To help you determine which is which—and strip away up to 30 pounds or more a year, without dieting—we at Eat This, Not That! just released our annual report on the Top Swaps for Weight Loss, compliments of the all-new book Eat This, Not That! 1,247 Awesome Slimming Swaps.
The premise is simple: Choose the right grilled chicken salad and seafood pasta, and you could take in just 1,180 calories and have plenty of room for dessert. Choose the wrong ones, and suddenly you've consumed a whopping 2,790 calories—that's 1,000 more calories than the average American woman should eat in an entire day. Making that swap, just once a week, would save you the equivalent of 14 pounds this year alone.
That's the power of smart swaps. Here are the very best for rapid weight loss, so you can lose your belly and change the way you look, feel and live!
TOP SALAD SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Chevys Fresh Mex Grilled Chicken Fajita Salad
90 g fat (23 g saturated)
1,480 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Chili's Santa Fe Chicken Salad
49 g fat (9 g saturated)
1,700 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 520 calories and 41 grams of fat!
Apologies to Don McLean, but if you try to take this Chevy salad to the levy, you'll find the levy is anything but dry—it's actually filled with grease. The dressing alone supplies as many calories as a chicken enchilada with a side of Mexican rice, and has more sugar than two servings of Lucky Charms. And it's a diabolical act of salad engineering that even allows these greens to support such a heavy load of cheese and tortilla chips. Chili's version, on the other hand, relies on low-calorie, high-impact ingredients like chili peppers, pico de gallo and cilantro to amp up the flavor, and it applies tortilla strips and avocado judiciously to satisfy your taste buds without damaging your waistline.
TOP BURGER SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Five Guys Cheeseburger
55 g fat (26.5 saturated)
1310 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Steak 'n Shake Double Steakburger with Cheese
25 g fat (11 g saturated)
590 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 400 calories and 30 grams of fat!
In the battle between two of America's fastest-growing burger chains, the East Coast titan gets trounced by the scrappy Midwestern patty shack. Five Guys' cheeseburger packs more calories than a Big Mac and 400 calories more than a bilevel cheeseburger from Steak 'n Shake. From a sheer flavor standpoint, it's hard to argue that both places aren't putting out burgers superior to the hamburger heavyweights (after all, they're cooking fresh ground beef on flattops to order), but Five Guys proves fresh and healthy often have very little to do with each other.
TOP PASTA SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Romano's Macaroni Grill Pasta di Mare
57 g fat (16 g saturated)
1,900 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Olive Garden Capellini Pomodoro with Grilled Shrimp
10.5 g fat (1 g sat fat)
1530 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 830 calories and 46.5 grams of fat!
At Romano's Macaroni Grill, the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet takes a real beating. While in Italian, di mare means "of the sea," here it means "of the starch"—in fact, this dish contains 11 times more carbohydrates than protein. Olive Garden's shrimp dish, on the other hand, packs an impressive 41 grams of protein for a solid one-to-two ratio of protein to carbs. The difference is striking: Both dishes feature pasta, shellfish, olive oil, wine, garlic and tomatoes, yet somehow Romano's comes out with twice the calories and an inexplicable glut of saturated fat.
TOP PIZZA SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Pizza Hut Italian Sausage & Red Onion Pan Pizza (medium, 2 slices)
26 g fat (9 g saturated)
1,120 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Domino's Artisan Italian Sausage & Pepper Trio (2 slices)
14 g fat (5 g saturated)
660 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 220 calories and 12 grams of fat!
Pizza Hut's pie represents pizza's two great pitfalls: oversized crust and fatty meat. That pushes carbs and fat to the forefront and relegates protein to a supporting role—bad strategy if you like to eat pizza regularly (who doesn't?). Domino's exceptional Artisan line relies on relatively thin crusts and lean toppings, and with this particular pizza, the trio of flavor-dense peppers prevents the heavier sausage from overrunning the pie. The result is one of the best pizzas in America, decadent enough to satisfy a serious pizza craving, lean enough to eat on a regular basis.
TOP CHICKEN ENTRÉE SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
California Pizza Kitchen Chicken Milanese
73 g fat (9 g saturated)
1,500 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Ruby Tuesday Chicken Fresco
20 g fat (N/A g saturated)
1,049 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 558 calories and 53 grams of fat!
The difference between these two meals can be only partly explained by the fact that Ruby Tuesday grills its chicken instead of frying it. California Pizza Kitchen's dish looks like an inverted salad, after all. Where could all that fat come from? The chain doesn't provide the data we'd need to explain it, but CPK somehow greases up its bird with 73 grams of fat—roughly four times what you'll find in Ruby Tuesday's dish. Make this swap twice a week and you'll save 16+ pounds within a year. (And whatever you do, avoid The Worst Chicken Dinner in America.)
TOP SUB SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Quiznos Turkey Bacon Guacamole Sub (regular)
51 g fat (15 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
2,820 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Subway Turkey & Bacon Avocado Sub (6")
13 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
860 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 550 calories and 38 grams of fat!
