There are stages in nearly everyone’s life where they may feel the need to cut back on calories or make healthier food choices. But what if cutting calories didn’t exclusively mean reducing food intake? What if simply making some smart low calorie food swaps meant that you could save yourself upwards of 100 + calories per day! Yes, you read that right, per day. Well prepare to be shocked as you discover the mammoth amount of calories that can be associated with a meal, and that’s often just in the dressing alone!

Fortunately for you, we have done the background research to uncover a range of foods, sauces and dressings; below are some savvy ways to easily cut calories in your diet without necessarily having to forego food or experience feelings of hunger. Why sacrifice when you can swap?

Low calorie food swaps - apple yes chocolate no

Carbohydrates

There are recently a mass of lower-calorie healthy alternatives available that imitate your favourite carbohydrates, such as rice, spaghetti and pasta. Prepare for the portion sizes on your plate to double with some of these food swaps and your calorie count to dramatically drop.

  • Swap rice (218 calories per cup) with cauliflower rice (25 calories per cup)
  • Swap spaghetti (221 calories per cup) with zucchini noodles (40 calories per cup)
  • Swap thick crust pizza for thin crust (60 – 70 calories less per slice)
  • Swap thin crust pizza for cauliflower crust pizza
  • Make a homemade pizza with tortilla, slim bread slices or pitta bread as a base
  • Swap potato mash for cauliflower mash
  • Swap deep fat fried chips for air fried or oven cooked chips
  • Choose homemade fries over shop-bought fries or takeaway fries
  • Choose bagel slims (120 calories) over regular bagels (230 calories)
  • Swap plain tortillas (173 calories) for mini plain tortillas (88 calories)
  • Swap bread slices (89 calories per slice) for slim bread slices (60 calories per slice)

Low calorie food swaps - Zoodles spiralized zucchini and spiralized carrots

Fruit

Considered nature’s treat, fruit is not only a healthy food packed with fibre and antioxidants, it is also much lower in calories than most treats on the market. In addition to this, it’s also much more filling and is higher on the satiety index. In terms of volume, if you compare the amount of bites you get for the same calories, at most you’ll probably get 3 or 4 bites from a biscuit, whereas with an apple, it could be upwards of 20 – 30 bites, depending on the size of your bite and the size of the apple. Since you spend longer eating it, you feel as if you have actually eaten something. Let’s be honest, how many of us honestly only eat 1 biscuit at a sitting?

If it’s sweetness you’re after, swap chocolate bars, biscuits, gummy sweets and any other sweet treats you tend to devour with fruit instead.

    Some of the fruits highest in calories include:

    • Bananas
    • Dried fruits – raisins, currants, sultanas, dried figs, dried apricots
    • Grapes
    • Avocados
    • Mangos

    Below are a list of some of the lowest calories fruits available that you can swap the above fruits or your favourites treats for. Berries are one of the lowest calorie option of them all:

    • Berries
    • Apples
    • Kiwis
    • Oranges
    • Pears
    • Plums

    Low calorie food swaps - Raspberries in a bowl on a table

    Protein

    Meat and fish

    Bread and batter: Those breaded chicken breasts, chicken nuggets and fish fingers that you so dearly enjoy are a common sources of extra calories. An averages chicken breast ranges from approximately 120 -150 calories. However, dip it in bread or batter and you’re looking at adding on an extra 100 – 200 calories, i.e. the equivalent to a serving of rice or potatoes. For a hefty drop in calories, opt for meat and fish that is unbreaded, unbattered and with the skin removed. You don’t need to gnaw on a plain bland chicken breast either; options could include marinading it in a light sauce, seasoning it and roasting it, or even make you own healthy grilled or breaded chicken breasts and fish at home.

    Remove visible fat and skin: Any fat or skin should be removed from meat and fish.

    Mince: Minced meat is now available in a range of fat percentages, with most options starting around 15%, you can also opt for 8% and even 5% fat. Opting for the lower or lowest fat options will discount a substantial amount of fat and calories from your meal.
    In addition, choosing tofu, turkey or chicken mince over beef and steak mince will also achieve a reduced saturated fat and calorie intake.

    Red meat v white meat: White meat is almost always lower in calories and fat than red meat. Opting for lean cuts of turkey and chicken with the skin removed is one of the leanest options possible.

