Slimming down your favorite foods

Posted by
Emily Wyckoff
You can have a little dark chocolate if you balance your diet with healthy choices too

Pasta. Burgers. Pizza. Cookies

Tonight's dinner? No, but if asked to come up with a list of their favorites foods, these items would have starring roles on most people's lists. A healthy diet doesn't exclude anything, but includes most foods - in moderation. You can keep your favorites but slim them down by cutting calories and upping the nutritional content so you won't feel deprived. Follow these easy tips for slimming down your favorite foods.

Snack Foods and candies

Healthy snacks are essential to getting through your day and avoiding a late afternoon binge. Some easy swaps for some favorite snack foods - you won't miss the full-fat and calorie favorites - include:

  • Replace fried chips and snacks with baked chips and snacks.
  • Swap in air-popped popcorn for microwave popcorn or popcorn popped in oil. 
  • Skip the canned fruit cocktail in syrup and stick to fresh fruit or canned fruit in natural juices. 
  • Some people can't go a day without candy - if you absolutely must have your fix, look for low calorie and fat choices like licorice or jelly beans and just have a few bites.
  • Research shows that dark chocolate has some important health benefits like antioxidants - have a small piece to quiet your sweet tooth.
  • Sodas, sports drinks, and sugary juices have tons of empty calories - replace these with water, low fat milk, and calorie-free seltzers.

Breakfasts

  • Slim down your cereal and milk by only having the suggested portion on the cereal box and opt for skim or low fat milk.
  • Yogurt with granola is a favorite breakfast of many, but granola is another example of a seemingly healthy food full of fat and calories. Stick with non-fat plain yogurt and a sprinkle of low fat, high-protein granola and add some berries for a satisfying breakfast. Agave Syrup as a natural sweetener is a better choice over honey or maple syrup and it goes well on plain yogurt.
  • Toast and bagels are good choices too as long as they are whole grain; up the nutritional content by replacing butter or cream cheese with natural peanut or almond butter.
  • A smoothie made with low-fat milk, fruit and ice and a dash of honey is a great breakfast on the go.

Lunch

Lunch is an easy meal to slim down without missing your favorites.

  • If a sandwich is your go-to lunch, stick to whole grain bread, lean meats, low-fat cheese and lots of veggies. Top it with low fat mayo or better yet, try  mustard, low-fat salad dressing or even hummus. Baked chips or pretzels are a great side.
  • Soup is another healthy choice for lunch - skip the cream-based soups in favor of broth-based and you can even get that same creamy effect by blending your own vegetable soup and adding a dash of low fat milk in the end.  Soup fills you up and hydrates you all at once.

Dinners

The no-carb fad diets of the past are unrealistic and can make most people feel deprived. You can keep your pastas, potatoes, and breads - in moderation.

  • Swap regular pasta for whole wheat or grain and you will feel fuller longer and up the nutritional content. Rather than having the pasta take up the majority of your dish, load it up with veggies like broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes and shoot for a 50/50 veggie to pasta ration.
  • Switch it up by replacing your regular starchy white potatoes with sweet potatoes which can be prepared just the same - mashed, roasted or even as oven baked fries.
  • Try whole wheat or whole grain rolls or bread and stick to lean red meats, poultry and fish.
  • Burgers don't have to be unhealthy when you use whole grain rolls, lean ground beef or try ground  chicken or turkey, or even fish; pile it high with lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumbers and you have a satisfying and seemingly sinful meal.
  • Chicken and turkey are high in protein and low in fat as long as you remove the skin prior to eating - however, you can keep it on during cooking to seal in juices and flavor.
  • Slim down pizza by making it at home with whole wheat pizza dough from the grocery store or your local pizzeria. Top it with low fat cheese and lots of veggies and you won't miss take out.

Desserts

Dessert is its own food group for many people - you don't have to deprive yourself when you slim it down.

  • Frozen yogurt and low-fat ice creams have come a long way. You can even make your own!
  • Fresh fruit like berries topped with a small dollop of real whipped cream (whipped with a dash of vanilla) finished with a sprinkle of nuts is a fabulous dessert that's good for you too.
  • Home-made cookies are easy to make yourself and you can replace the flour with some whole wheat flour and oats, and add some cranberries and raisins to sneak in some added nutrition. Make them on the weekends and toss them in the freezer to enjoy in future weeks.

So remember, all things in moderation and with these easy slim downs, you won't miss any of your favorite foods!

You can always find healthy foods by checking Yum-o! Family Friendly in our recipe search tool.  This will give you recipes that are from Rachael Ray's Yum-o! organization.