10 Easy Food Swaps to Lose Pounds Without Trying

By Ali Luke
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If you can cut five hundred calories a day, you’ll lose a pound every week – or so the theory goes.

And you can make those changes without ever feeling hungry or deprived, and without giving up any of your favorite foods. Just pick five of these simple swaps every day: each will save you 100 calories.

  1. Toast: Swap butter and jam for a teaspoon of honey
  2. Sandwiches: Swap egg mayo for wafer-thin ham and light cream cheese
  3. Fries: Swap a fast-food portion of fries for an oven-baked portion at home
  4. Soda: Swap an 8oz serving of cola for flavoured water
  5. Chocolate: Swap a standard mars bar for 3 squares of dark chocolate
  6. Alcohol: Swap a can of beer for a small glass of wine
  7. Burger: Swap a cheeseburger for a plain one
  8. Popcorn: Swap a small sweet bag of popcorn for a small salted one
  9. Dessert: Swap two scoops of ice-cream for two scoops of frozen yoghurt
  10. Coffee: Swap whole milk in your latte for skimmed

And if none of those work for you, try keeping a diet diary for a week and figure out where you could cut out 100 calories, five times a day. With just a few tweaks to your diet, you could be four stone lighter by this time next year.

67 Comments

  1. Pregnancy Miracle

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I liked it….it really helped me to lose weight…

    Reply
  2. oiyoi

    no.

    Reply
  3. Vicki Vaughn

    Ah, Ali I see we think alike. Let’s keep things simple so no one gets off track.

    Reply
  4. Moped

    Very nice and helpful – But save 100 calories a day is not so much.. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Fast Weight Lose Tips

    The whole idea of weight is a mindset and a way of life. If you fail to apply these two principles you will fail.

    Reply
  6. Supplements Canada

    I completely agree with this post. Making small incremental adjustments over time that you can stick to are far better than large drastic changes that can’t be kept up.

    Reply
  7. Monique

    I’m with you on the black cofffee thing, although i still do like my ocational cappo or mocha. 😀 My major no no in food is fried.

    Reply
  8. Cynthia

    The scary thing about this list is that there is only one item on it that I actually eat on a semi-regular basis and it is the dark chocolate squares.

    So, the list is not too useful for me as it stands.

    Besides, why not just swap mustard for egg mayo on sandwiches… that’s got to be fewer calories (and better taste) than ham and cream cheese.

    Reply
  9. Jan74

    I’ll settle for a serving of the microwave fat-free chips tossed with salt and olive oil though.

    Cucumbers are delicious, but I agree with you that that is just silly. Same with yogurt and ice-cream. I love yogurt, but ice cream it is not.

    Talk of yogurt + cucumbers = me craving tzatzaki sauce.

    Reply
  10. Jan74

    I think aiming for 90-10 as a balance (90% healthy food, 10% stuff that is not as healthy but that you can’t live without) is a good idea. I have in the past eaten absolutely “clean” and it was soooo boring. I can’t live without a single condiment and without cheese forever, for example (yes, cottage cheese is technically cheese and I love it, but it doesn’t deal with that gouda craving…). I love to cook and love to eat good food, and my whole wheat pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes and no parmesan was killing me. I know that tomato sauce from the jar and parmesan aren’t the healthiest foods, but aiming for that perfection was just going to make me binge eventually.

    Reply
  11. Spectra

    Heather, I had to do the same thing initially when I was losing weight. I couldn’t just eat 2 cookies and be done with it…I was way too tempted to eat the whole box. I had to completely cut out all the tempting stuff from my diet for a long time and then slowly reintroduce them back. I will admit though, I have lost my taste for most of that stuff entirely. I never crave most of it anymore…now I crave things like fresh watermelon or a nice crispy apple.

    Reply
  12. Maybird07712

    No it’s not weird, it happens to me to

    Reply
  13. Ali from The Office Diet

    Hi Regina,

    With the toast and jam, I used Weight Loss Resources for the figures. I was doing it for 2 slices of toast (sorry if that wasn’t clear) as I was assuming that was an average serving size if it was your whole breakfast! WLR gives:

    Jam, Average, 2 Tsp (20g) – 50.6 cals
    Butter, Average, 2 x thin spread (14g) – 102.6 cals
    Honey, Runny, Average, 2 Tsp (16g) – 50.2 cals

    As you can see, cutting out the butter saves 100 cals. I personally find honey without butter preferable to jam without butter (though I tend to put mine on crumpets, not bread). I can see others might differ thought!

