Eating healthier shouldn’t mean cutting out everything in your diet that you enjoy. Instead, you should be swapping out the bad foods with smarter choices to help you lose weight and stay on track with your health. We put together a list of some easy swaps to make with your favorite foods for healthier eating and living.
Swap White for Whole Wheat
Bread and pasta are staples in many meals, so it’s kind of hard to cut them out completely, and you shouldn’t! Carbs are an important part of a balanced diet to keep you healthy and energized for the day. Try using whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and pasta to get more fiber and protein in every serving, which will help keep you full for longer.
Whole grain is sometimes a taste that you’ll need to get used to, especially if you don’t like “healthy tasting” foods. But whole wheat is pretty comparable to white and you won’t be able to taste the difference once you mix whole wheat pasta in some spaghetti sauce or pile on your favorite sandwich ingredients on whole grain bread.
Fresh Over Dried
Fruit is great to help your sweet tooth because it has natural sugars! But when you eat dried fruit, such as raisins or other dried fruit in trail mix, they often have added sugars to make the flavor stronger and more appealing. This means they’re higher in calories and since they’re condensed, they take up less room in your stomach and you’ll need to eat more of them to feel full. Plus, the process of drying fruit often takes away some of the most important nutrients that the fruit provides, like vitamin C. Fresh fruit is more filling with the same great fiber and all the nutrients that the fruit normally provides.
Choose Lighter Dressings & Sauces
White and creamy dressings and sauces such as ranch or alfredo sauce are heavy and high in calories. Dressings can be a huge trap when you think you’re having a healthy and filling salad but ruining it by adding 200 calories in ranch. Instead, try yogurt dressing to get that same creamy and light flavor or try mixing it up with a vinaigrette.
Sauces can also add plenty of unintentional calories. Creamy sauces like alfredo have heavy cream and a lot of calories and fat, while many red sauces like marinara have added sodium, sugars and artificial colors. Shop for the light versions of sauces to get the same flavor with fewer calories or try making your own marinara sauce to eliminate the added sugars and preservatives!
Replace Red Meats with Lean
Protein is an essential part of any healthy diet, but not all meats are created equal. Dark and red meat is significantly higher in calories than their white meat counterparts. Try eating chicken breast instead of chicken legs or thighs. When you’re making something traditionally made with red meat, such as ground beef tacos or bacon, swap it out with the turkey equivalent, so ground turkey and turkey bacon. The lower-calorie options are often higher in protein as well, meaning you’ll have more energy and stay full for longer! And, just like the whole-wheat pasta, once the food swaps are mixed in with other food, you won’t even be able to tell the difference when you’re eating the much healthier choice!
Baked Over Fried
French fries and breaded chicken are delicious, we get it. Instead of going to a fast-food restaurant and getting these high-calorie and high-sodium foods, try making your own versions at home. Cut up potatoes and lightly salt them, then bake them until they’re nice and crispy or throw them in the air fryer. Bread your own chicken and throw them in the oven to get that crunchy taste of chicken tenders without the calories.
Sparkling Water Instead of Soda
One of the hardest things for people to give up when they decide to diet is soda. While diet sodas may have fewer calories, they have a lot of unsavory chemical ingredients. Instead, try sparkling flavored water such as Sparkling Ice or La Croix. They’re flavorful, which is a great alternative to sugary drinks, with no added sugars and zero calories. Of course, you should be drinking water as well, but this is a good option to mix up your drinks and add some variety.
Making healthy food swaps are great, but healthier eating shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing to get in shape. A healthy lifestyle includes consistent exercise and healthy food choices. The YMCA is here to help you work towards your goal with group fitness classes, personal training and more. You belong here.