Unless you’re on The Biggest Loser, small changes are the secret to getting – and staying – fit.
Choosing modest adjustments over a total makeover makes healthy eating more manageable and sustainable over the long term, and cuts down on the feelings of deprivation that can thwart even the most dedicated diet.
That means you don’t have to give up your beloved gut bombs entirely if you’re trying to slim down and tone up, you just need a few ingenious hacks to make your meals delicious and nutritionally sound in equal measures. These 11 junk food alternatives are the secret to satisfying cravings while slashing calories.
Swap Greek Yoghurt For Sour Cream
Thick, rich, and tangy, Greek yoghurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream in dips, dressings, marinades, and baked goods, or as a healthier garnish for tacos, burritos, salmon, chili, and baked potatoes. A one-to-one swap can cut the fat in half while doubling your protein intake. Greek yoghurt is also packed with probiotics, calcium, potassium, vitamin D12.
Swap Cauliflower Rice For Rice
Some dishes necessitate a side of rice, but white rice is high-calorie and carbohydrate-dense, and has little nutritional value. Steal this swap from your Paleo and grain-free pals for a healthier alternative: cauliflower rice. Cauliflower rice is light, tender and fluffy, with just the right amount of rice-like chew. After pulsing cauliflower florets in a food processor (or grating them on a box grater), the “rice” can be used raw in salads or sautéed to accompany cooked dishes.
Swap Sparkling Water For Soda
From noble stalwarts San Pellegrino and Perrier, to hipster upstarts like Spindrift and La Croix, sparkling water is having a moment. Many of the most popular options contain no sugar or artificial ingredients, making them a smart swap for calorific soda when you’re craving carbonation. The extensive range of flavours available ensures your bubbles are never blah, even though they’re clocking in at 0 calories per can.
Swap Squash Noodles For Spaghetti
All carbs are not the enemy. It’s the ones in irresistible, nutrient-lacking packages you have to watch out for – which means pasta is on the shit list of almost everyone trying to lose weight. If Italian comfort food is your culinary weakness, you don’t have to nix the noodles altogether. Simply sub them for spaghetti squash or spiralised zucchini to create a low-carb, veg-heavy “pasta” dish that’s full of vitamins, minerals and filling fiber.
Swap Cacao Nibs For Chocolate Chips
Organic, raw cacao – the natural source chocolate – is a superfood containing a variety of unique phytonutrients and flavonoids with tonnes of health benefits. Unfortunately, the chocolates you pick up at the supermarket contain almost no cacao at all. Replace standard chocolate chips in desserts, granola, and trail mix with minimally processed cacao nibs to reap their fiber-packed, antioxidant-rich, sugar-free rewards.
Swap Mashed Cauliflower For Mashed Potatoes
It’s tough to beat a buttery bite of mashed potatoes when you’re in the mood for a hearty meal, but the good feels wear off quickly when it’s time to reckon with the day’s calorie intake. A better option is mashed cauliflower, a skinny starch that delivers a hefty dose of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Prepare it with almond milk instead of heavy cream, and season simply with grass-fed butter and sea salt.
Swap Veggie Crisps For Potato Crisps
Don’t turn up your nose at kale crisps just because they’re made from everyone’s favourite mockable health food. Kale is ultra low on calories and fat, but brimming with potassium, vitamin K, fiber, and iron. Bake the leaves in the oven to create a crispy, crunchy, flavourful, and good-for-you alternative to greasy potato crisps. Spinach and brussels sprouts can also be crispified, as well as sweet potatoes, chickpeas, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, and apples.
Swap Nuts For Croutons
A little crunch goes a long way in a salad, but the calories quickly add up when the crunch comes from croutons (and let’s not get started on the dried fruit, hunks of cheese, and pool of creamy dressing you’re adding). Croutons are bread without any of the fiber or whole grain goodness – just an easy way to add empty calories to your veggie plate. For a crunch that won’t derail your diet goals, try almonds or sunflower seeds.
Swap Baked Zucchini For Deep-Fried Chips
It’s hard to imagine a food pairing more iconic than a burger and chips, but the deep-fried finger food is doing you no favours. Instead, satisfy your salty cravings with a homemade veggie wedge of some kind. Oven-roasted sweet potato is a popular option, but for something more unexpected, coat zucchini strips in bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and bake until golden and crisp.
Swap Cauliflower Crust For Pizza Crust
Versatile cauliflower is the true MVP of junk food alternatives. Not only is it a smart sub for rice and mashed potatoes, it’s also a low-calorie, gluten-free alternative to traditional white flour pizza crust. Break the cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until fine. Cook your cauliflower “rice”, then wrap it in a clean dishtowel and squeeze until all excess moisture is gone. Make and shape the crust, bake, add toppings, bake again, and voila – you have the only pizza you won’t feel guilty telling your trainer about the next day.
Swap Greek Yoghurt For Cream Cheese
You won’t see cheesecake on any diet plans, but it’s possible to make this notoriously heavy treat into something slightly less likely to end in regret. Trade in some of the cream cheese for plain Greek yoghurt for a dessert that’s decadent but light (not to mention easier to make). Use honey and dates to sweeten slices in lieu of granulated sugar. You can even add a dash of protein powder to the crust to impress your musclehead mates.