    Hope that helps explain my reasoning and figures.

    Thanks again for the comments, it really is useful to have feedback, and I do agree with you that going for satiety over empty cals is definitely a good idea. (I’ve written in the past on my own blog, The Office Diet, about “expensive calories” and “calorie bargin” foods, the latter being high-satiety ones).

    Best,

    Ali

    Reply
  14. Regina

    Also, for the toast I was cutting out the butter AND the jam. I did do a fair bit of calculating when working out the swaps, and can provide figures if you want.

    I’m really not trying to be contrarian, but let’s say a slice of toast (heck white toast), 1-tsp butter, 1-tsp jam….that’s (by fitday numbers) 119 calories, 5g fat, 17g carbohydrate (1g fiber) and 2g protein.

    Skip the butter and jam and use 1-tsp honey – now it’s 88-calories (31-calories less), 1g fat, 18g carbohydrate and 2g of protein.

    How much butter and jam were you using as the calculation….it would have to be a tablespoon of butter?

    I agree not all the swaps are the best nutritious choices, but as I’m sure you can see from the above comments, people want swaps which are as close as possible to the originals. I was trying to be realistic in terms of what your average new-to-dieting guy or gal might eat!

    I do understand that, but would offer that it’s (IMHO) better to provide options that are healthful and not just swaping one thing for another in the name of calories…especially when the swap is actually increasing the physiological response in the metabolism to increase insulin and fat storage and lowering nutrient intake.

    Call me crazy, but I’d rather offer a person a swap that provides them with greater satiety, odds for better insulin sensitivity and less fat storage, and higher nutrient-density, than simple calorie reductions that are increasing (in some of the options above) the glucose burden they’re probably already under with their dietary choices.

    For a good number of people who need to lose weight, they’re being undermined with advice which leads to a greater degree and greater degrees of insulin resistance and every swap that increased carbohydrate does that by way of increasing the insulin needed in response to more glucose.

    Yeah, I am firmly in the controlled-carb camp, but ya know what?

    If someone is going to have toast, it’s better to be honest and say skip the jam and have the butter with it, than completely eliminate the gut satiety hormones PYY and CCK triggered with the fat but not with the carbohydrate…..your swap added 1g of carbohydrate to be metabolized (potentially 5mg/dl more of blood sugar to clear) up from 17g (butter & jam) to 18g with the honey instead…but the swap also eliminates the triggering of CCK and PYY because the fat is gone now….instead, I’d offer the advice to my bread-eating-buddies to just drop the jam and now you’ve reduced the carbohydrate to 13g (down from 17g), less now converted to glucose, reducing the required insulin to keep blood sugar stable and saved yourself about 20-calories, while preserving the fat soluble vitamins you’ll get from the butter, have some CCK and PYY released to signal you ate, and need less insulin to keep your blood sugar stable since you’re not eating as much carbohydrate with the toast and butter compared to the toast with butter & jam.

    You looked for swaps that had a calorie advantage – I look at swaps from a different perspective…and try to find those that offer greater bang-for-the-calorie from a micronutrient perspective, because at the end of the day, you gotta eat and are better off IMO eating things that can shave calories while boosting micronutrient intake and offer greater satiety in the process…..it sucks to feel hungry because you’re eating foods that don’t give one a sense of satiety…..but hey, I guess some don’t mind the feeling of hunger if they save some calories?

    Reply
  15. zach Hunt

    Swapping is a good idea I think swapping sugary cereals for cereals with high fiber is a good way to go, more water instead of soda pop , chicken or fish over red meat fruits and veggies over chips or any processed foods if we look for a healthier way we will find it.

    Reply
  16. Ali from TheOfficeDiet

    Good swap! I agree serving size is often people’s downfall…

    Reply
  17. Ali from TheOfficeDiet

    Hi Regina,

    Thanks for the comments!

