Let’s make this message simple: weight loss is complicated. In order to reach and keep a healthy weight, you must make changes that you can commit to for life. And you must at least consider food, exercise, sleep, emotional health, stress, occupation, and your environment.
SO, this post begins with a big caveat. While the focus is on swapping foods and highlighting calories, reaching a healthy weight requires so much more than calorie counting. Therefore, the calories listed in this post are simply meant to give you an illustration of how small choices can make a big impact over time.
Swap out Sugary Drinks
Drinking sodas, juices, and energy drinks puts a lot of sugar in your body. In fact, one can of soda has the equivalent of 10 sugar packets. 2 Drinking sugary drinks puts you at risk for becoming overweight.
Use the nutrition facts panel to see whether your drink is full of sugar. Sugar is the 10th item on the panel, listed under Total Carbohydrates. It shows the number of grams of sugar per serving. But, check the serving size! Because some bottled beverages contain two or three servings, multiply the grams of sugar by the number of servings per container.
1. Choosing a can of seltzer over a daily cola each day will translate to saving 55,480 calories—over 15 pounds—in a year.
2. Instead of turning to an energy drink five times each week, choose a cup of green tea. Doing so will help prevent you from gaining over 8 pounds in calories this year.
Substitute Refined for Whole Grains
Whole grains are full of valuable nutrients and fiber. Fiber is key to helping you feel full. Researchers from Harvard University recently found that people who swapped refined grains (like white rice, white pasta, and white bread) with whole grain versions reduced their risk of dying from heart disease.
Check out the ingredients label for the bread, rice, pasta, and other grains you buy. Make sure that the FIRST ingredient says “whole.” This includes: whole wheat, whole grain brown rice, whole grain oats, whole corn, etc.
5. Swapping white pasta for whole wheat pasta over the year, if you eat it as a side item once per week, prevents a little over ½ pound.
6. Save yourself almost ½ pound in calories this year (if you eat one slice daily) by switching from white to wheat bread. While ½ pound might not seem like much, it adds up!
Switch to Low Fat or Fat Free Milk
Whether you choose dairy or non-dairy milk, considering a low fat or fat free option will make a big difference in the long run. Not only will this reduce the number of calories you are consuming, but it also reduces saturated fat. The USDA recommends limiting saturated fat to 10% of your calories.
When you walk down the dairy aisle, look for milk and yogurt specifically labeled low (NOT reduced) fat. “Low” fat indicates that the food contains 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
7. Switch from two tablespoons of cream to low fat milk in your morning coffee. For those of us who drink coffee daily, switching to low fat milk will save 16,500 calories over a year, which translates to over 4 pounds!
9. Swap a cup of whole to low fat milk in your cereal. If you eat cereal with whole milk five days per week, switching to low fat milk will help you avoid 4 pounds over a year.
Swap a Starchy Side Item for a Veggie
Most of us need more veggies in our lives. Vegetables are vitamin, mineral, and fiber powerhouses. Replace starchy side items like white pasta, white potatoes, and fried items with veggie alternatives.
Get creative! Replace your starchy ingredients with a vegetable. Or, if you want to keep your starchy side item, add veggies. For example, instead of a white rice pilaf, use brown rice, grated carrot, and frozen spinach for some extra flavor and bright color.
Satisfy your Taste Buds during Dessert
Dessert does not always have to be full of sugar to feel satisfying. Use the natural sugars in fruits to swindle your taste buds. A fresh, zesty tangerine after dinner can feel refreshing and satisfy your sweet tooth, while packing in a vitamin C and fiber punch.
13. Replace apple pie for baked apples and walnuts during your dessert for more fiber and less sugar. If you typically eat apple pie once per week, this switch can avoid a gain of ½ pound over the year.
14. Swap ice cream for nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt topped with canned crushed pineapple (in juice, not syrup!). The swap would save you close to 1 pound over a year, if you typically eat ice cream three days per week.
Cook (and Buy!) with a Discerning Eye
Whether you cook your own or order your meals, don’t be a slave to the recipe or the menu! With a discerning eye, you can lighten up and add flavor to heavy dishes. Be wary of these words: “crunchy,” “crispy,” “creamy,” and “buttery.”
What swaps have you made to achieve a healthier lifestyle?
Let us know by commenting below!
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- What do I mean by “saving” pounds? In a perfect world, if you lived the same life this year as you did last year (ate the same, slept the same, exercised the same, etc) and ONLY switched this one item, you would lose the “saved” pounds. Because we don’t live in a perfect world, these calculations are not a guarantee. Remember: this is meant to illustrate the big impact one simple swap could have! ↩
- There are 40 grams of sugar in a typical can of cola, and a sugar packet contains about 4 grams of sugar ↩