Eating a balanced diet is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. And whether your goals are related to health or weight loss, luckily there are plenty of quick and easy diet swaps that can help to boost health and cut calories.
Even better, with these simple swaps, you won’t have to compromise on taste either.
With this in mind, here are 15 quick and easy diet swaps for a healthier lifestyle.
1. Choose your condiments wisely
When it comes to cutting back calories, the calories in condiments are often overlooked. However, since many are high in calories, making mindful swaps or controlling portion sizes can go a long way in establishing a healthier diet.
For example, swapping out Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise for the ‘lighter’ version would save you around 70 calories per tablespoon . And replacing Heinz Original Tomato Ketchup with the No Added Sugar and Salt version would reduce your salt and sugar intake by around 3g per tablespoon.
These differences quickly add up, so it’s no wonder that paying attention to your condiments is one of the best weight loss tips . For more ideas, have a read of these 9 healthy condiment swaps from Healthline.
2. Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes
While both are similar in their calorie, protein, and carb content, sweet potatoes are generally healthier than regular potatoes.
This is partly due to their high vitamin A content (which is important for cell growth, and vision). For example, 100g of sweet potato offers 107% of the daily vitamin A value, while regular potatoes offer just 0.1%!
Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index, which means they’re less likely to cause blood sugar levels to spike than regular potatoes, and can therefore be a useful diet addition for those living with diabetes .
To start making your own delicious sweet potato wedges, curries, or stews, check out these healthy sweet potato recipes from BBC Good Food .
3. Use Greek yoghurt as a substitute
When it comes to a healthy diet, greek yoghurt really is a hero product. Not only is it low in calories and high in protein, it’s also delicious and extremely versatile.
Greek yoghurt can be used to replace products like sour cream, butter, and mayonnaise. For example, replacing sour cream with 0% fat Greek yoghurt saves around 140 calories per 100g . For more information about cooking with yoghurt , Skinny Taste has some great ideas on how you can use it as a substitute in recipes.
Greek yoghurt can also be enjoyed as a healthy snack or breakfast. It’s especially delicious topped with fresh berries and muesli. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration in this list of Greek yoghurt breakfast bowls from Modern Honey.
4. Swap sugar for cinnamon
Cinnamon is a great sugar substitute that tastes just as good – if not better. Not only does it contain less calories (six calories per teaspoon rather than 16), cinnamon also provides various health benefits . It’s known to reduce blood sugar, control cholesterol , and help manage diabetes .
To help satisfy your sweet tooth, have a read of these 5 effective ways to use cinnamon in your diet .
5. Use spray instead of cooking oil
There are various benefits of using a cooking spray instead of cooking oil. Cooking spray contains significantly lower calories than cooking oil, and food cooked in it is likely to be less greasy and contain fewer free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells). Plus, it’s a lot harder to overuse cooking spray than it is to over-pour cooking oil. Therefore, making swaps like this can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol .
You can also find cooking sprays in a range of flavours – including garlic, butter, and chilli – so you won’t have to compromise on taste either. You can browse cooking sprays like Fry Light on Amazon .
6. Choose fresh fruit over dried
While dried fruit offers the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, the main difference lies in their calorie and sugar content.
Because dried fruit loses water content and volume during the drying process, the nutrient, calorie, and sugar content becomes concentrated. This means that you’d consume significantly more calories eating a handful of dried fruit than you would a handful of fresh fruit. For example, there’s only 60 calories in a cup of fresh grapes, but around 430 calories in a cup of raisins.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to cut dried fruit out of your diet entirely if you enjoy it – it’s just worth being mindful of portion sizes to ensure you’re not eating excess calories.
7. Consider making your own popcorn
Popcorn is a high-fibre snack that can be kept relatively low-calorie. But what’s often forgotten is that for this to be true, the popcorn has to be prepared correctly.
Health wise, air-popped, lightly seasoned popcorn is the best option. So this means ditching the butter, toffee, and microwave popcorn bags which can quickly turn popcorn into an unhealthy snack. In fact, one large bucket of cinema salted popcorn contains over 1,200 calories !
One 30g portion of air-popped popcorn on the other hand, contains between 120 and 150 calories. And, due to its high-fibre and low fat content, air-popped popcorn has been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease , diabetes , and other health conditions.
Have a read of this recipe guide from Amy’s Healthy Baking for instructions on how to make air-popped popcorn at home.
8. Be savvy with your ice cream choices
Ice cream is a go-to snack for many people; and the good news is that you can enjoy it without having to clock up the calories.
