Food Swaps: Easy Ways to Up Your Nutrition Game

Food Swaps: Easy Ways to Up Your Nutrition Game

Alex Brecher

Are you trying to get better nutrition, whether it’s for weight loss, wellness, or health management? It doesn’t have to be hard. You can make small swaps to get more nutrients and fewer calories, and it can be simple. Here are 20 easy ways to up your nutrition game.

  • Use mustard instead of mayo.
  • This may be the oldest trick in the book, but it’s worth repeating. A squirt of yellow, deli, or dijon mustard has about 5 calories. A slather of mayo has about 100 calories. You can do the math to see the possible effects on your weight.

  • Choose whole-grain alternatives.
  • Whole grain consumption is linked to better body weight control and lower risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions. For almost every refined grain product you can buy, there’s a similar, delicious, and nutritious whole-grain counterpart. Whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice are all easy to come by. Oatmeal is another choice.

  • Bake with whole-wheat flour.
  • You can make your own whole-grain products at home. When you’re baking, swap half of the regular flour for whole-wheat flour. Your baked goods will come out delicious and higher in fiber and natural antioxidants.

  • Drink water instead of soda.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks and sports drinks, are among the top contributors of sugar in the American diet, and they’re linked to weight gain and diabetes. Who needs them? Plain water can help you lose weight and feel better. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try ice water or water infused with fruit, such as a slice of orange or lemon, or herbs, such as mint or basil.

  • Choose reduced-fat dairy products.
  • A cup of whole milk has 160 calories. A cup of skim milk has 90 calories and just as much calcium and protein. An ounce of full-fat cheddar cheese has 110 calories. An ounce of fat-free cheddar cheese has 40 calories. By choosing reduced-fat dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese, you get fewer calories but just as much calcium and protein as full-fat products.

  • Use fruit and cinnamon instead of sugar-sweetened yogurt.
  • Yogurt is supposed to be healthy, but often it’s packed with added sugars. Instead of choosing a sugar-sweetened flavored yogurt, consider getting plain regular or Greek non-fat yogurt and adding your own natural sweeteners in the form of fruit and/or cinnamon. Diced apples, blueberries, and cut melon are good choices.

  • Look for high-protein snack switches.
  • For every starchy snack, there’s a high-protein version. The BariatricPal Store has swaps such as Protein Chips, Protein Cookies, Protein Pretzels, and Protein Cereal. There’s no excuse not to have a high-protein snack to fill you up and keep you full for longer!

  • Swap popcorn for potato chips.
  • A handful of popcorn has about 35 calories. A handful of potato chips has about 120. Popcorn is a whole grain. Potato chips are refined carbs with grease. Choose light or air-popped popcorn to keep the calories low and the fiber high.

  • Satisfy chocolate cravings with dark chocolate.
  • A cup of chocolate ice cream or a frosted brownie has 300 calories and 25 grams of sugar. A 1-ounce square of 80% dark chocolate has 160 calories and 6 grams of sugar. It’s a better bargain calorically, and it has nutrients such as fiber and magnesium. And, it can be more satisfying than a sugary dessert that doesn’t have as much pure chocolate in it.

  • Remove skin from chicken.
  • Every time you remove the skin from a 4-ounce serving of chicken breast, you’ll save 50 calories. It’s an easy switch that sometimes is effortless, since you can just purchase skinless chicken.

  • Add beans to chili.
  • Each half-cup of beans has about 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of dietary fiber. Your chili will be more satisfying and tastier. While you’re at it, add extra tomatoes, and choose lean ground turkey instead of regular ground beef. You’ll slash calories and boost nutrients.

  • Drink coffee or tea without cream or sugar.
  • Coffee beverages and sweetened tea can be packed with added sugars, carbs, and calories. Drinking them black instead can save calories while still giving you the benefits of caffeine and antioxidants. If you can’t handle them completely plain, consider using almond milk instead of cream, and a non-nutritive sweetener instead of sugar. The BariatricPal Store has sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia, as well as sugar-free flavoring syrups.

  • Use cooking spray instead of butter or oil.
  • Cooking spray has a few calories per spray. Butter and oil have 100 calories per tablespoon, and you’re likely to use more than a tablespoon in your pan. Plus, cooking spray works better. Give it a try!

  • Turn a burrito into a taco.
  • A burrito-sized tortilla can have 250 calories. A taco shell has about 70 calories. Better yet, choose a whole-grain taco shell, and use soy crumbles, shrimp, tilapia, or shredded chicken instead of ground beef.

  • Try vegetable-based substitutes for starches.
  • Cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed potatoes, and spiralized carrots and zucchini are all actually pretty good, and they only have a fraction of the calories and carbs as potatoes, rice, or pasta. Another option is to get high-protein versions, such as Protein Mashed Potatoes and Protein Pasta.

  • Dip vegetables instead of chips.
  • Raw vegetables have 15 to 30 calories per cup. The same amount of chips can have 150 to 200 calories, including carbs and fat.

  • Use vinaigrette instead of creamy dressing.
  • A light vinaigrette has about 60 calories per 2-tablespoon serving. That’s less than half the amount as in a creamy dressing such as ranch. Or you can make your own dressing with olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs of your choice.

  • Order thin-crust pizza.
  • You’ll get about half the carbs as pizza with regular crust, and you’ll save about 100 calories per slice of a 14-inch pizza. It’s also a good idea to order light cheese, skip pepperoni and sausage, and get as many vegetables as possible.

  • Choose protein bars instead of energy bars.
  • Energy bars can be packed with sugar and carbs. Protein bars are higher in protein. Be sure to choose a low-sugar variety, since some do sneak in some unnecessary sugars. The BariatricPal Store has a large selection of Protein Bars in all kinds of flavors.

  • Try a veggie burger.
  • When grilling, try veggie burgers, salmon, and vegetables such as eggplant and bell peppers. They’ll add tons of nutrients compared to hot dogs, hamburgers, and steak, and they’re way lower in calories. Don’t forget to put them on a low-carb or whole-grain bun!

    Healthy alternatives