Three years ago when I decided to lose weight, tracking my calories helped me lose 35 pounds.
I continued working out regularly and made simple adjustments to how I ate that didn't leave me feeling deprived.
These swaps helped me reach my goals, but it's different for everyone.
3 years ago, I decided to make some changes to my lifestyle.
Losing fat doesn't require cutting out any specific foods, it's about managing your overall food intake.
Experts don't recommend restricting your diet either by eating too little or by cutting out your favorite foods.
"It is important that you don't drastically drop your calories too low so you can sustain this while feeling energetic and remaining healthy with a strong immune system," personal trainer Hayley Madigan previously told Insider.
Fat loss coach Jordan Syatt previously told Insider he suggests aiming for 2-6 lbs a month.
I wanted to change my body composition in a healthy way. That involved exercise and making simple food swaps that help me reduce my calories while still keeping me satisfied.
I make food swaps that I enjoy.
While this worked for me, you don't have to count calories to lose weight. And not all low-calorie swaps are worth it for me. While some people recommend replacing spaghetti with zucchini noodles and burger buns with lettuce leaves, I personally prefer to still have the carbs— just in smaller quantities.
It's important for me to make sure that I enjoy all my meals. That's helped me sustain my results, and experts say too much restriction and obsessive tracking can lead to disordered eating habits.
1. Greek yogurt for sour cream
Sour cream contains fat that can help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, and some brands have probiotics which can aid digestion, according to Healthline.
While it can be high in saturated fat, most people don't eat more than a serving, so it shouldn't be much of a concern.
When I want to up my protein intake and cut back on calories I opt for yogurt instead of sour cream in my fajitas.
Sour cream is 187 calories per 100ml, compared to 54 calories for the yogurt.
2. Bagel thins for bagels
Bagel thins are exactly what they sound like: thinner bagels, and they're still delicious. While an average bagel is usually 230-300 calories, bagel thins usually come in at around 130, saving you at least 100 calories.
Some people recommend swapping out bread for rice cakes, but I personally find rice cakes not very tasty, and thinner slices of bread are more satisfying to me.
3. Turkey sausages for pork
Turkey (or chicken) sausages are leaner than pork, coming in at around 160 calories rather than about 340 for two.
4. Turkey meatballs for beef
Turkey meatballs are just like sausages, but have less calories than their beef counterpart: Three beef meatballs contain around 190 calories, whereas turkey ones are about 125 for three.
5. Turkey bacon for pork bacon
Turkey bacon instead of pork bacon is a swap I'm happy to make as I enjoy both equally, and a slice of turkey bacon is 34 calories each, compared to 50-70 for an average slice of bacon.
6. Replacing some eggs for egg whites in omelettes and scrambles
Egg whites are very low calorie, but instead of making frittatas, omelettes, scrambles and pancakes with them alone, I like to do a mix of whites and whole eggs for the best of both worlds.
3 tbsp or 45g of egg whites is 22 calories, equivalent to one medium egg which is about 70 calories.
7. Skimmed milk in coffees
If you're a fan of milky drinks like lattes, flat whites, and cappuccinos, opting for skimmed rather than whole milk can take your drink's calorie count from 228 to 128, roughly.
8. Salted popcorn over chips (or lower calorie chips)
Popcorn is actually very low calorie when it's not covered in sugar, syrup, or butter. Next time you get a craving for chips, try some lightly salted popcorn.
A 17g individual bag of salted popcorn is around 84 calories, compared to 123 calories for a 25g individual packet of salted chips. Popcorn is a high volume, light food, so a portion is typically lighter in weight for the same size.
One of the simplest ways to reduce calories is to choose smaller portions — a small tub of popcorn rather than a large, for example.
"One thing that can be done is to try and half portion sizes of these particular items that you have labeled as 'guilty pleasures,'" registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert previously told Insider. "Of course, there's no reason to feel guilty, but instead of having three scoops of ice cream, have two, instead of having a whole dessert, share half with a partner."
9. Fresh fruit over dried fruit
A 40g serving of dried apricots, which is a small bag, is 72 calories. One fresh apricot is around 35g, and only 34 calories.
Dried fruit is a lot smaller than fresh, so it's easier to eat more. The higher water content of fresh fruit makes it more filling.
10. Cooking spray instead of oil or butter
Healthy fats are essential to a balanced diet. Cooking oils, like olive oil, are rich in unsaturated fat, which has anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidants and are good for the heart.
When I want to reduce calories, I just use smaller amounts of cooking oil or butter.
15ml of sunflower oil is 124 calories, so I make my meals lighter by using less or low calorie cooking sprays instead.
11. Ground turkey instead of beef
Ground turkey and chicken is leaner than beef and pork, so swapping out those meats can be a good way to lighten a bolognese or homemade burgers. Of course, you can also choose lower fat versions of other meats — I still eat beef and pork when losing weight, I just work them into my calories.
2% fat ground turkey breast is about 136 calories per 100g, meanwhile 20% fat ground beef is 273 calories for the same quantity.
12. Chicken breasts over thighs
Chicken breasts are a lower calorie choice than thigh or wing meat: 100g of breast is 165 calories, compared to 209 for thigh and 203 for wing.
13. Low calorie ice cream instead of regular
There are tons of low calorie ice creams on the market these days. Halo Top sea salt caramel ice cream, for example, is only 300 calories per pint. It's sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, which is a sugar substitute that can be good for you when consumed in moderation.
Losing weight doesn't mean not having regular ice cream, it might just mean having it a bit less often, or in smaller quantities. And lower calorie alternatives can help you hit your goals without feeling deprived.
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