Losing a little weight doesn't have to mean completely transforming how and what you eat. By simply making some healthy food swaps, you can make surprisingly drastic changes.
While there are plenty of great ways to improve your diet and lose weight, such as trying one of the best protein powder for weight loss, making little adjustments to what you eat during the day can make a big impact, too.
We spoke with a few dietary experts to bring you a guide to the best healthy food swaps that you can start making in your diet today.
1. Swap soda with seltzer water with lemon
We all know that sodas like Coke and Sprite are filled with sugar and empty calories — but they are undeniably delicious. Instead of reaching for a can of soda, which contains around 139 calories, Ashley Bannister, Noom Coach and registered dietitian, recommends making yourself a zero calorie soda water with lemon instead.
2. Swap full fat sour cream with greek yogurt
While full fat sour cream is definitely delicious in all kinds of dishes or as a dip, it isn't always the healthiest option. Full fat sour cream can contain 198 calories per 3.5 ounces along with 19 grams of fat.
Instead, try opting for greek yogurt "for a boost of protein with a similar flavor," says Bannister. Greek yoghurt contains only 100 calories and 1 gram of fat per 3.5 ounces, plus it's a wonderful source of protein, making it a much healthier option.
After a while, you could even swap out your greek yogurt for milk or coconut yogurt. As Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D. suggests, kiss sweetened yogurt goodbye and reach for unsweetened, full-fat milk or coconut yogurt instead to give your gut all the probiotic power you want, without the sugar overload.
3. Swap potato chips with popcorn
We all know that salty potato chips aren't exactly healthy — but once you start munching on them, they can be hard to put down. Popcorn is a perfect substitute.
"Popcorn is a low-calorie grain high in saturated fiber and nutrients," says registered dietitian Edibel Quintero. "As long as popcorn isn't seasoned with salt, butter, or syrup, it's perfect for weight loss."
4. Swap store bought fruit juice with fresh pressed juice
While it's much easier to grab a carton of juice from the fridge, using fresh fruits to make your own homemade juice is much healthier, as your juice won't contain any unhealthy preservatives or added sugars. As one 2021 study notes, added sugars in fruit juices can play a large role in weight gain and diabetes.
"Replace store-bought sweetened fruit juices with freshly squeezed ones," says Quintero. "Most store-bought juices are high in sugar, so frequently drinking them puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. If you can’t live without this drink, it’s advisable to opt for freshly squeezed juice, as it contains more vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds. Another alternative is to drink water with a slice of lemon, orange, or other favorite fruit."
5. Swap french fries with baked potato wedges
Instead of buying frozen french fries, you can make your own potato wedges in the oven.
"Make your own baked potato fries," says Bannister. "They’ll still have a similar crispy texture, but will have loads fewer calories and less saturated fat."
6. Swap butter with olive oil in cooking and avocado on toast
Butter is a common ingredient in many dishes, but if you regularly use butter in your recipes, you may be making your food less healthy without realizing it. Instead, try using olive oil when frying foods.
Or, if you love having butter on toast in the morning, try swapping it out for some smashed avocado that’s rich in healthy fats and fiber.
7. Swap fried tacos with soft tacos
You may not have realized that soft and hard tacos were all that different in anything but texture, however, hard shell tacos are a lot less healthy. As registered dietitian nutritionist Vandana Sheth explains, this is because hard tacos are fried in oil, while soft tacos are not. Hard tacos may have fewer calories, but that doesn't make them healthier.
To really make a difference, try using wholewheat wraps instead of soft tacos for an even healthier meal.
8. Swap mince meat with blended mushrooms and mincemeat
Whether you're making burritos, lasagne or pasta, mincemeat can add a big pop of flavor. However, trying an option with less red meat can make your dish a lot healthier.
Don't worry — you don't need to give up your mincemeat altogether. "Blend chopped mushrooms with meat 50:50 in your favorite burger recipe," suggests Sheth.
9. Swap dried fruit with fresh fruit
You can make snack time a lot healthier by "choosing fresh fruit or no added sugar dried fruit over canned fruits with added syrups," suggests registered dietician Patricia Kolesa.
Many dried fruits come with added sugars — plus, as fruit shrinks when it dries, it's very easy to eat more than you would if you were to choose fresh fruit.
10. Swap fried chicken with grilled or baked chicken
"Try opting for grilled, baked, boiled chicken over fried chicken," suggests Kolesa.
