Eating better doesn’t have to be hard. Just being a little more creative with your food choices can save you calories without compromising on flavor. One of the best ways to make a dent in the amount of calories you consume each day is by substituting high sugar or high carbohydrate items for healthier alternatives. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Swap Granola for Nuts and Seeds
Granola adds a delightful crunch to fresh fruit and yogurt, but many granola varieties are made with sugary syrups. You can still get a crunch from nuts and seeds plus a helping of fiber and heart healthy fats. Walnuts and chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which may help improve cardiovascular health.*
Swap Bagels for Whole Grain English Muffins
This morning staple is a diet killer with not only refined flour but, depending on the type of bagel, added sugars. The average bagel has about 50 grams of carbohydrates. You can cut that in half by opting for a whole grain English muffin which has about 25 grams of carbohydrates. With the calories you save you can still enjoy plain cream cheese on your English muffin without doing too much damage to your daily calorie quota.
Swap Chips for Popcorn
Deep fried, salted and sometimes coated with a sprinkling of sugar, potato chips contain little nutritional value but many calories. You can get your salty snack fix with a serving of popcorn. Popcorn is high in fiber, with about 3 grams in an ounce. Air popped and dressed in a small amount of butter, popcorn is the clear winner when it comes to less calories and sugars.
Swap Baking Sugar for Unsweetened Applesauce
You can lower the sugar used in baked goods by substituting unsweetened applesauce. To do this use a 1:1 ratio. If you use any other liquids in the recipe, decrease by ¼ cup for every cup of applesauce used. This works only for softer baked goods like pies, muffins and cakes and not for recipes that need a crispier texture like cookies. Sugar is a nutritional void but with applesauce you can find health superstars like potassium, vitamin A, calcium and even the antioxidant quercetin.
Swap Pasta for Zoodles
Who doesn’t love pasta? Now you can live that low carb life and still enjoy a plate of comfort food with “zoodles,” or zucchini noodles. You can make them a few different ways. Try slicing or grating the vegetable in thin strips. A spiralizer kitchen device will make easy work of a few zucchini. Many stores now offer premade zoodles in the frozen food section. However you choose to make them, you’ll dramatically cut your carbohydrates. A serving of pasta typically has about 42 grams of carbs while zoodles have about 7 grams of carbohydrates per serving and high vitamin A content.
Swap Candy for Dried Fruit
If you have a sweet tooth, you can satisfy it with dried fruit. Although this snack contains natural sugars you get a little more nutrition with heart-healthy fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Swap Ice Cream for Plain Yogurt
You can mimic the smooth and creamy texture of ice cream with calorie-conscious plain yogurt. Some flavored yogurt varieties have a lot of hidden calories with added syrups and sugars. You can use a sugar substitute like stevia and fresh fruit to get the sweetness without the spike in sugar.
Swap Fruit Juice for Whole Fruit or Fruit Smoothies
When looking for healthier food choices, always choose the less processed option. In other words, if you have the choice between fruit juice or a fruit smoothie, a smoothie would be the better choice since it has not been stripped of fiber and contains actual fruit pieces. Whole fruit is the optimal choice, but if you want a delicious beverage, a smoothie is still a fantastic healthy treat. Skip the pre-made versions which are high in added sugar and make your own using plain almond milk, 1% milk or something similar. Vanilla or other flavored milk choices usually contain added sugar so opt for plain or unsweetened to keep the sugar content as low as possible.
Swap Mashed Potatoes for Cauliflower
Cauliflower is the vegetable that can do it all! You can use cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes simply by cooking and blending with a small amount of salt and milk. In addition to getting phytonutrients and vitamin C, a cup of cooked cauliflower has about 29 calories and 5 grams of carbs whereas a cup of cooked potato has a whopping 161 calories and 36 grams of carbohydrates!
Swap Soda for Sparkling Water
Soda piles on empty calories mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup and other types of sugar. Sparkling water has no added sugar and may contain trace minerals like magnesium and calcium. You can enjoy your bubbly beverage without the unnecessary added sugar.
Swap Gummies for Capsules
As you go through the day, hidden sources of sugar can start to add up. Gummy vitamins can contain up to 8 grams of added sugar in some cases. Gummies are not suitable for vegans and vegetarians since they often require the animal substance gelatin to make. Not only that, gummy vitamins are often composed of sugar alcohols, artificial colors, sugar substitutes and other ingredients that may cause bloating and indigestion.* If you are taking a vitamin for the purpose of supporting your health, why take a supplement with unnecessary fillers and other substances lacking nutritional value? These types of vitamins often contain lower amounts of actual active vitamins. Capsules offer reliably consistent vitamin amounts so you know what you are getting. Instead of a vitamin enhanced candy, with capsules you can get higher amounts of vitamins without added calories and sugar.* Learn more about why we prefer capsules to gummies here.
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