Smart Food Swaps You Can Make Right Now

By Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN

As a nutritionist, I often hear about my clients’ New Year’s resolutions in early January and how by Valentine’s Day they feel discouraged and fall back into their same old routines. Resolutions such as, “I have to lose weight” or, “I want to eat healthier” are often too broad and therefore do generally not work. What I have found in my private practice is that small action-oriented steps and simple substitutions tend to work a whole lot better.

Here are some smart-and simple food swaps that you can implement and incorporate in your everyday eating pattern and let you lead a healthier life.

Choose whole fruit instead of juice
Juice tends to be high in sugar and low in fiber. Fresh fruit, on the other hand, contains more fiber and has a higher water content, both of which are excellent for weight loss. Foe example, eating an orange instead of guzzling down a pint of orange juice can save you over 150 calories. Imagine how many calories you can save if you make this switch daily.

Start your day with a low fat Greek yogurt instead of a doughnut
Greek yogurt is an excellent breakfast choice, as it is high in protein, which can keep you feel full and satisfied longer. Top it with fresh fruit and a handful of walnuts for a highly nutritious, power-boosting breakfast. By comparison, a doughnut is high in calories with hardly any nutritional benefits.

Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
Grains and starches are not taboo and do not need to be avoided for nutritional health and weight loss. The trick is to eat the right kind of grains. Whole grains are the best choice as they are chock full of nutrients and fiber. Include brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal instead of white bread, white rice, and white pasta.

Drink water and seltzer instead of soda
Most sodas contain lots of sugar – they are like liquid candy – and empty calories. Swapping soda for water or seltzer can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, orange, or cucumber, or throw in a few fruity ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze for flavored ice cubes).

Go for a whole-grain English muffin instead of your regular bagel
Making this swap can save you over 200 calories. While both a bagel and an English muffin are roughly the same size, a bagel is equivalent to approximately five bread slices, whereas an English muffin is more like two bread slices. So, save the bagel as an occasional treat.

For starters, choose a salad instead of a fried appetizer
Starting your meal with a fresh salad is a great way to include vegetables in your diet. Salads made with fresh vegetables provide plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are also low in calories.

Choose a low-fat tomato-based soup instead of a cream-based soup
I am a soup lover. I enjoy eating soup in cold winters and hot summers. Soups make a great snack, a healthy appetizer, and a great meal on its own. Be sure to eat a vegetable-based soup instead of one made with cream or a bisque. Great choices include 10 vegetable soup, minestrone soup, and white bean and escarole soup.

Eat an apple or a pear as a snack instead of a bag of chips
When you feel the urge to nibble, go for a healthy piece of fruit instead of a bag of chips or other less-than-healthy munchies.

Choose salmon instead of steak
As a nutritionist, I advise limiting read meat and choosing fish more often instead. Grilled salmon, for example, is high in protein, much lower in saturated fat than red meat, and full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Finish your meal with a cup of blueberries instead of a slice of blueberry pie
Berries are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and other important nutrients, and they are also low in calories. If you want to indulge in an occasional slice of pie, make it a sliver, and surround it with a cup of fresh fruit.

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, CDN is a nationally recognized nutritionist in New York City and an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University (NYU). She is the author of “The Portion Teller Plan” (Broadway, a Division of Random House, Inc.).

Widely considered an expert on portion sizes, Dr. Young is regularly featured in national publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Self, Fitness, Redbook, and Glamour. She has appeared as an expert guest on national television, including ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, TODAY and CNN, and was featured in the film “Super Size Me.” For more information, please visit

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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