Trimming calories from your favorite meals is easier than it sounds. And you can do it without giving up flavor or hunger-busting satisfaction. You just need to trick your taste buds with a few simple food swaps.
Spread on the avocado. “Instead of buttering your toast, spread it with a scoop of avocado and a pinch of sea salt,” suggests Marti Wolfson, culinary director of Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. You can also skip the mayo on your sandwich and use a few thin slices of avocado. The texture is still satisfying and creamy, but you replace the unhealthy fats with the good-for-you variety. Plus, avocado contains lutein—a powerful plant chemical improves eye health.
Make portobellos your pizza crust. Instead of using an English muffin or bagel for your next do-it-yourself pizza, try a portobello mushroom. Place it stem-side up, remove the stem and use the mushroom as the base for your sauce and cheese. "This simple swap helps you cut carbs and calories,” says Cheryl Forberg, R.D., an award-winning chef, best-selling author and the original nutritionist for The Biggest Loser. “Mushrooms also have a meaty texture and rich flavor and are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.”
Switch your chips. Hit the dip with jicama sticks instead of potato chips and you’ll save yourself some fat and calories. "Also known as 'the Mexican potato,’ jicama is a sweet, edible root that has 45 calories per cup versus around 137 per cup for chips," says Forberg. It’s also brimming with filling fiber—6 grams—and nearly 40 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. Just peel the jicama, slice it thinly and then cut these pieces into sticks.
Mash more than potatoes. “Mashed potatoes are void of nutrients while cauliflower is high in vitamin C and folate,” explains Wolfson, whose millet and cauliflower puree will make you forget the real stuff. Just heat olive oil over medium heat, add one cup of millet, stirring until it toasts. Then toss in half a head of cut-up cauliflower and 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock. Once it boils, simmer for 30 minutes. Drop in a roasted garlic clove and puree until creamy with an immersion blender or food processor.
Get creative with your crudité. Celery and carrot sticks are healthy on-the-go snacks, but you can bump up your nutrient intake and flavor by swapping in red bell pepper slices. "One cup of red bell peppers has only 20 calories and 120 percent of your daily supply of vitamin C," says Forberg. They’re also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and offer up a sweet, refreshing crunch.
Change up your chili. "Forget the meat in your next batch of chili and kick up the taste with roasted peppers and herbs and spices such as cumin, ground coriander, cilantro, chipotle and oregano," suggests Forberg. Use a variety of different beans (black, pinto, white or navy) to add plenty of protein and texture.
Get devilishly creative. The devil is in the details and it’s the details in deviled eggs that make them so unhealthy. Instead of filling them with traditional creamy yolk and mayonnaise filling, drop in a spoonful of hummus. “Two traditional deviled egg halves weigh in at about 125 calories and 11 grams fat while the hummus-stuffed variety has only 95 calories and 2 fat grams,” says Forberg.
Hide the cheese. Swap out cheese to save on calories. “Miso paste is a fermented soybean paste that has a salty, buttery taste,” says Wolfson. “It can give certain dishes a cheesy flavor with less fat while giving you vitamin K, amino acids, good bacteria and B vitamins.” Instead of the Parmesan in your pesto recipe or salad dressing, add one tablespoon of yellow or white miso paste (available at health food stores) to a batch of pesto or one cup of dressing. “You will never know the difference,” adds Wolfson.
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