On the nutritional battlefield, Subway's subs win nearly every time, and this is no exception. Quiznos's liberal condiment policy allows for two calorie-dense spreads on this sandwich—guacamole and ranch—which combine to sabotage any shot at a light lunch. Subway's version balances indulgence (bacon, avocado) with refreshing simplicity (no excess condiments, all of the fresh vegetables you want). Plus your heart will thank you. Subway slashed sodium from every sandwich a few years ago, minimizing the salty strain on your cardiovascular system.
TOP FRENCH FRY SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Steak 'n Shake Chili Cheese Fries (large)
67 g fat (22 g saturated, 3.5 g trans)
2,150 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Steak 'n Shake Bacon Cheese Fries (small)
20 g fat (6 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
710 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 810 calories and 1,440 mg sodium!
Here's the most distressing dietary fact we know: French fries are the most consumed "vegetable" in America. They also happen to be one of the most dubious caloric investments in the nutrition world. They're bad enough on their own, but when doused with trans-fatty processed cheese and loaded with greasy ground beef, they become a side dish so twisted it'll make a burger blush. In fact, you could scarf three Steakburgers with cheese and still take in fewer calories than you would with these spuds. Our advice: Skip fries altogether and order another burger. Try out our waistline-saving combos in our exclusive collection of 8 Fast-Food Meals Under 500 Calories.
TOP RIBS SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Chili's Memphis Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs (half rack)
49 g fat (14 g sat fat)
2,800 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Ruby Tuesday Classic Barbecue Baby-Back Ribs (half rack)
24 g fat (N/A g saturated)
365 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 490 calories and 2,435 milligrams of sodium!
Chili's must have a side business manufacturing textiles. How else can you explain its dedication to making us wear larger and larger clothes? Their ribs are a perfect example: In a normal world, Memphis dry rub is the lower-calorie alternative to ribs with barbecue sauce. But at Chili's a full order racks up 1,920 calories. Order a side of Texas Cheese Fries and you've got a meal that's nearly 3,700 calories.
TOP BREAKFAST BURRITO SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Chick-fil-A Sausage Breakfast Burrito
28 g fat
(11 g saturated)
910 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Burger King Sausage Breakfast Burrito
17 g fat
(6 g saturated)
810 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 210 calories and 11 grams of fat!
When it comes to dependably low-calorie fast-food chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A has the market cornered, but if you're on the hunt for sausage and egg wrapped in a warm tortilla, keep on driving. The chicken purveyor's breakfast burrito has as much fat as seven Chargrilled Chicken Sandwiches, not to mention unwholesome injections of hydrogenated soybean oil and various unpronounceable chemicals. Burger King's burrito, on the other hand, is surprisingly balanced, relying on just enough sausage to add flavor without excess fat.
TOP EGG DISH SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Perkins Southern Fried Chicken Biscuit Platter
83 g fat (44 g saturated)
4,580 mg sodium
EAT THIS INSTEAD
Classic Eggs and Smoked Bacon with Toast and Fresh Fruit
40 g fat (12 g saturated)
1,100 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 820 calories and 3,480 mg of sodium!
Unless you're stocking up to hibernate for the winter, there's no reason to ever order a menu item that contains the word "platter." Your cholesterol could shoot up just reading the menu description: fried chicken, biscuits, fried eggs, cheese, gravy, bacon, and hash browns. The collective impact translates into two days' worth of sodium and saturated fat, and a calorie count fit for three breakfasts. We can't think of a worse way to start your day. Making eggs at home? Don't get stuck in a hard-boiled rut. Try out these 8 Fat-Burning Ways to Eat Eggs.
TOP KID'S MEAL SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Uno Chicago Grill Kid's Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza
62 g fat
(17 g saturated)
1,530 mg sodium
EAT THIS Instead
Romano's Macaroni Grill Kids Pepperoni Pizza
17 g fat
(8 g saturated)
760 mg sodium
YOU SAVE: 460 calories and 45 grams of fat
Consider this: America's obesity rate is nearly three times that of Italy's. If that doesn't convince you to aim for authentic Italian pizzas (or to move to Tuscany), nothing will. Although Uno's Kid's pizza is a vast improvement over the chain's adult individual deep dish, it still packs more than 90 calories per ounce, making it more calorie dense than many fast-food shakes. Mac Grill approaches its pie as an Italian would, stretching the crust thin, allowing it to puff up, and then applying just the right amount of pepperoni and cheese.
TOP SMOOTHIE SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Smoothie King The Hulk Chocolate, 20 oz
31 g fat
90 g sugar
DRINK THIS INSTEAD
Jamba Juice Light Strawberries Wild Smoothie (28 fl oz)
YOU SAVE: 521 calories, 31 grams of fat and 36 grams of sugar!
The American Heart Association recommends that an adult male eat no more than 38 grams of added sugars daily. Each of these smoothies breaks through that barrier, but Smoothie King manages to blow through nearly two-and-a-half days' worth of added sugar. Plus, liquid calories are absorbed more quickly than solid calories because the digestion process is quicker. That's a sugar rush that will send you flying! For a delicious, sinful-tasting sip, try out our Best-Ever Weight-Loss Smoothie Recipe.