    I’ve assumed for things like latte than it applies 5/6 times a day (though I admit it depends how much coffee you drink!) Also, for the toast I was cutting out the butter AND the jam. I did do a fair bit of calculating when working out the swaps, and can provide figures if you want — I kept the list deliberately simple so didn’t want numbers all over it.

    I agree not all the swaps are the best nutritious choices, but as I’m sure you can see from the above comments, people want swaps which are as close as possible to the originals. I was trying to be realistic in terms of what your average new-to-dieting guy or gal might eat! 🙂

    Best,

    Ali

    Reply
  18. Regina

    These types of lists are deceptive and misleading IMO.

    Milk or skim in the latte? Even if they’re adding a full cup of milk in a latte, it’s still not a 100-calorie savings going with skim over whole. (it’s 64 calories per cup calorie difference between whole and skim/no-fat milk)

    Ice cream (whole milk) or frozen yogurt (low-fat)? Two medium scoops has only a 39-calorie difference, but the frozen yogurt is going to hit you with 11g of more sugar than the ice cream.

    Baked or fried french fries? You won’t have a 100-calorie difference between the two unless you’re eating a few cups of fries.

    Cream cheese and ham as a swap for mayo? Puh-leez….it’s a 10 calorie difference if one was going to use 1-TBS of mayo and swaps it for a thin slice of ham and 1-TBS of cream cheese.

    Toast with butter and jam swapped for honey? A mere 31-calories, not 100 (again) and it’s more carbohydrate too…if you really want the toast, just don’t add the jam.

    If you like a burger with cheese, just have the damn cheese already…..skip the bun if you want to make a difference in how your body will use the energy to lower insulin/glucose burden.

    I would have really liked seeing swaps that offered better nutrient profiles rather than suggestions on how to just keep eating foods that offer little nutrition.

    Reply
  19. Kailash

    Swap protein and fat for carbs, and you’ll have less insulin to pump up your body’s fat cells.

    Reply
  20. Nate

    I like the fact that this post is on the right path.. Weight loss is not all about exercise as many people think. In my opinion its 60/40 Diet/Exercise. Every day I see to many over weight people doing endless crunches and situps… *sigh*

    Reply
  21. soozeequeue

    Yes, I think that’s very true. If you’ve decided you can have a 100 calorie snack and that’s what the ice cream sandwich has, you know when you’re done. With a bowl of ice cream, you can play all sorts of games with yourself and easily consume twice as much or more than you intended. I picked up some little hummus and flatbread combo packages tonight for that very reason even though I know it’s cheaper for me to buy larger quantities separately and combine them – when I eat one I’ll know exactly where I’m at. I’m lazy when it comes to tracking and counting, if something makes it easier and I’m not making a health sacrifice I’ll go for it. (although I just noticed these flatbreads aren’t whole grain, so I guess I will have to do it the hard way next time!)

    Reply
  22. Fitness_Fanatic

    For me it’s a bit easier since I wasn’t eating junk food before. However I was overdoing the peanuts, macadamia nuts and pistachios. For some reason now I can control those nut cravings. Cookies, bah.

    Reply
  23. soozeequeue

    Oh yeah, if it was that easy … you wonder who writes these things.

    Reply
  24. Spectra

    I agree with most of the people on here that said that these swaps change the texture and flavor of most of these foods entirely. I once read a magazine article full of “smart swaps” you could make for cravings. My favorite one was:”Eat thinly sliced cucumbers sprinkled with a bit of salt instead of potato chips” Um, yeah right. Like that’s gonna cure my chip craving.

    Reply
  25. Spectra

    I don’t many of the foods on that list, but I did learn to make a very important swap that helped because it did help me limit portion size. I swapped an ice cream sandwich for my bowl of fat free ice cream and I saved myself buttloads of calories because I sure wasn’t eating only one serving of ice cream at a time!

    Reply
  26. Spectra

    Even better swap: 1 oz vodka mixed into a calorie free mixer instead of the beer.

    Reply
  27. Quito

    Good point. When I was weaning myself off of crap, I would imagine the taste of the junk food – the oreo, muffin, pizza, whatever – and that would be enough to convince me that I didn’t want it.

    You know, this is something that has come easier to me with age. Maybe it’s having more money, or having less time, or getting used to better food. Hum.

    Reply