries
French fries are delicious. But, as we saw at the beginning of the article, they are loaded with calories. French fries are as calorie dense as they are because of how they are prepared. Being fried in oil means they soak up all the calories from the oil as they cook. This is why a medium fry from McDonald’s is 300+ calories. And let’s be honest, a medium fry is not enough.
However, if you oven fry or air fry the potatoes, they can be more than half the calories. As long as you use a minimal amount of oil (1 TBSP or less), you can eat an entire potatoes worth of fries for less than 200 calories. Or, one thing I like to do is spray the potato cuts with olive oil nonstick spray. This let’s me use considerably less oil and still get the seasonings to stick to the fries and give them a crispy texture. Just be aware that nonstick spray is still oil and will still add calories to your meal. It can only show 0 calories because the serving size (¼ of a second spray) is less than 5 calories and as long as a serving size is less than 5 calories, it can advertise 0 calories (could be as high as 4 calories).
There are plenty of recipes online for oven/air fried french fries and they are delicious, especially paired with some of the low calorie condiments later in the article 😉
Milk for Nut Milk
A cup of milk will be about 80-130 calories. In contrast, a cup of almond or cashew milk can be as low as 25 calories. On top of this, nut milks can come in flavors that do not add additional calories (e.g. chocolate and vanilla). These can be delicious subs in recipes that call for milk to cut out a couple hundred calories.
When I make oatmeal, I prefer to use cashew or almond milk and believe it adds more flavor than regular milk does. Many of the recipes in Munchies Monday use some sort of nut milk as one of their ingredients.
Full Fat Cheese to No-Fat Cheese
One of my favorite new food hacks is substituting full fat cheese for no-fat cheese singles I found at my grocery store. A typical slice of American cheese is about 70-80 calories while the no-fat option is about 30 calories. That is not much of a difference between each slice but when you use multiple slices, it can quickly save you several hundred calories over a week.
These are great because I can still use cheese in my meals for that delicious cheesy flavor while not having to worry about the addition of a couple hundred calories worth of cheese to my meal. They are little protein squares of deliciousness. Take a quick look for them next time you are at the grocery store.
Sour Cream for Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons of sour cream contains about 60 calories while 2 tablespoons of low-fat greek yogurt has about 15 calories. Again, this is not much on its own, but over the course of several meals, it can add up to several hundred calories. The best part is that when you mix it in a dish, the taste difference between the two is basically indistinguishable. Plus, Greek yogurt is packed with protein while sour cream is mostly just fat. This means the Greek yogurt can help keep you full for longer due to the highly satiating effect of protein.
As someone who eats mexican style meals for most days of the week, this swap has been one of my favorites. Plus, greek yogurt can be used in many other healthy food alternatives to replace other ingredients. Take a look at some of my Munchies Monday reviews to see what I mean.
Chips for Smartpop Popcorn
Obviously, chips are delicious. This, paired with how many calories are in a single serving are a prime culprit for how they could be ruining your diet. You can easily eat 500+ calories in a single sitting. For example, 7 tortilla chips are about 140 calories, 9 Doritos are about 150 calories, 15 potato chips are about 160 calories. This adds up FAST. “Healthy” chip options, such as veggie chips, sweet potato chips, and quinoa chips, are not much better.
A great snack alternative is Smartpop Popcorn. In contrast, an ENTIRE bag of Smartpop Popcorn comes out to only 200 calories. By itself, the flavor is somewhat bland but you can easily add salt, Molly McButter, cinnamon, no-calorie sweetener, or any other low calorie flavoring of your choice. The more creative you get, the better it can taste for you. Because of the sheer volume of this snack, it is very hard to overeat.
Candy for Fruit/No-Sugar Jello
Obviously, candy is easy to eat and loaded with sugar, making it very high in calories. I have a sweet tooth just like everyone else and find myself craving something sweet, like candy, pretty often. I have found that I can curb this craving by eating No-sugar jello, which is about 5 calories per container, or by munching on whatever fruit was fresh and on sale at my grocery store.
For example, instead of candy, you can eat about 100 medium strawberries and that would be only 400 calories. Also, you could eat a quarter of a watermelon and only consume 300-400 calories. Yeah it’s not candy, but the volume of the fruit, mixed with the sweetness, can work wonders to curb your craving and appetite.