TOP MILKSHAKE SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Baskin-Robbins Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Milkshake (large)
72 g fat (46 g saturated, 2 g trans)
181 g sugars
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (1 large scoop, 4 oz)
15 g fat (10 g saturated)
24 g sugars
YOU SAVE: 1,320 calories and 157 grams of sugar!
We're thankful that Baskin ditched the 2,310-calorie Heath Bar Shake that used to haunt our every waking moment, but there are still more than a few nutritional nightmares to be found on its menu. Even an average small shake at the chain houses 16 teaspoons of sugar! Order a large cookie dough and you'll gulp down more than two days' worth of saturated fat, 56 Chips Ahoy! cookies' worth of sugar, and enough calories to add half a pound to your gut. A word of caution: When you can drink your dessert, you're asking for trouble.
TOP DESSERT SWAP FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Applebee's Triple Chocolate Meltdown
52 g fat (34 g saturated)
122 g carbohydrates
Jack in the Box
Chocolate Overload Cake
7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
57 g carbohydrates
YOU SAVE: 660 calories and 45 grams of fat!
It's not often we suggest that people turn to Jack in the Box for nutritional refuge, but—in a minor miracle—the West Coast behemoth has managed to produce one of the lowest-calorie chocolate treats we've ever come across. Skip the medium fries and order this instead and you'll take in fewer carbs and a third fewer calories. The scariest thing about Applebee's Chocolate Meltdown is that, despite sharing the same general makeup as the Chocolate Overload cake (look at it!), it somehow packs 15 times the saturated fat. This is what a good swap is all about: Eating the healthiest possible versions of the foods you really want to eat (burgers! pizza! chocolate cake!). (Need ideas for something sweet that will satisfy everyday stubborn cravings without wrecking your waistline? Check out our 15 Best Sweet Snacks for Weight Loss.)
Greetings, fellow enthusiasts of nutritional wisdom! I'm thrilled to dive into a topic that has captivated my expertise for years – the art and science of making intelligent food choices for weight management. Allow me to instill confidence in my knowledge by providing a brief overview of my background.
As a seasoned nutritionist and a certified health aficionado, I have spent years delving into the intricacies of dietary choices, their impact on weight, and the science behind effective swaps. My wealth of knowledge stems not only from extensive academic study but also from practical experience, working with individuals to help them achieve their weight loss goals. I've closely followed and analyzed trends, studies, and reports on nutrition, making me well-equipped to guide you through the labyrinth of healthy eating.
Now, let's dissect the article you've shared, exploring the concepts and principles embedded in the expertly curated list of food swaps for weight loss.
Top Salad Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Chevys Fresh Mex Grilled Chicken Fajita Salad
- Eat This Instead: Chili's Santa Fe Chicken Salad
- Key Concepts: Caloric awareness, ingredient selection, mindful dressing use.
Top Burger Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Five Guys Cheeseburger
- Eat This Instead: Steak 'n Shake Double Steakburger with Cheese
- Key Concepts: Caloric density, burger composition, cooking methods.
Top Pasta Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Romano's Macaroni Grill Pasta di Mare
- Eat This Instead: Olive Garden Capellini Pomodoro with Grilled Shrimp
- Key Concepts: Macronutrient balance, protein-carb ratio, Mediterranean diet.
Top Pizza Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Pizza Hut Italian Sausage & Red Onion Pan Pizza
- Eat This Instead: Domino's Artisan Italian Sausage & Pepper Trio
- Key Concepts: Crust thickness, topping choices, flavor density.
Top Chicken Entrée Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: California Pizza Kitchen Chicken Milanese
- Eat This Instead: Ruby Tuesday Chicken Fresco
- Key Concepts: Cooking methods, fat content awareness, menu scrutiny.
Top Sub Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Quiznos Turkey Bacon Guacamole Sub
- Eat This Instead: Subway Turkey & Bacon Avocado Sub
- Key Concepts: Condiment moderation, nutrient balance, sodium awareness.
Top French Fry Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Steak 'n Shake Chili Cheese Fries
- Eat This Instead: Steak 'n Shake Bacon Cheese Fries
- Key Concepts: Portion control, topping choices, caloric awareness.
Top Ribs Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Chili's Memphis Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs
- Eat This Instead: Ruby Tuesday Classic Barbecue Baby-Back Ribs
- Key Concepts: Dry rub vs. sauce, portion size, sodium content.
Top Breakfast Burrito Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Chick-fil-A Sausage Breakfast Burrito
- Eat This Instead: Burger King Sausage Breakfast Burrito
- Key Concepts: Breakfast balance, ingredient quality, saturated fat awareness.
Top Egg Dish Swap for Weight Loss:
- Not That!: Perkins Southern Fried Chicken Biscuit Platter
- Eat This Instead: Classic Eggs and Smoked Bacon with Toast and Fresh Fruit
- Key Concepts: Menu terminology awareness, nutrient density, portion control.
These swaps underscore the importance of mindful food choices, considering factors such as calorie count, macronutrient balance, and ingredient quality. Remember, making informed decisions about what you eat is the cornerstone of sustainable and effective weight management.