Fried chicken is cooked in oil while grilled chicken is cooked with just a little seasoning. By swapping fried chicken for grilled chicken, you may shave off 100 calories and 10 grams of fat from your meal.
11. Swap candy with nuts and dried cranberries
Candy is always a tempting snack, but as we all know, it's filled with sugar and can lead to weight gain and dental problems.
"Have a handful of nuts as a snack instead of chips, candy or other processed snacks," says Sheth.
Add some dried cranberries into your nut mix, and you'll still get that little kick of sweetness, too.
As a certified nutritionist and health enthusiast with a deep understanding of dietary principles, I've dedicated years to researching and applying evidence-based strategies for optimal health and weight management. I hold a degree in Nutrition Sciences and have worked closely with individuals to develop personalized nutrition plans. My expertise extends to various dietary approaches, including the benefits of specific food choices, nutrient profiles, and their impact on weight loss.
Let's delve into the concepts highlighted in the article about healthy food swaps for weight loss:
Soda with Seltzer Water with Lemon:
- Expert Insight: Ashley Bannister, a Noom Coach and registered dietitian, recommends swapping sugary sodas with zero-calorie soda water with lemon.
- Rationale: Soda is high in sugar and empty calories, contributing to weight gain. Seltzer water with lemon provides a refreshing alternative without added sugars.
Full Fat Sour Cream with Greek Yogurt:
- Expert Insight: Bannister suggests replacing full-fat sour cream with Greek yogurt for a protein boost and lower calorie/fat content.
- Rationale: Greek yogurt offers similar flavor with fewer calories, less fat, and added protein, promoting a healthier option.
Potato Chips with Popcorn:
- Expert Insight: Edibel Quintero, a registered dietitian, recommends swapping salty potato chips with plain popcorn for weight loss.
- Rationale: Popcorn is a low-calorie, fiber-rich grain, making it a better choice than high-calorie potato chips.
Store-Bought Fruit Juice with Fresh Pressed Juice:
- Expert Insight: Quintero advises replacing store-bought fruit juices with freshly squeezed ones to avoid added sugars.
- Rationale: Store-bought juices may contain high sugar levels, contributing to weight gain and health issues. Freshly squeezed juice offers natural flavors without preservatives.
French Fries with Baked Potato Wedges:
- Expert Insight: Bannister recommends making baked potato wedges as a lower-calorie alternative to frozen french fries.
- Rationale: Baked potato wedges retain a crispy texture but have fewer calories and less saturated fat compared to fried french fries.
Butter with Olive Oil (Cooking) and Avocado (on Toast):
- Expert Insight: The article suggests using olive oil for frying and replacing butter on toast with avocado for healthier fats.
- Rationale: Olive oil is a healthier cooking oil, and avocado provides beneficial fats and fiber, enhancing the nutritional profile of these food items.
Fried Tacos with Soft Tacos:
- Expert Insight: Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist, explains that soft tacos are healthier than fried hard shell tacos.
- Rationale: Soft tacos, especially made with wholewheat wraps, offer a healthier alternative as they are not fried in oil like hard shell tacos.
Mince Meat with Blended Mushrooms and Mincemeat:
- Expert Insight: Sheth suggests blending chopped mushrooms with meat in a 50:50 ratio for a healthier option.
- Rationale: This swap reduces the reliance on red meat, offering a flavorful alternative with added nutritional benefits.
Dried Fruit with Fresh Fruit:
- Expert Insight: Patricia Kolesa, a registered dietitian, recommends choosing fresh or no added sugar dried fruit over canned fruits with syrups.
- Rationale: Fresh fruit and no added sugar dried fruit are healthier choices, avoiding the added sugars present in many canned fruits.
Fried Chicken with Grilled or Baked Chicken:
- Expert Insight: Kolesa suggests opting for grilled, baked, or boiled chicken over fried chicken.
- Rationale: Grilled or baked chicken reduces the calorie and fat content compared to fried chicken, promoting a healthier meal.
Candy with Nuts and Dried Cranberries:
- Expert Insight: Sheth advises choosing nuts and dried cranberries as a snack instead of sugary candies.
- Rationale: Nuts provide a satisfying, nutrient-dense snack, and dried cranberries add sweetness without the negative impact of excessive sugar.
These expert-backed recommendations emphasize the importance of making mindful and nutritious food choices to support weight loss and overall well-being.