These swaps will make it easy to create a calorie deficit and reach your weight loss goals, without feeling restricted.
There are 10 specific fat loss food swaps that can easily cut hundreds of calories from your diet to help you reach your weight loss goals. And the great thing about all these is you won’t have to sacrifice taste or enjoyment of your meals.
Before we get into the 10 food swaps, let’s review how weight loss happens. If your goal is weight loss, you need to burn more calories each day than you consume from the food you eat. This is called a calorie deficit. When you’re in a deficit, your body will use its stored fat for energy and the result is losing weight.
You can create this deficit in a couple of different ways. Either you can do it by increasing the amount of movement you’re getting in a day, so you burn more calories, or you can reduce the total number of calories you’re eating. Ideally, you want to do both, but today we’re just going to be focusing on your food choices.
Your goal should not be to cut your calories as low as possible when trying to lose weight. Here’s why:
When you don’t eat enough food in a day, you’ll end up feeling overly hungry, irritable, and you’ll probably have very low energy. Eventually, you won’t be able to sustain this, and most people find themselves overeating to make up for the restriction.
A better approach is to make small shifts in your diet to cut calories slightly, while eating filling meals that are high in protein, fiber, and volume. When you swap foods that are higher in calories for very similar foods that are a slightly lower in calories, you can enjoy all the meals you love, while still hitting your goals. Small swaps each day can really add up over the course of a week or more. For example, just 50 fewer calories each day is a 350 calorie deficit over a week.
It’s important to understand that there’s nothing “bad” about the foods I’m suggesting you swap out. All the foods you love, whether or not they are low in calories, can fit into a balanced diet. The main thing to keep in mind is how often you eat certain foods. When your goal is fat loss, choosing high protein, high fiber, low calorie density options more often will help you reach your goals more easily. Other foods can still fit in, but you may choose to eat them less frequently. When you sub out some of the higher calorie options for similar products that are lower in calories, you can lose weight without having to make any massive changes to your diet. It doesn’t take any extra time, and it can save you HUNDREDS of calories!
The first calorie-saving food swap you can make is for taco night. One small flour tortilla has around 100 calories total, whereas one corn tortilla typically has about 50 calories, so this swap cuts the calories in half. Of course, this depends on the brand, so make sure to check the nutrition label when you’re buying them. But, if you eat tacos often then this is a helpful swap to make.
If you replace your creamy salad dressing with a yogurt-based dressing, you can save about 80 calories per serving. The ranch dressing pictured below has 130 calories and 13 grams of fat for every 2 Tbsp. In comparison, the yogurt-based ranch dressing from Bolthouse farms only has 50 calories and 3.5g of fat in a 2 Tbsp serving.
To turn a high-calorie breakfast into one that will be more supportive of your fat loss goals, substitute your glass of juice for a piece of whole fruit. For example, add an orange to your breakfast, instead of having a glass of orange juice. One cup of orange juice has 112 calories, while one orange has only 62 calories. The orange contains more fiber, so it’s digested more slowly and it will keep you feeling full. Juice is not “bad”, but it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes, as it’s easy to pour yourself a lot more than a single 8 oz. glass. If you’re not paying attention, your glass of juice could add 200 or more calories to your breakfast.
Combining eggs with egg whites is a great way to add more volume and protein to your breakfast. If I’m making scrambled eggs or an omelet, I’ll typically use one whole egg and about ½ a cup to ¾ of a cup of egg whites. One large egg has about 75 calories and 6 grams of protein and ½ a cup of egg whites has 63 calories and 13 grams of protein. So, this substitution doesn’t cut a significant amount of calories, but it more than doubles the protein to make it a more filling meal. You could choose to fully sub out the eggs and use only egg whites, but I don’t recommend this because egg yolks contain beneficial nutrients.
I’ll never tell you to replace all carbs with cauliflower, but this cauliflower swap can be helpful. It cuts about 75 calories per meal and it will help you reduce calorie intake throughout the day by making you feel fuller for longer. The swap is to cut the portion size of your rice in half and replace the other half with riced cauliflower. You can usually find riced cauliflower in the frozen vegetable section of the grocery store. If you had 1 cup of cooked rice in a meal, that would be around 200 calories, but if you just had ½ cup of rice and added 1 cup of cauliflower rice, that would bring the calories to 125. This tip is especially helpful if you’re making a rice-heavy dish like fried rice and you want to lighten it up.
You can save a lot of calories by subbing out a regular bagel for Bagel Thins, pictured below. A regular bagel often has upwards of 300 calories, but each Bagel Thin has just 110 calories. When you make this swap, it lets you cut back on the calories coming from carbs, so you can add sources of protein and healthy fats to your meal, without making it a high calorie meal.
Oil and butter are very calorie-dense because of their high fat content, and most people are not very accurate when adding them to a pan for cooking. So, they often add more calories to a meal than expected. If you take out 1 Tbsp. of butter or oil, that would cut 100+ calories. Oil spray doesn’t add a significant amount of extra calories — typically 10-20.
This swap is for the peanut butter lovers. Comparing calories, 2 tablespoons of regular peanut has 190 calories, while powdered peanut butter has just 50 calories for 2 tablespoons. PB2 is a great option for foods where you want to drizzle peanut butter on top (rather than spreading it on toast). Mix the powder with milk or water, and then add it to pancakes, oatmeal, or chopped apples. PB2 is also a great way to add peanut butter flavor to smoothies.
This simple swap doesn’t save a large amount of calories in a single serving, but over time this change can add up. With tuna in oil, you will get 80 calories per 2 oz. In comparison, tuna packed in water brings the calorie count down to 50 for a 2 oz. serving. Not a huge reduction, but if you make this choice every time you buy tuna, it’s an easy way to cut a few calories without changing your meals.
If you replace your grande iced latte with a grande iced coffee that has about ¼ cup of 2% milk, you can save over 100 calories. A grande iced latte from Starbucks has 130 calories, without adding any sweetener. If you have a vanilla latte, which comes with 4 pumps of vanilla syrup, you’d be getting closer to 190 calories for that drink. Alternatively, if you just have ¼ cup of milk in your iced coffee, that drink is only 30 calories. Then, if you want some extra flavor without extra calories, you can add some stevia or sugar free vanilla syrup.
These 10 food swaps will help you cut calories and stay in a calorie deficit, without feeling restricted. However, it’s important to keep your overall daily intake in mind to ensure you’re creating a calorie deficit. It’s possible you could be making a lot of food swaps, but still be eating too many calories overall for fat loss, which is why it’s beneficial to track your food intake using an app like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal. While these swaps are not an automatic solution for weight loss, they’re easy changes you can make to help you bring your calories more in line with what you need to be eating for your goals.
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