As for the no-sugar jello, I am not the biggest fan of jello but it does taste just like the original. I like to keep these in my pantry because when I get a craving for something sweet, I can eat one or two of these to try and curb it. Many times, this does work and saves me from eating something that would be MUCH higher in calories. And even if it doesn’t it was worth the 5-10 calories to try and beat my craving.
Normal Condiments for Low-Calorie Options
One of the #1 places calories sneak into your meals is through condiments and dressings. This is the reason most salads at McDonald’s can have more calories than their Big Mac. Furthermore, condiments like BBQ sauce, Chick-fil-a sauce, honey mustard, etc are PACKED with calories. Take a guess at how many calories are in a single packet of Chick-fil-a sauce. Ready to be disappointed? Well it’s 140 calories. And who uses just one packet of sauce. Condiments can easily take your diet and beat it up in a dark alley.
Instead, try to use low calorie options. There are several choices of dressings that are much better than others. Take a look at the nutrition label next time you are shopping for them. A good rule of thumb though is that the less thick the dressing, the less calories it will contain. Think balsamic or italian instead of ranch or 1000 island. Sometimes, the lite options can also help you cut out even more calories, just make sure to compare nutrition labels because some lite dressings are still loaded with calories.
Furthermore, there are plenty of other low calorie sauces that contain a fraction of the calories. For example, G Hughes makes several sauces that are 10 calories for 2 tablespoons instead of the 70-150 calories for the full sugar counterpart. If you are at the grocery store, there will be several types of no-sugar sauces that will be much better choices than their counterparts. Plus, they are delicious. Like really tasty. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. This has been my favorite swap, by far, for adding more flavor to my meals.
Whole Eggs to Egg Whites
Eggs are great. They are probably one of my favorite breakfast meals for filling myself up with delicious protein that keeps me full for a long time. However, when I really want to pack on the volume in my meal and cut the calories, I will swap out a majority of the whole eggs for egg whites. This removes the fatty part of the egg and keeps mostly just the protein. For a calorie comparison, a whole egg is about 70 calories while the egg whites are just 10-15 calories. There is not as much flavor in the egg whites, so I still like to use 1-2 whole eggs whenever I use egg whites, but this swap helps me save hundreds of calories in a single meal, while still helping me feel full and satisfied.
Soda for Diet Soda
Yeah yeah yeah diet soda has artificial sweeteners. This scares many people and I was one of them. However, after doing my research and reviewing studies on artificial sweeteners, I found that a lot of the claims about the potential dangers of artificial sweeteners are not actually rooted in properly designed studies and many more studies have proven them safe. I will be posting my analysis of numerous studies on artificial sweeteners next week and you can be the judge for yourself. So make sure to sign up for email notifications to know when every article posts so you don’t miss any 😉
For now, I have found that diet soda can be a great tool for curbing cravings and they have helped me lose weight. When I am cutting weight, I find I have more cravings for sweets than usual. A diet soda has been a great way for me to curb my cravings. While a regular soda would have been 100-150 calories, the diet soda being 0-calories helps me maintain my calorie deficit. Plus, the carbonation helps me feel full for a little while after. Furthermore, the crazy amount of sugar in a regular soda is definitely not having a positive effect on my body. Obviously, water is a better choice, but when I have the craving, diet soda is there for me. There are also plenty of water sweeteners, like Mio, that can add flavor to boring old water if you want to go that route as well.
These food swaps by themselves are not enough to guarantee weight loss, but paired with a good diet, are great ways to add more excitement to what you eat, while feeling full and satisfied after a meal. Diet is 80% of the battle when it comes to losing weight so it is very important to slowly make healthy swaps in your life until you find a diet that works for you for life. These food swaps have helped me stick to a healthy diet all year round so that I can maintain a weight I am happy with all the time.
Now, the last 20% of losing weight and building a physique you can be proud of comes down to exercise. After getting your diet in check, exercise can help make weight loss even easier. Plus, putting on muscle and gaining strength can greatly improve how you feel, blow up your confidence, and create a healthy looking body you will love. For any help creating a diet or exercise program to make an amazing transformation, feel free to reach out to me HERE. You will love how it makes you feel.
Disclaimer: There are amazon affiliate links included on this post. If you make a purchase from the link I will make a couple shiny nickels and dimes. These are products I have bought and use for myself for several years now.