#201 The Ole Switcheroo

Tell a friend

"You've got bad eating habits if you use a grocery cart in 7-Eleven, okay?"

Dennis Miller

15 Easy Food Substitutions for Big-Time Calorie Savings

By Jude Buglewicz

Changing your eating habits is sort of like falling in love. Some things you don't much like, but you can live with—knuckle-cracking, a nose ring—while others are just deal breakers, like snoring or preferring Everwood to 24. Rest assured. These simple food substitutions are pain free and hardly noticeable. You won't believe how easy it is to shave calories from your everyday diet—and you'll absolutely love the results.

All you have to do is eat fewer calories than you burn and you'll lose weight. (We're not even talking about exercising here. Just cutting down on calories!) It's a simple matter of mathematics. One pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories. To lose a pound a week, you have to consume 500 fewer calories a day. Here are a few simple food substitutions that you can incorporate into each meal that not only add up to big calorie savings at the end of the week, but improve your overall health, too.


2 Tbsp. half and half = 40 calories
2 Tbsp. skim milk = 11 calories
Calories saved: 29

If you can't bear the shock of going straight from half and half to skim milk, you can ease your way by reducing the fat content gradually: 2 Tbsp. whole milk is 19 calories and 2 Tbsp. of 2% is 16 calories. Once you get used to drinking skim milk, though, whole milk and even 2% will seem unbearably "thick."

1 cup whole milk = 150 calories
1 cup skim milk = 90 calories
Calories saved: 60

2 eggs = 150 calories
4 egg whites = 60 calories
Calories saved: 90

You'll want to double up on the egg whites. (This goes for baking, too. In recipes, replace whole eggs with twice as many egg whites.)

Toast or bagel
1 Tbsp. butter = 100 calories
1 Tbsp. fat-free cream cheese = 30 calories
Calories saved: 70

1 croissant = 320 calories
1 slice whole wheat bread = 70 calories
Calories saved: 250

This one's a no-brainer. Go ahead. Smear your toast with fat-free cream cheese!


1 Tbsp. mayonnaise = 100 calories
1 Tbsp. mustard = 15 calories
Calories saved: 85

1 oz. cheddar cheese = 120 calories
1 oz. fat-free cheddar cheese = 45 calories
Calories saved: 75

1 Tbsp. ranch-style or 1000 Island dressing = 80 calories
1 Tbsp. blue cheese = 60 calories
1 Tbsp. fat-free ranch dressing = 16 calories
1 Tbsp. fat-free Italian dressing = 14 calories
1 Tbsp. lemon juice = 4 calories
Calories saved: up to 78

Try sprinkling lemon juice on your salad instead of drowning it in fattening creamy dressings, and save 78 calories per tablespoon. Or at least opt for fat-free Italian and save 66 calories per tablespoon. If you can't live without that crumbling of blue cheese, try cutting the portion in half.


Lasagna / Casseroles
1 cup ricotta cheese = 430 calories
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese = 340 calories
1 cup 2% cottage cheese = 202 calories
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese = 160 calories
Calories saved: up to 270

Substituting fat-free cottage cheese for whole ricotta cheese saves you 270 calories per cup. Try replacing half the cheese in casseroles with fat-free cottage cheese as well.

Hamburger dishes
3 oz. 80% lean ground beef, broiled = 235 calories
3 oz. ground turkey breast, broiled = 100 calories
Calories saved: 135

Though ground turkey breast isn't as tasty as hamburgers, it's a great substitute in sloppy joes, chili, and sure, even lasagna.

1 cup cooked pasta = 189 calories
1 cup cooked whole wheat pasta = 173 calories
Calories saved: 16

You'll get almost three times as much dietary fiber with whole wheat pasta (which will make you feel fuller with less) and save calories per cup to boot.

Baked potato
1 Tbsp. sour cream = 26 calories
1 Tbsp. reduced fat sour cream = 20 calories
1 Tbsp. plain, nonfat yogurt = 9 calories
Calories saved: up to 17

Topping your spud with a tablespoon of yogurt instead of sour cream saves you 17 calories.

Sauteed veggies
2 Tbsp. corn oil = 240 calories
2 Tbsp. canola oil = 240 calories
2 Tbsp. butter = 200 calories
2 Tbsp. vegetable broth = 35 calories (approx.)
Calories saved: up to 200

Steaming is best, but if you must sauté your veggies, do it in a little vegetable broth or even a bit of fruit juice.

If you're crazy about baked goods—cake, muffins, brownies, cookies—sorry, you really should cut back. When you do prepare them on those few occasions, do yourself a favor and cut out half the fat (butter, oil, shortening) and substitute the other half with unsweetened applesauce or yogurt—neither one alters the flavor much and saves loads of calories. And cut one third to one half of the sugar, sprucing up the dish instead with spices and flavorings (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or nutmeg, or vanilla or almond extract). Chocolate cakes or brownies can handle the flavor of pureed prunes or mashed bananas. But all of these substitutions are a little tricky, and you'll need to experiment with different ones to achieve the texture and taste you like.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter = 800 calories
1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt = 70 calories
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce = 52 calories
Calories saved: up to 374

If your recipe calls for half a cup of butter, use a quarter cup instead along with a quarter cup of yogurt or applesauce, and save 365 or 374 calories, respectively.

