Losing a little weight doesn’t have to mean a complete transformation of how and what you eat. By simply making a few healthy food swaps, you can make surprisingly drastic changes.
While there are many great ways to improve your diet and lose weight, like trying one of the best protein powder for weight lossmaking small adjustments to what you eat throughout the day can also have a big impact.
We talked to some dietary experts to bring you a guide to the best healthy food swaps you can start making in your diet today.
1. Change the soda for mineral water with lemon
We all know that soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Sprite are full of sugar and empty calories, but they sure are delicious. Instead of reaching for a can of soda, which contains about 139 calories, Ashley Bannister, a Noom trainer and registered dietitian, recommends making yourself a zero-calorie soda with lemon.
2. Swap out whole sour cream for Greek yogurt.
While whole sour cream is definitely delicious in all sorts of dishes or as a sauce, it’s not always the healthiest option. Whole sour cream can contain 198 calories per 3.5 ounces along with 19 grams of fat.
Instead, try opting for Greek yogurt “for a protein boost with a similar taste,” says Bannister. Greek yogurt contains just 100 calories and 1 gram of fat per 3.5 ounces, plus it’s a wonderful source of protein, making it a much healthier option.
After a while, you might even switch out your Greek yogurt for coconut milk or yogurt. As Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, MS, ND suggests, say goodbye to sweetened yogurt and opt for unsweetened whole milk or coconut yogurt to give your gut all the probiotic power you want, without the sugar overload.
3. Swap French fries for popcorn
We all know that salty chips aren’t exactly healthy, but once you start munching on them, it can be hard to put them down. Popcorn is a perfect substitute.
“Popcorn is a low-calorie grain that is high in saturated fiber and nutrients,” says registered dietitian Edibel Quintero. “As long as popcorn isn’t seasoned with salt, butter, or syrup, it’s perfect for weight loss.”
4. Swap store-bought fruit juice for fresh-squeezed juice
While it’s much easier to grab a carton of juice from the refrigerator, using fresh fruit to make your own homemade juice is much healthier, as your juice won’t contain any unhealthy preservatives or added sugars. Like one study 2021 notes, the added sugars in fruit juices may play a role in weight gain and diabetes.
“Replace store-bought sweetened fruit juices with fresh-squeezed juices,” says Quintero. “Most store-bought juices are high in sugar, so drinking them frequently puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. If you can’t live without this beverage, opt for fresh-squeezed juice, as which contains more vitamins, minerals and other nutritional compounds. Another alternative is to drink water with a slice of lemon, orange or another favorite fruit.”
5. Swap fries for baked potato wedges
Instead of buying frozen fries, you can make your own potato wedges in the oven.
“Make your own oven fries,” says Bannister. “They will still have a similar crunchy texture, but they will be much lower in calories and lower in saturated fat.”
6. Swap butter for olive oil in cooking and avocado on toast.
Butter is a common ingredient in many dishes, but if you regularly use butter in your recipes, you may be inadvertently making your food less healthy. Instead, try using olive oil when frying foods.
Or, if you love to have butter on your toast in the morning, try swapping it out for some mashed avocado which is high in healthy fats and fiber.
7. Swap fried tacos for soft tacos
You may not have realized that soft and hard tacos were so different in everything but texture, however, hard shell tacos are much less healthy. As registered dietitian nutritionist Vandana Sheth explains, this is because hard tacos are fried in oil, while soft tacos are not. Hard tacos may have fewer calories, but that doesn’t make them any healthier.
To really make a difference, try using whole wheat wraps instead of soft tacos for an even healthier meal.
8. Swap ground beef for a mixture of mushrooms and ground beef
Whether you’re making burritos, lasagna, or pasta, ground beef can add a great kick of flavor. However, trying an option with less red meat can make your dish much healthier.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up ground beef altogether. “Mix minced mushrooms with 50:50 beef in your favorite burger recipe,” suggests Sheth.
9. Swap dried fruit for fresh fruit
You can make snack time much healthier by “choosing fresh fruit or dried fruit with no added sugar over canned fruit with added syrups,” suggests registered dietitian Patricia Kolesa.
Many dried fruits come with added sugars; Also, because fruit shrinks when it dries, it’s very easy to eat more than you would if you had to choose fresh fruit.
10. Swap fried chicken for grilled or baked chicken
“Try to opt for broiled, baked, boiled chicken instead of fried chicken,” suggests Kolesa.
Fried chicken is cooked in oil, while grilled chicken is cooked with just a little seasoning. By swapping fried chicken for grilled chicken, you can shave 100 calories and 10 grams of fat from your meal.
11. Swap candy for nuts and dried cranberries
Sweets are always a tempting snack, but as we all know, they are full of sugar and can lead to weight gain and dental problems.
“Eat a handful of nuts as a snack instead of chips, candy, or other processed snacks,” says Sheth.
Add some dried cranberries to your nut mix and you still get that hint of sweetness too.