What if you could make a few easy food and drink swaps to drop several hundred calories in a day? Small calorie cuts can make a big difference for your long-term fitness goals. Consider this: Each pound of body fat equals approximately 3500 calories. So, if you eat 500 fewer calories per day, you’ll automatically be losing one pound of body fat per week.
It sounds simple, but in reality, making the right food decisions can be difficult. Keep these five food and drink swaps in mind the next time you’re choosing a snack or meal, and know that you’re picking the lower-calorie option! (Plus, try these tips for switching from soda to water.)
1. Skip: spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer. Just because it has the words “spinach” and “artichoke” in it doesn’t mean it’s lean. Spinach and artichoke dip is typically loaded with cheese, cream, bloat-inducing sodium, and even more cheese.
Swap: have hummus instead. You can still enjoy a few chips and dip, but opt for low-calorie hummus instead of spinach artichoke dip. With its fiber content, hummus is also more filling than spinach artichoke dip, so you’ll eat less and save more room for your meal.
2. Skip: potato chips and crackers. When packing a snack for work or grabbing a quick bite at home, avoid the high-sodium, high-fat crispy treats. These snacks may satisfy your salt craving, but they won’t be doing much good for your body.
Swap: choose popcorn. In its purest form, popcorn actually has several health benefits and is very low-calorie. Popcorn is packed with antioxidants, according to new research, and also adds fiber to the diet.
3. Skip: a glass of morning juice. Packaged juice can easily have as much sugar as soda—and as many calories, too. Eating the real fruit (like an orange instead of orange juice) is almost always healthier and less caloric. Because the fruit itself is fresh, it doesn’t have the added sugar and preservatives of the juice form.
Swap: sip skim milk. Skim milk is low in calories and includes the calcium that many of us are lacking in our carb-heavy and protein-heavy diets. You could also try waking up with a cold glass of alkaline water. You can add fresh mint to the water for extra flavor, and water has even fewer calories (zero!) than skim milk.
4. Skip: croutons or tortilla chips on salads. They may add a pleasant crunch, but the croutons or tortilla chips on your salad aren’t adding anything else. Spicing up a salad can be treacherous territory (have you checked out the nutrition facts on a bottle of ranch dressing lately?), so don’t make the mistake of eating the wrong kind of crunch.
Swap: crunch on walnuts. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. You shouldn’t eat too many of them, as they do contain a significant amount of calories if you overindulge, but they’re a perfect salad topper for the diet-conscious eater.
5. Skip: lasagna or spaghetti noodles. The point of eating noodles is pretty much to enjoy the delicious pasta sauce, right? Noodles are providing you with energy in the form of carbohydrates, but you could be filling the noodles’ spot on your plate with vegetables.
Swap: zucchini or spinach go great with pasta. It sounds like a big sacrifice to skip pasta and eat vegetables instead. But in research conducted by Penn State, vegetables swapped for pasta were deemed equally tasty to children—and kids are some of the pickiest eaters of all! You can try spaghetti squash, grilled zucchini, or sautéed spinach with that pasta sauce, and you’ll greatly benefit from the veggies you’re eating instead.
These methods of cutting calories are proven. If you make these sorts of swaps in all areas of your diet, you’ll see progress and be more likely to reach your health goals. To go along with your healthy lifestyle, we recommend drinking alkaline ionized water. Water from one of our water ionizers is free from contaminants and chemicals, and has the added benefits of hydroxyl ions and antioxidants—making it a perfect addition to your health efforts.