If it's ice cream you can't live without, think twice before reaching for the nonfat frozen yogurt instead. You might not be saving that many calories. If you can hold yourself to just half a cup, it's not so bad. But check out the labels on ice cream bars, too. You've got built-in portion control with those. Here's a little rundown:

1/2 cup ice cream, vanilla = 135 calories
1/2 cup nonfat frozen yogurt (Ben & Jerry's) = 120 calories
1/2 cup nonfat frozen yogurt (Stonyfield Farm) = 100 calories
1/2 cup nonfat frozen yogurt (Haagen-Dazs) = 100 calories
1/2 cup sugar-free vanilla ice cream (Breyers) = 80 calories
1 bar - raspberry sorbet and vanilla yogurt (Haagen-Dazs) = 90 calories
1 bar - vanilla ice cream with fudge coating (Healthy Choice) = 80 calories
Calories saved: up to 55

Once you get used to making healthy substitutions, you'll see what a cinch it is to do. And we're not even talking about exercising! Throw that in, and you'll burn calories faster and develop muscle that'll increase your metabolism, so you'll burn even more calories by doing less. But it's all about the calories. The fewer you consume, the more stored body fat you'll burn.

If you prefer having someone else do all the math, figuring out delicious, easy-to-prepare meals for you every day, check out the personalized meal plans at Team Beachbody® Club, now with vegetarian options. Not a member? Click here to start your membership right away!

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Beachbody Mailbag

If Steve Edwards' article on soda, "The Worst Food on the Planet," wasn't enough to stop you from drinking it, maybe the comments from all those who wrote in will. We weren't able to include here all the great letters we received, so please check out Steve Edwards' mailbag for more terrific responses. Here are some of the highlights:

Thanks for the info on soda. But, I have a question. Other than water, what DO we drink? We only buy 100% juice for our son and that is not available from a vending machine. And heaven forbid he should drink water! Bad food and drinks are everywhere! It's not safe to leave your home without taking food and drinks along with you! Wow! It is tough to even drive down the road without the kids saying they're hungry because of all of the fast food chains we pass along the way! Even though we don't allow him to have soda, it's nearly impossible to avoid "convenience." I'm enraged that they give "toys" with their food. That is the main reason our son claims he's hungry. When we pull up to the drive thru, and I tell him he can get food, no toy, he is no longer hungry! It's tough to raise healthy children with all of the marketing going on. Thanks!—Bridget G.

Steve Edwards: There were many of these questions. The bottom line is that calories in drinks should be restricted as much as possible. You are always diluting the whole food and missing out on fiber and such. So you should learn to drink plain water and use caloric drinks as supplements and desserts. Even sodas—if consumed in moderation, like one a day—aren't too bad. The problem is that we tend to drink them all day long. Washing down a meal with a couple hundred calories of sugar just cannot have a positive effect on your health.

A great alternative is to flavor your water with a small amount of juice. At first, it'll seem like watered-down juice, but once you get used to it, you will taste the juice in a more subtle manner that actually does a better job of quenching your thirst. Eventually, 100% juices or soft drinks will taste too syrupy. I also got a lot of letters on other drinks, including beer. One beer is probably a touch better for you than one soda but the rule remains. Drink a lot of beer in a day and your diet will suffer. It's still calories, most of them "empty." That's why they call it a "beer belly."

Coffee and tea have no calories, unless you add stuff to them (stuff which is usually high in calories). So mochas n' stuff (and Southern sweet tea, thanks Ralene) are filled with sugar and/or fat, but black coffee or straight tea isn't bad unless you're sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine can actually aid in weight loss, but tends to have other effects that can hurt you, especially if it affects your ability to sleep, which is very important.

OK Steve, I learned long ago the vices of soft drinks. However, I am very confused on what besides water to drink. You see, I am a single dad to a 13-year-old girl. She is a good athlete in volleyball and track. I do a Beachbody workout of some type 3 to 5 days a week. Our refrigerator never has any soft drinks unless brought over by friends or family. In the box we keep grape, orange, apple juice, low-fat milk, Powerade, and beer. She drinks juice or milk for breakfast and I drink grape juice (everyday). When I work out (early mornings) I sometimes drink a protein shake afterwards, but always plenty of water. Lunch is usually Powerade for her and water for me. Dinner is usually Powerade (or apple juice) for her and sometimes a beer for me. Late night 2 to 4 times a week we have ice cream or cookies and milk. When she visits her mom (2 nights a week) I have 1 to 3 beers. Besides this I do drink a lot of water but she drinks only a little water. So my question is do I pitch the juice? Is it OK to drink a lot of Powerade or Gatorade? What else can we drink?—Randy

SE: I got a lot of email about kids. Since she is athletic, she definitely has more leeway on what she should drink. But juices and stuff should be limited, as should milk the older you get. The big baddie in this mix is Gator/Powerade. These sports drinks are designed for sports and should never be consumed with meals or while you're sitting around, unless it's so hot you're sweating like crazy. During and immediately after sports they are fine. At other times, they're just as bad as soda. On juice, fresh-squeezed juice with pulp—hence fiber—is much better. Juice from concentrate is just sugar. No matter what you drink, learn to read labels.