    White fish v oily fish: Both types are renowned for their health, but speaking purely in terms of calories, oily fish tends to have higher calories than white fish.

    Low calorie food swaps - cod garnished with salad

    Protein bars

    Protein bars are a convenient way to get protein in and they are an excellent alternative to bars that are high in sugar and fat. However, caution should be taken when choosing protein bars, as there are many varieties that are marketed as high in protein or healthy, when in fact they are still high in fat and sugar, and often calories. A good target to look for in terms of calories is around or below 200 calories per bar and approximately 20g protein per serving. My all time go-to protein bar and the cleanest bar I’ve found so far is the Biotech Zero bar.

    Low calorie food swaps - Bars placed on counter

    Fat

    Of all the 3 macronutrients, the greatest opportunity for calorie reductions lies with fat. 1g fat is equal to 9 kilocalories of energy, whereas 1g of protein or 1g of carbohydrates equates to 4 kilocalories of energy. That being said, fat is still an essential nutrient to the body, so while you may need to cut back on the fat you consume, it shouldn’t be eliminated from your diet altogether.

    Oils

    Oils, such as sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and extra virgin olive oil, are excellent sources of healthy fats in our diet. We’ve all seen chefs on the TV adding a ‘drizzle of oil’ to the wok or pan and you’ve probably imitated them at home. Well unfortunately for us all, that drizzle of oil, which according to the recipe, is usually meant to be at the most, 1 – 2 tablespoons of oil. However, it can quite easily turn into 3 – 4 tablespoons if it is not being accurately measured out.

    What many people don’t realise is that 1 tablespoon of oil can account for up to 120 calories. So, add 2 or 3 extra tablespoons and you’ve clocked up an extra 360 + calories; what’s most disheartening about that is that’s before you’ve even added any food to the pan!

    Did you know? A study of 2000 adults found that on average they consume a staggering 6.5 litres of oil per year! In terms of nutritional value, that equates to 57,500 calories per year, or 158 calories per day!

    There are a number of options available to you to drastically cut these calories. Firstly, you can start measuring out the oil; the most accurate way of achieving this is by using a set of measuring spoons or digital weighing scales, as there can be a degree of inaccuracy in your standard tablespoon at home.

    Secondly, you can opt for the cooking oil sprays, which typically have a couple of calories per spray. So you may only use at most 10 – 20 calories by spraying your wok or food.

    You could also opt to completely eliminate oil from your food. This can be achieved by altering your cooking methods. For instance, I often boil or roast meat instead of frying it.

    Also in terms of cooking methods, there are a range of healthy cooking with gadgets – kitchen appliances which can almost obliterate the amount of calories that you consume; a prime example of this is swapping out the deep fat fryer for an air fryer. Think about it, for the same amount of calories, you could probably eat 2 – 3 times as much food from an air fryer compared to a deep fat fryer! Why have a handful of chips when you can have a whole plate, for less saturated fat and calories? It’s a win-win!

    Low calorie food swaps - Person pouring oil onto meal

    Nuts

    Cashew, pistachio, peanuts and almonds all range within 550 – 575 calories per 100g, which is relatively dense in terms of calories. A simple swap you can make is to one of the lowest calorie nuts available are chestnuts, which range at approximately 131 calories per 100g. If you are someone who tends to indulge or binge on nuts, you could always opt for trail mixes.

    Low calorie food swaps - Mixture of nuts on table

    Yoghurt

    In terms of healthy yoghurts, low-fat greek yoghurt surpasses all the other yoghurts. Not only is it higher in protein than other yoghurts, it’s also lower in sugar and fat than regular yoghurts. The healthiest option to choose is unflavoured versions that you can add healthy flavourings to, such as protein powder, creatine, muesli, flavour drops or dark chocolate sprinklings.


    Low calorie food swaps - Greek yoghurt, muesli and berries in mason jar

    Sauces

    When it comes to sneaky sources of hidden sugar, fat and calories, there’s no better contender than sauces and dressings. It’s disheartening to see so many of them loaded with such ingredients, some of which might shock you. For instance, many people wouldn’t associate ketchup with sugar, but 1 tablespoon alone contains 3.7g of sugar!

    What I’ve recently discovered is a range of low calories and healthy versions of syrups, which have almost zero calories. I swear by these, and the best part is you don’t have to feel guilty for them or account for them in comparison to the regular sugar, salt and fat-laden versions. Fortunately, they’re also very tasty and come in a wide range of flavours. Who says eating healthy or cutting calories has to be bland and boring?

