How Many Calories Do These 10 Food Swaps <em>Actually</em> Save You?

August 3, 2015
Find out if small changes can actually turn into a big weight loss.

Yes, if you rid your fridge and pantry of everything except fruits and veggies, you’ll probably lose weight. But—as you may have experienced first-hand—drastic measures usually aren't easy to stick with for the long-haul. What is? Making small, healthy changes that work with your current routine. “Small changes are more sustainable—and therefore more effective—than large, sweeping changes that leave you feeling deprived,” says Adrienne Raimo, R.D., a holistic health and wellness coach at One Bite Wellness in Columbus, Ohio.

But which ones save you the most calories? Cals aren't everything; some swaps come with nutritional benefits that help you feel more satisfied, keep your digestive system in working order, and maintain a steady blood sugar. Those little perks can prevent mindless snacking, crush cravings, and help you de-bloat. Still, calories do matter—particularly when you're looking at food substitutions. 

“Improving your diet won’t melt off pounds instantly, but these trades will result in a sustainable weight loss,” says Jennifer McDaniel, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. By making three to five 100-calorie swaps a day, you can expect to lose a half or full pound each week, she says. Here are how various common subs stack up:


Go ahead, be basic. Nixing a sugar packet isn’t much of a calorie-saver, but it’s a boon to your health. Refined sugars can cause mood swings, energy fluctuations and blood sugar issues, which make it hard to stick to your diet, says Raimo. Cut one sugar packet from each of your three cups a day—and you can trim five pounds in a year.

 


While granola has had a health halo for decades, the oat-and-nut blends are almost always diet destroyers. One cup packs a whopping 600 calories! Sprinkle a half-cup of vitamin C-rich berries on top of your yogurt instead of a half-cup of granola, and you’ll consume more fiber—and less sugar, too, says Raimo.

RELATED: Jumpstart Your Weight Loss in 1 Day with These 5 Meals

Bagels may be delicious, but their dense nature and typically large size make each doughy treat the nutritional equivalent of eating about five pieces of bread, says Raimo. Dang. Toast up a muffin that’s full of nooks and crannies—instead of a medium-sized bagel—to trick yourself into cutting carbs.

"Just two tablespoons of ranch dressing is about 126 calories," says Raimo. Keep your salad weight-loss friendly by drizzling your greens with two tablespoons of blood sugar-stabilizing balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, rather than a creamy (and preservative-filled) salad dressing. And don’t be fooled the “light” version of your favorite store brand, says McDaniel. Fat-free dressings usually contain more sugar to make up for the missing fat, she says, while sugar-free dressings are often hiding loads of bloat-inducing sodium. Just DIY (it's so easy).

RELATED: 8 New (and Even More Delish) Smoothies That Will Help You Lose Weight


Ditch the tortilla at the build-your-own-burrito bar for an easy way to cut cals. The rice will satisfy carb cravings, and with the protein, beans, and vegetables, you certainly won’t walk away hungry.

 


Opting for a half-cup of the dairy-free dessert—rather than the same serving size of ice cream—will save you hundreds of calories and a whopping 30 grams of fat. By the way, 'diet’ ice creams that are sugar-free or fat-free tend to be high in artificial sweeteners and might lack the flavor ice cream aficionados appreciate, which could make you more likely to overindulge than you would be with the real stuff, says McDaniel. 

 


Avocado is loaded with healthy fats and fiber, both of which keep your belly more satisfied than the white stuff, says Raimo. Use two tablespoons of mashed avocado as the “glue” for your next sub to slash calories, belly-bloating sodium, and cholesterol.

 


Weight-loss rule of thumb: Real fruit always trumps juice. Apart from cutting half the calories, you’ll ditch all the added sugars, which can make your blood sugar spike and crash. You'll also gain fiber from the whole fruit, which keeps your digestive system in working order to help you de-bloat, says Raimo. Blend up ice, a cup of yogurt, and two oranges (rather than two cups of OJ) for a refreshing treat.

RELATED: 7 Nutrients (Besides Fiber and Protein!) That Can Help You Lose Weight


Even though you're saving fewer than 100 calories by eating surf rather than turf, the shrimp is almost completely free of saturated fat and has the nearly the same amount of protein as the beef. “Protein provides a fullness factor and helps dieters maintain muscle mass while they’re cutting calories,” says McDaniel. “And the fats in fish and shrimp are the kind that protect your heart.”

 


Okay, so the calories you're saving here aren't insanely high, but by grabbing a fork and knife to eat your sandwich, your stomach has more time to tell you when you’re full, and you might fill up before you even finish the sandwich—which will save you even more calories. 

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