Brands like Halo Top for example, have a whole range of delicious low-calorie ice cream flavours – from chocolate brownie to caramel macchiato. And with entire tubs (473ml) clocking in at just 280-370 calories – these contain about half the calories of regular ice cream. They’re also lower in sugar and fat, and higher in protein.
To help you decide which to try, you can browse these 18 best healthy ice creams .
9. Swap fatty meat for lean protein sources
Protein is essential for any diet because we need it to build muscle, repair tissue, and maintain bone health . However, some high protein foods – for example sausages and processed meats – are also high in saturated fat, so overconsumption can increase the risk of heart disease .
Therefore, choosing lean protein sources , such as chicken breast, turkey, beans, greek yoghurt, tuna, and tofu, is beneficial when it comes to health and weight loss. It’s also worth avoiding skin-on meat where possible as this can account for around 80% of the meat’s fat content .
10. Swap distractions for mindful eating
Many of us tend to multitask while we eat, but research has shown that not paying attention to your food can cause overeating.
For example, this review found that distracted eating not only caused people to eat more in the moment, but it also significantly increased the amount they ate later that day too.
Eating without distractions encourages mindful eating (being aware of what you’re eating and how it tastes) – a technique shown to promote weight loss, reduce binge eating, and improve digestion . This six-month group seminar on mindful eating among people with obesity resulted in an average weight loss of 26 pounds (12kg), with no weight regain in the following three months.
You can find out more about mindful eating in this guide on the Healthline website.
11. Try using a spiralizer
If you’re looking to cut the calories and follow a lower-carb diet , a spiralizer could make things easier for you. Low-calorie alternatives to regular pasta and rice made using a spiralizer, like ‘zucchini noodles’ and ‘cauliflower rice’, have become all the rage in recent years.
These veggie alternatives kick the calories out the door, with 100g of zoodles containing 16 calories, as opposed to the 370 calories in the same amount of uncooked spaghetti.
Spiralizers are available to buy on Amazon . You can find cooking inspiration in these 10 healthy meals that use a spiralizer or these easy and healthy zucchini recipes from Good Housekeeping – the courgetti and meatballs are a must try!
12. Consider swapping to dairy-free milk
Dairy-free milks have become increasingly popular in recent years. And it’s not only vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant who can reap the benefits.
Highly nutritious and lower in calories than regular cows milk, dairy-free milks (not including tinned coconut milk) can be a great aid for general health and weight loss.
Unsweetened almond milk for example, clocks in at just 13 calories per 100ml , while the same amount of semi-skimmed cow’s milk contains 50 calories . It’s also rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin E . Just be sure to buy the unsweetened versions of these milks to avoid unnecessary sugar consumption.
For an in-depth comparison between the different types of milk, you might find this article from Healthline useful.
13. Be aware of the calories in alcohol
Alcohol is a source of empty calories – meaning that while it contains calories, it doesn’t provide any real nutrition. Alcohol also disrupts metabolism and causes blood sugar to drop. This can make you feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten plenty during the day.
That being said, while excessive consumption of alcohol can be damaging to your health , there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink from time-to-time – as long as it’s in moderation.
However, if weight loss is your goal, then it’s worth choosing lower-calorie alcoholic drinks where possible. For example, a classic pina colada cocktail contains around 530 calories , so opting for lower calorie options – such as gin and slimline tonic or light beer – could save you around 400 calories per drink.
14. Make ‘open’ sandwiches
If you often find yourself feeling unsatisfied after lunch, or are looking to cut calories, consider cutting your bread count in half, by making open sandwiches.
Removing a piece of bread from your sandwich can cut around 90 calories and leave space for extra low-calorie toppings. Equally, if you’re often still hungry after lunch, making an open sandwich can trick your brain into seeing double the amount of food on your plate. It should also take you more time to eat it too as you’ll eat each side seperately, giving your brain more time to signal to your stomach that you’re full.
Why not try making some of these delicious open sandwiches from PopSugar?
15. Swap salt for herbs and spices
To reduce your salt intake, try using herbs and spices to add flavour to your food instead. From garlic and lemon juice to black pepper and paprika, not only do these substitutes taste great, but they also bring a range of health benefits.
For more ideas, check out these 18 flavourful salt alternatives on Healthline.
Eating a balanced diet is important for a healthy lifestyle. Too often, people are led to believe that to successfully cut down on calories and eat a healthy diet, they have to sacrifice fun and flavoursome foods. Luckily, this isn’t the case at all.
Reducing your intake of saturated fat, sugar, salt, and excess calories through simple diet swaps can make all the difference. Not only can it reduce your risk of developing conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes – but it will hopefully leave you feeling happier and healthier as a result too.
What are your favourite diet swaps? Have you tried swapping anything new recently? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on the food and drink section of the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.