    • Swap regular mayonnaise (90 calories per tablespoon) for light mayonnaise (35 calories per tablespoon)
    • Swap mayonnaise for French’s Classic Yellow Mustard (4 calories per tablespoon)
    • Swap regular jam for reduced-sugar jam
    • Swap peanut butter (94 calories per tablespoon) for peanut butter powder (24 calories per tablespoon)
    • Swap margarine and butter for spreads

    As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note that you, the reader’s interests are my top priority, and I only recommend products that I have either tried and tested or thoroughly reviewed and consider good enough for myself to buy.

    Tip: Instead of topping your bread or toast with jam, which contains anywhere from 56 calories per tablespoon upwards, mash up 80g of mixed berries (approximately 30 calories) and use them as a sweet, lower calorie and lower sugar topping instead. Add a spoon of greek yoghurt from some protein! Low calorie food swaps - mustard, BBQ sauce dips on table

    Treats

    Everything in moderation is motto I live by, and having treats while trying to cut calories or get healthier is still a possibility, and for me to follow a food plan, it’s a must! Biscuits and crisps are a very more-ish food, so if you can ditch them, then do so. But if you can’t, try to find ones with lower sugar, fat or calories.

    • Swap chips for popcorn
    • Swap popcorn for homemade popcorn kernels
    • Swap full size chocolate bars for miniature versions
    • Swap ice cream for gelato or protein ice cream
    • Look at the calories in your favourite biscuits and choose lower calorie biscuits
    • Swap biscuits for crackers
    • Choose rice cakes over chocolate, cereal and granola bars
    • Choose ice pops over ice creams
    • Fill your bowl up with more reduced-sugar jelly than ice cream

    Tip: Cookies and biscuits with chocolate coating are often high in calories and fat, compared to the likes of Jaffa Cakes, Ginger Nuts and Rich Tea, which are amongst some of the lower calorie biscuits.

    Low calorie food swaps - Bowl of popcorn on table

    Summary

    • Cutting down on calories, sugar and fat from your diet doesn’t exclusively mean cutting out food
    • Fruit is a natural, low calorie alternative to satisfy sweet cravings
    • Breaded and battered meat and fish are significantly higher in calories than uncoated meat and fish
    • Choosing low-sugar, low-fat or low calorie sauces are often healthier than the regular version
    • Making your own sauces and dressings at home allows you to control the proportions of sugar, salt and fat added
    • Oils can add exceptionally high calories to a meal if not properly weighed out
    • Making smart treat swaps means you don’t need to exclude them from your diet

    The bottom line with this article is that it provides effective calorie swaps which can significantly enhance efforts to achieve a calorie deficit without necessarily having to eliminate or reduce consumption of foods. However, please remember that a balanced diet is not based purely on calories alone; it will incorporate healthy levels of protein, fat and carbohydrates.

    Not everyone consumes excess quantities of fat or calories, so they may not need to swap foods to achieve this. However, if you are looking to cut calories and / or fat, or simply find an alternative food, dressing or sauce to make healther choices, or even simply to shake up the monotony of eating the same items each time, then this article will certainly have something to pique your interest. As always, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you are unsure that you are following healthy diet or meeting your own nutritional requirements.

    What are your thoughts and opinions on the above low calorie food swaps? Would you be an advocate for the low calorie, reduced salt, sugar and fat sauce and dressing alternatives? What hacks do you use at home to reduce calories and make healthier food choices? Please post your suggestions and comments below!

    Sources

    Chatzky, J., 2018. 40 Effortless Food Swaps To Lose Weight | Eat This Not That. [online] Eat This Not That. Available at: https://www.eatthis.com/food-swaps-cut-calories/  [Accessed 27 June 2020].

    Dady, J., 2020. Healthy Biscuits: The Best And Worst Biscuits For Your Diet Revealed. [online] GoodtoKnow. Available at: https://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/wellbeing/biscuits-best-and-worst-revealed-41310 [Accessed 27 June 2020].

    Raman, R., 2019. 11 Healthy, High-Calorie Fruits To Help You Gain Weight. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/high-calorie-fruits#dried-fruits [Accessed 27 June 2020].

