Home Healthy Eating Four Easy Swaps To Cut Calories

Four Easy Swaps To Cut Calories

by Erika Nicole Kendall

My new-found love of mustard... yum.

For me, the hardest thing to do was giving up some of my favorite vices. I loved mayo. Looooved fruit punch. Loooooooved ice cream floats. I’m just not someone who likes the idea of giving up what I’d considered staples in my diet – yes, mayo was a staple… I even enjoyed a little turkey with my mayo sandwich – for any reason, until… I found something better.

I think that’s a key aspect of giving up bad habits – finding something delicious to replace it with, that has the added bonus of being good for us, as well. Granted, not everyone will face the task of full on giving something up… but I know my strengths, and I pay attention to my weaknesses. I know that some things compel me to ignore the concept of “moderation” either out of habit or simply because it may be what my tongue wants at that time. Sometimes, I’d rather skip them altogether than risk overdoing it in the name of “learning moderation.”

So having said that, here are a few of my swaps that make life that much easier for me, and prevent me from running back to my own bad habits:

Mayonnaise/”Salad Dressing”: Depending on your brand, it might be that sweet stuff that is something like a billion calories of nothing but oil and egg and cream and high fructose corn syrup. I gave up my mayo, and replaced it with different variations of mustard. Yes, mustard! Honey mustard, dijon mustard, regular mustard… you name it, I’ve got it. I use it on salads, on sandwiches, even in my marinades. The average tablespoon of mustard is about 10 calories anyhow and with such a kick to it, a little goes a long way.

Croutons: I always laugh a little bit when I look at the serving sizes for croutons, because they’re so impractical. The serving size is always something awkward like, “2 tablespoons or 3 grams.” Who measures croutons in tablespoons? And what’s more, croutons peek out from above the top of the tablespoon.. so does the calorie count only include the parts of the croutons that’s actually within the spoon or does it also include the bread that’s peeking out of the top? I don’t like things that are difficult to measure – that makes it more difficult to understand and gauge what it’s doing to my body – so I gave up the croutons, and replaced them with panko bread crumbs. Their size allows for you to measure them properly, a half of a cup is 100 calories (so two tablespoons is closer to 25 calories), and they’re crunchy enough to provide nice texture to your salads. Win.

Fruit juice: I can admit it. Three years of dorm life left me with a sad love of, um, “fruit punch.” It’s not “fruit juice,” because it’s not the “juice of a fruit.” It’s “fruit punch” because… well, no one knows why. There’s no nutritional value to this stuff because it’s little more than chemical flavorings, sugar and water. But how can you make your own fruit punch? Grab some tea bags, squeeze in some orange juice, throw in some raspberries and peaches and mangoes (I sometimes use frozen when I need to be cheap), and then drop in your orange and lemon halves! Ta-da – not only is it beautiful to look at, but once you get the flavor perfect for your tongue, you will be much happier with your choice.

Root beer floats: I didn’t even like root beer like that, but paired up with ice cream? Aw, snap. What I do now is actually pretty extensive, but ice cream is not a regularity at all for me – maybe once every few months – so I treat it like it’s special. I dice up a few apples, toss ’em in a pot. Pour in some cranberries, a tablespoon of sugar, and about a half cup of red wine (I always keep a cheap bottle of wine handy to use while cooking, anyhow.) Let it cook on moderate heat (maybe a 7 out of ten), and then mash it up with a potato masher (or chop it up with a knife, same point). It doesn’t have to look like mashed potatoes, but it shouldn’t look like fresh apples, either. Once I’ve finished dinner, I’ll pour my ice cream in a glass, top it with my apples and cranberries and maybe pour a little sparkling water over the top. Yes, I treat it like real dessert – I cook it while I cook dinner.

I know, I know… no one wants to go through all of that work. Cooking fruits, squeezing oranges, but the point of all this is two-fold: 1) become so excited by the good stuff (that you can make for cheap), that you no longer want the cheap and unhealthy stuff as much, and 2) know that because it’s so much work, you can’t eat it as much, therefore you don’t eat it as much. Besides, even if you don’t need to give up these things, you’ll at least see how to flip something into an opportunity to experiment and create something new. See how that works?

What swaps have you made to live healthier and happier? What swaps would you like to make? Who knows? Maybe we can make a new “day” – “Friday Swap?” Let’s hear ’em!

