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Don’t Eat That — Eat This!

Easy food swaps can make your diet healthier.


Did you know you can eat plenty of food to fill you up, and still cut calories? It’s true. You can enjoy some of your favorite, most decadent recipes simply by doing some creative ingredient swapping. You can also snack without feeling guilty.

Don’t just think about the number of calories in a food. There’s more to it than that. You get full from the amount you eat, not by how many calories you eat. It’s about replacing higher-calorie foods with lower-calorie options and with foods higher in fiber that will fill you up. Some of these include fruits and vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy, and beans and peas.

Try “bulking up” some of your favorite foods with vegetables — for instance stack lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber on your sandwich. Or make one of everyone’s favorite comfort foods, macaroni and cheese, with low-fat milk and cheese, whole-grain pasta, and chopped tomatoes and spinach. Your one-cup serving will be much lower in calories, and the whole-grain pasta and veggies will fill you up faster.

Here are some other food substitutions to try:



Cream soups

Broth-based soup with lots of veggies

Chips, pretzels or other salty snacks

Hummus with baby carrots for dipping

Whole milk

Fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat milk

Ice cream

Low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt

Regular salad dressings

Reduced-calorie dressings, lemon juice or herb-flavored wine vinegar

Rice or pasta

Cauliflower rice or zucchini spirals

Fettuccini Alfredo

Whole-grain pasta with marinara sauce



Stir-fry with white rice

Stir-fry with brown rice

Bacon and sausage

Lean ham or Canadian bacon

Sugary drink

Plain or sparkling water; unsweetened ice tea

There are literally hundreds of other changes you can make to your diet. Health- and weight-oriented recipe websites and some cookbooks can help you find ways to lighten up recipes without sacrificing flavor. You might be surprised just how easy it can be — with delicious, filling results you can feel good about.

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eat more, weight less. Accessed December 3, 2019. Tips for healthy substitutes. Accessed December 3, 2019.
National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Some myths about nutrition and physical activity. Accessed December 3, 2019.

Last Updated December 3, 2019