    Tesco.ie. 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.tesco.ie [Accessed 27 June 2020].


    Categories: Blogs

    12 Comments

    C.N. · 28/06/2020 at 12:46 AM

    Great article, Sharon! I am currently in the process of trying to put together a healthier daily diet (I have a spreadsheet and everything. Haha), and you have given me so many great ideas for healthier foods to try (I’ve never actually heard of protein ice cream or cauliflower mash, but they sound both interesting and delicious). We no longer live in the age where we have to sacrifice taste and fulfillment to take care of ourselves-praise God for that! Haha God bless you!

      Sharon · 28/06/2020 at 2:03 PM

      Hi there,

      Good to hear, you sound very enthusiastic and motivated by the sounds of it! Cauliflower has really exploded onto the market, if you Google cauliflower foods, you’ll see a range of items!

      Also, thank you for sharing your own opinion and experiences.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Matt · 28/06/2020 at 5:41 AM

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for sharing tips about replacing high-calorie food to the low ones.

    I bought a yogurt maker at home and made yogurt every three days to feed myself. It’s a great way to control your calorie intake better, and you can still mix low-calorie toppings or other nuts/dried fruits with yogurt.

    For the biscuits, I prefer to buy low-carb rice cookies to replace the regular greasy and sugarcoated products. It is also an excellent choice to make yourself think you are still eating cookies but a healthier one.

    Matt

      Sharon · 28/06/2020 at 2:04 PM

      Hi Matt,

      Hi there,

      Good to hear, I’m glad you found it valuable to read! Also, thank you for sharing your own opinion and experiences. I’ve never had homemade yoghurt, but it’s a great asset to be able to as you can limit and add as much flavour as you want. Great tips on the biscuits too!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Teresa · 28/06/2020 at 12:05 PM

    This article comes at a good time. I’m really close to cutting out refined sugar in my diet.
    I have never considered how the amount of time spent eating something plays into whether or not a snack/meal is satiating. I don’t like eating salads because they take so long to eat. But that would make it more satisfying technically. I guess I never really considered that. Great point!
    I do agree 100%, anything in moderation. It’s been a motto of mine for as long as I can remember. That motto makes eating chocolate A-Okay!!
    Great read, thank you.

      Sharon · 28/06/2020 at 2:08 PM

      Thanks Teresa,

      That’s a great accomplishment to achieve, albeit a difficult one – refined sugar is rife in food! It all ties back to the mindful eating, it suits people who like to eat and enjoy their food to eat foods with volume.

      A chocolate a day is ok hehe.

      Thanks,
      Sharon

    Tommy · 28/06/2020 at 4:11 PM

    Hey Sharon,

    What a lovely blog post and so well put together. Haha, i have a bit of a sweet tooth the fruit, and the Yoghurt lovely healthy yoghurts. Great low-fat greek yoghurt Not only is it higher in protein.

    Great 🙂
    Thanks for sharing

    Tommy

      Sharon · 29/06/2020 at 6:15 PM

      Hi Tommy,

      You are too kind, thank you! I think we all can agree with you there. It sure is a nice treat, and healthy too!

      Thanks for sharing and posting on my page.

      Sharon

    Minaher · 29/06/2020 at 12:33 PM

    A great collection of advices! Some of I have been using for some time now, but there are also new ones for me here.
    I got rid of the deep fryer many years ago and swapped to oven-panier, but I’m looking to abandon that, as well. An air frier might be a good idea. My husband has been diagnosed with diabetes about 3 years ago and we needed to completely change our diet. I’m still on the look for any good advice that can help reduce the calorie intake-not for him, as he dropped about 30 kgs back then and still maintaining-but for me. I love cooking and love eating, so I need to be very careful. Your article is helping me a great deal, thank you.

    Angee · 30/06/2020 at 2:16 PM

    Really good article. I really don’t count calories though. My husband who is a nutritionist discourages it ‘he says there are bad and good calories so just basing your diet on calories you could miss on good calories’ I focus on nutrients and eat a healthy balanced diet.

      Sharon · 30/06/2020 at 2:31 PM

      Hi Angee,

      Thank you. I do agree to an extent, which is why I incorporated fat and sugar throughout the article. However, there are people who do use calories so I wrote the article with the intention of helping them. I think it comes in most valuable with desserts and alcohol.

      Thanks for your insight.
      Sharon

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