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Ashley (DazzlingRayn) June 28, 2010 - 10:21 AM

I like lemon juice on my salads. Also, my mom has started making her own salad dressing! Sometimes a lil balsamic + EVOO (shoutout to Rachael Ray) is all you need.

Having fresh fruit around for dessert is a must. I often like something sweet after dinner, and some fruit is better than cookies or cake!

Finally, I like putting soy milk in my coffee instead of half and half. It adds a really good nutty flavor. Plus, when you make coffee at home, you can add your own vanilla or whatever and make your own fancy smancy drink. Who needs Starbucks? I’m sure I can think of some more subs…

Erika June 29, 2010 - 1:11 AM

Fresh fruit is always a total win. There is never a bad time for fruit! LOL!

That quick vinaigrette is always a great option, too. I live for those two with a little tarragon and a pinch of garlic. Love it!

Cjbrownsc June 28, 2010 - 10:29 AM

‘Friday Swap’ sounds like a great idea to me!
I have a few swaps that I’ve incorporated into my eating habits:
1) mayo replaced by avocado on sandwiches
2) mayo replaced by hummus on sandwiches
3) sodas replaced by water with either cucumber, orange, lemon or lime slices
4) salad dressing replaced by balsamic vinegar

Erika June 29, 2010 - 1:07 AM

I am a true lover of balsamic vinegar. Seriously – cheap, flavorful, multi-purposed? It’s like one of the best ingredients ever. LOL

Replacing mayo with avocado? Now, THAT is intriguing!

Kellye February 28, 2011 - 12:20 PM

Now when you replace the mayo with the avocado how do you do it? Do you just slice it or mash it up and spread a lil on the bread?

Also any ideas for tuna? I LOVE tuna fish (canned, yes I know… salty… but I do get it in water and not oil)… I haven’t found that same fondness for fresh tuna because it seems much dryer than salmon (which I LOVE)… I would like to make a fresh tuna salad that I can put in a wrap or on a salad but I haven’t found the right recipe…

I am taking baby steps and it feels like a really good positive change in my life… I’m a tea drinker and I never thought I’d like tea without sugar… but I absolutely love it… my favorite two teas at the moment are Erva Doce (I think it is anise or fennel seed tea in English, I get it from the Brazilian market) and Yogi’s Green Super Antioxidant tea (I get it from Trader Joe’s)… I love the lemongrass in it… yummm…

Stephanie August 22, 2016 - 2:25 AM

Hi Kellye,

For tuna, google Pan Bagnat…you might like it. It’s a French tuna sandwich…and tuna in olive oil for this is a must! There are so many ways to go with it, which is why I suggest googling. And you don’t have to make it as a sandwich…just combine all ingredients, let the flavors marry for a while and skip the bread.

I made one once and it was possibly the best tuna sandwich I ever had. And this is coming from a tuna with mayo lover. I loaded the olive oil drenched tuna with a variety of marinated bell/sweet peppers, roasted garlic, red onions, artichoke hearts, a mustard/balsamic vinaigrette, lots of fresh basil, a few anchovies and hard boiled eggs.

Due to the olive oil, it’s probably calorie heavy (wasn’t counting calories then) but it’s VERY filling and full of good stuff. I can imagine a scoop on a huge bed of leafy greens. You probably won’t even need salad dressing. Or salt, for that matter (anchovies take care of that). And I didn’t miss the mayo at all.

I think I’ll make some this week..no bread this time. 🙂

LaToya W. June 28, 2010 - 11:13 AM

Love the idea of doing a swap day. I replaced soda with sparkling water/seltzer. It took a while to get used to the switch. However, with great flavored sparkling water/seltzer, it’s almost like soda. Plus, it’s an easyr way of adding extra water during your day.

Erika June 29, 2010 - 1:05 AM

Nice! I’m not too sure I’d count that in my water intake, though, but variety is the spice of life. 🙂

I track my water intake as something separate from any other kind of intake. There’s literally water in everything, so if you took that far enough, you could probably justify not drinking any straight up water. I’m sure someone may come by with some logical explanation as to why that’s okay, but my experiences just don’t lend to that as being a sensible approach.

Tonda June 28, 2010 - 11:17 AM

I’ve swapped out my white rice for wild rice or basmati rice.

