Swap Your Way Slim at Every Meal
9 meal swaps that slash calories
When life gets crazy, it's tempting to fall back on meals that require minimum effort. But if you're having trouble slimming down, those dishes aren't helping, says Health contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, RD, author of S.A.S.S.! Yourself Slim. We asked her to devise easy meal substitutions that yield big results. "You'll increase your nutrition intake and slash calories," says Sass. Simply switch up your meals, include two healthy snacks and pair this 1,400-calorie plan with exercise—two moderate strength sessions and three 45-minute cardio workouts a week—and you could drop up to 10 pounds this month. Doesn't it feel good to have that off your plate?
Your Usual Breakfast: Reduced-fat blueberry muffin
What this baked good lacks in fat it makes up for in refined flour and sugar, notes Sass, "which can spike blood sugar and insulin levels and create a carb surplus that gets socked away in your fat cells." Expect it to stoke—rather than suppress—your appetite.
Before: 410 calories
Smart Breakfast Swap: PB and fruit tacos
Spread 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter over 2 small whole corn tortillas, warmed in toaster oven. Fill with a mixture of 1/4 cup sliced banana and 1/2 cup sliced strawberries.
"The tortillas count as a whole grain, a food group linked to lower rates of obesity," says Sass. "Peanut butter adds good-for-you fat and protein to this fun breakfast, while strawberries were recently shown to help lower LDL, or 'bad,' cholesterol."
After: 275 calories
Smart Breakfast Swap: Open-face hummus and egg sandwich
Spread 2 Tbsp. hummus over 1 slice toasted whole-grain bread. Top with 1/4 cup baby spinach and 1 sliced hard-boiled, poached or sunny-side-up egg. Serve with 1 cup red seedless grapes.
"The combination of lean protein, slow-burning carbohydrates and healthy fat will keep you energized," says Sass. And one study found that overweight dieters who ate eggs at breakfast lost 65 percent more weight (and 34 percent more belly fat) than those who had the same number of calories in a bagel-based breakfast.
After: 303 calories
Smart Breakfast Swap: Raspberry-almond parfait
Layer 1 cup fresh raspberries and 2 Tbsp. each rolled oats and sliced almonds, both toasted in a skillet, over 8 oz. nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt.
High in protein, calcium and fiber, this parfait packs a big nutritional punch—sans the added sugar found in most prepared granolas.
After: 330 calories
Your Usual Lunch: Chicken Caesar wrap
"Most store-bought wraps contain two to four carb servings, which is way more than you need at one meal," says Sass, "especially if you'll be sitting at a desk all afternoon." The creamy dressing is also bad news—just 1/4 cup can have up to 340 calories.
Before: 610 calories
Smart Lunch Swap: Panera Bread All-Natural Turkey Chili
If you're in a hurry, consider a hearty, healthy grab-and-go: Filled with beans and lean ground turkey, this 14-ounce serving packs 23 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber— 60 percent of the daily target—and a quarter of the iron you need for the day.
After: 280 calories
Smart Lunch Swap: Tomato-feta pizza
Toast a 6.5-inch whole-grain pita. Rub with 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil; top with 1 thinly sliced plum tomato and 1/4 cup crumbled feta. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
This entire pizza boasts fewer calories than just one old-school extra-large cheese slice, says Sass. "Because feta is so flavorful, you'll feel more than satisfied with an ounce, the recommended portion of cheese."
After: 320 calories
Smart Lunch Swap: Deconstructed chicken wrap
Whisk together Â¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tsp. each Dijon and lemon juice and Â¼ tsp. minced garlic. Toss with 2 cups torn romaine. Top with 3 oz. cooked chicken breast, a quarter of an avocado and 1 Tbsp. Parmesan. Serve with a quarter of a toasted whole-grain wrap.
"You'll get tons of veggies and metabolism-boosting protein," says Sass. Bonus: Avocados have been shown to help curb hunger.
After 326 calories
Your Usual Dinner: Rotini with meat sauce and Parmesan cheese
With too much refined starch and too few fiber- and antioxidant-rich vegetables, this meal is out of balance. "Plus," adds Sass, "a 3-ounce portion of ground beef can contain up to 4Â½ grams of artery-clogging saturated fat—nearly 30 percent of the maximum amount you should have daily."
Before: 524 calories
Smart Dinner Swap: Lime-cilantro chicken
Sauté 1/4 cup minced yellow onion in 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms; sauté for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper, 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. lime juice and a pinch each cayenne and black pepper; sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add 3 oz. cooked chicken breast. Serve over 1/2 cup cooked brown rice; top with a quarter of a ripe avocado and 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro.
Thanks to the lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fat and antioxidant-rich seasonings, you'll be satisfied without feeling stuffed.
After: 420 calories
Smart Dinner Swap: Veggie and turkey penne
Sauté 1/4 cup each sliced mushrooms and minced yellow onion in 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil until tender. Add 1/4 cup baby spinach, 1 medium diced tomato, 1/4 tsp. minced garlic and 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning; sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Toss with 3 oz. browned 93% lean ground turkey and 1/2 cup cooked whole-wheat penne.
Pasta can be a diet food. Just subbing ground turkey for beef cuts the saturated fat content by 2 grams.
After: 393 calories
Smart Dinner Swap: Salmon nicoise salad
Lightly mist 1/2 cup fingerling potatoes with olive oil spray; wrap in foil and roast at 350 degrees until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then slice. Puree a quarter of a ripe avocado with 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. each cider vinegar, lime juice and chopped cilantro and a pinch black pepper until smooth. Toss 2 cups spring lettuce mix with dressing; transfer to a bowl. Top with 1/4 cup halved grape tomatoes, 5 red onion rings, 3 oz. cooked wild salmon, 1 sliced large hard-boiled egg and potatoes.
This well-rounded meal delivers two key slimming ingredients, explains Sass: "Salmon's healthy omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to weight loss, and cooked, cooled potatoes are a source of resistant starch, which may help rev up fat-burning."
After: 405 calories