Swapped regular butter for Brummel & Brown spread or whipped unsalted butter, both have half the calories and fat of regular butter.

I’m still a soda drinker but I’ve switched to the diet ones.

100% Real fruit juice in place of the “juice like” drinks.

Whole milk swapped for 1%. I’ve yet to take the plunge to almond or soy milk so 1% will do for now.

Erika June 29, 2010 - 12:55 AM

I’m an almond milk drinker – vanilla, for the sweeter tongued days, and original for basic purposes. It’s great stuff, seriously.

A couple of things, though, just for anyone who might be interested:

Be careful with diet soda – the chemicals in it and its use of artificial sugars actually is notoriously unhealthy, and can cause issues well beyond weight gain. I wouldn’t lean too heavily on that at all.

The 100% fruit juice claim tickles me, too… but I’d check the label to make sure that the only “fruit juice” in my “100% fruit juice” is the juice that takes top billing on the label. So if it’s pomegranate juice, the first ingredient on the label on the back shouldn’t be “apple juice.”

Tiffany June 28, 2010 - 11:29 AM

Sounds like some good things to try.

Peace, Love and Chocolate

Erika June 29, 2010 - 12:51 AM

Yes! You’ll have to let me know if you try any of ’em. 🙂

Ms. Nina June 28, 2010 - 12:05 PM

I’ve been reading your site for a few weeks now, so glad I found it because just from lurking I’ve learned so much. Your blog is super inspirational because you’ve lost the weight, but unlike so many other blogs, you haven’t started hating overweight people or shaming others who haven’t lost the weight. I read some other blogs, where the writers have lost their weight, and all of sudden they hate overweight people.
But anyhow…I love lasagna, so I add in broccoli florets with the ground beef and sauce mixture while I’m layering the lasagna because the broccoli is really similar in texture to the ground beef, I also cut out using as much cheese…and I like soda, but never really been a huge soda drinker, but I enjoy because of the carbonation, so instead of soda I just drink the carbonated water, when it’s cold it really satisfies the fizzy craving.

Erika June 29, 2010 - 12:50 AM

It’s interesting that you would mention that – there is, unfortunately, a logical explanation behind it… but again, that too is really related to consciousness, if you ask me. Maybe that’s another blog post, lol.

Thank you for your compliment, and your share!

Eunice June 28, 2010 - 5:08 PM

Sigh… I love my mayo too. Mustard isn’t my favorite, but hummus is a good substitute, too. I also make my own tortilla chips by baking a whole wheat tortilla (cut into triangles) in the oven. From there you can top them with just about anything. Beans and a little shredded cheese, fruit or my current favorite cinnamon and a teensy bit of brown sugar. Mmmm…

Erika June 29, 2010 - 12:44 AM

Ohhh, yes! I love the tortilla trick! I actually got my hands on a recipe to make tortillas from SCRATCH – too excuted about the opportunities there, LOL.

Mayo and I have since severed our ties entirely. I see him passing by in the grocery every blue moon and I say hi, but… we can’t be friends. LOLOL!

Rita June 29, 2010 - 4:39 AM

I switched from decadent deserts (cakes, cupcakes, pastries etc.) to a simple peanut butter & jelly sandwich (made with my own jam & natural peanut butter from.a local farm)….now I hardly crave the deserts I once loved…. From fruit juice to fresh squeezed fruit juice to water with a slice of lemon/strawberry (fresh squeezed was too much work, lol)

Erika June 29, 2010 - 8:12 AM

Wow, now that’s a swap to be respected! LOL @ going from juices to water with slices because it’s too much work. That’s the best way to learn to appreciate the good stuff, LOL!

Yettipom August 15, 2010 - 10:16 PM

I’ve swapped tofu as a meat substitute for some of my recipes. I will make tofu scramble in the morning with sauteed veggies instead of eggs. For spaghetti or homemade stir fried rice, I will substitute tofu for ground beef and eggs. If I am making tofu for dinner I will marinade it while I am at work…And tofu is cheap at the supermarket! It cost me 1.69 for a block that can last at least two meals. Tofu isn’t for everyone, but there are some great recipes out there and overall it’s a great meat substitution. I encourage everyone to try it!

Tiffany December 13, 2010 - 5:37 PM

I have swapped whole milk for 1% milk. Soda for water during the day and I normally have one serving of 100% V8 fusion juice or ice tea with dinner. Canned veggies for frozen veggies. regular cereal for oatmeal or grits. I have many more swaps that need to be made, but progress with no regress is the best. So for now baby steps!!!!

Marjorie December 18, 2010 - 6:19 PM

I’ve had nothing but skim milk for years. Whole milk, even 2% milk, tastes like a glass of fat to me. I mix 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 rice milk when I get that “mucous-y” feeling in my body. I use all brown rices and whole wheat/grain pastas. I eat steel-cut oatmeal most mornings for breakfast. I didn’t make these changes over night, it took some time. Dec. 20, 2010 will make my 18th anniversary of not eating pork.

Valarie November 15, 2011 - 12:41 PM

I have swapped out the typical high carb breakfast for eggs. I used to be a giant cereal eater, but now eggs in the morning with peppers or jalepenos or onions or mushrooms are the only way to go. I cook it all with a teaspoon of olive oil on a non-stick pan. I’ve found that they keep me way fuller for longer in the mornings(although I still have a morning snack).

Weiwen November 16, 2011 - 12:08 PM

I’m not Black, or a woman. But can I suggest another few swaps: brown rice for white rice, whole wheat pasta for regular, whole wheat bread for regular. Obviously the taste will be somewhat different. But I’ve gotten used to it, and I actually prefer the taste in most cases. The whole grain varieties have more fiber and often more protein, which reduces the glycemic index. While whole grain products are obviously more costly than the alternatives, they’re not that much more expensive, either.

Iman May 1, 2012 - 3:18 PM

I like your idea for juices. I actually bought a Jack Lalanne Power Juicer and make fresh juice everyday which is totally different than store bought. In fact the majority of the items I juice are veggies with a hint of apple or pineapple or other fruit to give a natural sweeten taste and to add more vitamins. I am addicted to juicing! Drinking fresh natural juice is like drinking coffee and redbull, within minutes you feel full of engery and you don’t get that crashing feeling. It has literally changed my life. I eat more veggies and fruits, hardly any meat. I even make my own salad dressings.

Kami November 5, 2012 - 11:43 AM

I first stopped drinking soda instead went to teas/ fruit juice/ carbonated water. Now i must give up juice now to lessen my caloric intake. I wil instead drink water. Another I do not use mayo but instead will be trying avacado. I often eat vegan ice cream with my own toppings or added topping.

Tina B November 5, 2012 - 4:48 PM

I love finding ways to enjoy comfort foods with a healthier twist! Coconut oil can be a good substitute for butter, especially in sweeter things like oatmeal or sweet potatoes. I do make my own salad dressing (balsamic vinaigrette stays on deck) and even taco seasoning blend so I know it only contains spices, no preservatives and controlled sodium. I love tacos, but now I focus on quality veggies and salsa to accompany lean ground turkey in a whole wheat tortilla and do without cheese or sour cream. I use a lot of vegetable broth/stock in cooking to add moisture and flavor to things like rice or steamed vegetables rather than butter or even chicken stock. Actually, the combination of olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper replaces butter in most savory things for me. I’ve been known to do the peanut butter and jelly in place of dessert (not made from scratch though), but also a single 8 oz. serving of chocolate soy milk is also a good sweet ending to a meal for me.

NEENALOVE July 16, 2013 - 4:53 AM

so what did you replace the turkey in your sandwich with? just plain veggies? that’s always good.

did you try follow-your-heart vegenaise? i think it’s pretty delicious. i am a mayo addict also.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 16, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Sometimes veggies, bahn-mi style, sometimes I just eat the turkey.

I don’t do “vegennaise.” I’d sooner make my own mayo using avocado or something.

Libby July 26, 2015 - 3:05 PM

I wanted to try a swap for ice cream. Freeze 2 bananas in their skins and then chop them up and put it in a blender and blend it with some almond milk. Heard it taste amazing but i haven’t done it yet

Marjorie August 24, 2015 - 11:00 PM

Please make sure you peel your banana before your freeze it. It is nearly impossible to peel it after it is frozen. Peel it, slice it, then put it in the freezer . . .

~ Marjorie ~

Alex Sparks July 31, 2015 - 1:57 AM

THe rootbeer float swap sounds so amazing! I’m a fan of A&W Rootbeer floats and I definitely can use this!

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