I really enjoyed reading the newsletter and my ears particularly perked up when I read about diet soda actually preventing weight loss. I know you've partially addressed your observations that it caused this in a number of your clients. I had never been aware of this. I know it's not the greatest thing in the world for you, but I had no idea that it could hinder weight loss. And so, my question is this—WHY? Or I guess a better question would be HOW? How is it possible that something that has zero calories in it can prevent weight loss? Please note, I'm not arguing with you, but for someone who is absolutely addicted to diet soda—actually only Diet Coke sweetened with Splenda—I would find it much easier to kick the habit if I knew the reason behind it. Would reducing the number of cans of soda help this or must it be eliminated completely? Is this true of all carbonated beverages or just sodas?—H.S.

SE: As I mentioned in the article, there is more to food than calories. Different substances affect the way your body absorbs nutrients. Sodas use a blend of various chemicals that change your body's natural pH balance—all man-made foods do, which is why your diet should be made up of as many whole foods as possible. Small amounts of diet sodas most likely won't do much, but a steady diet is bad news. I'm going to let a few emails answer the rest of your question:

I had all but completely eliminated diet soft drinks from my life a few months ago. Turns out, the aspartame, not the caffeine, was the contributing factor to the worsening of a cardiac arrythmia problem I have. Now that I have read this nugget of information, if I need a little caffeine blast once in a while, I'll have some plain iced tea (or just go stick my head in the freezer, it works pretty well). I have not lost weight from my efforts, though I have just been diagnosed with a hypothyroid disorder. I am sure keeping those chemicals out of my body has improved my well-being regardless, and I know I feel much better—no mood swings, no irritability, anxiety, depressive episodes, etc. I had no idea this stuff was linked to ADD, but I do know I have had much better focus and concentration. This stuff may be worse for you than alcohol in moderation.—Khamanda
Whoa! Get this: When we lived in Texas I hadn't seen my next door neighbor for a few months...saw him outside one day and he had become this tall slim person, when before—Pillsbury Doughboy. "What happened??" I asked. "Lost 80 lbs. when I stopped drinking DIET soda!" What did he drink instead? "Mostly water." "No-o-o-o-oo! Water? Well, whaddya know!"—Laurie H.
I enjoyed the article on sodas a great deal. So much so that I forwarded it to my mother because I have two younger brothers who drink at least one soda each day. I actually gave up soda all together about eight months ago. I had been drinking only diet caffeine-free for a long time but one day I just decided that it was pointless to continue to drink them. I lost about 5 or 10 pounds in that first month, which seemed odd at first because it wasn't like I was consuming any less calories. But I have also felt healthier and have been sick less since I cut the sodas out of my diet. Now I choose water over every other beverage option and am not even tempted to take a sip of soda. Hopefully others can give up this horrible substance because there is no upside to consuming it.—Brandon
I completely agree with this whole article and the suggestions at the end. Even diet soda will increase chances of tooth decay. Because of the acid. I am a dental hygienist and tell my patients this all the time. I really, really agree with schools taking out the soda machines. And there is NO GOOD reason for the schools to sell junk food to kids. And I wish I knew how to help stop the schools from selling the JUNK.—Kathy
What research do you base your article on?—Micheal B.

SE: I used a lot of sources, the main study being the one that showed soda as the number one caloric source in America. However, let's just assume there was no research.

Whether it's number one or number ten, there is little doubt that a high percentage of calories in the American diet come from soda. We don't need a study to tell us this. Let's just run some numbers based on very basic nutritional knowledge using the information on the side of a can of soda. It's almost all sugar, along with various chemicals designed for rapid absorption. We don't need science to tell us we get a rush from drinking soda. You just need to drink one. Basic nutrition shows us that we should not have too much simple sugar in our diet. If you drink soda all day long, there is no way your diet can possibly be balanced. No study is needed to show this either.

We also know that our diets should consist of protein, fat, carbs, and that we need nutrients, such as vitamins. Again, just looking at the side of a can of soda will confirm that it lacks almost any nutrients but simple sugar and mysterious chemicals. Therefore, before we even resort to studies to confirm that the chemicals are bad and hurt our diet in other ways, the simple facts still show that soda should not be a major component in your diet.

Thanks for this great article. Is it possible to add a link to our senators and congressmen? There should be some kind of Web site to this effect somewhere that might even add a form letter or email that we can send. That way your editorial not only has info, it has effect. Amen.

SE: Please feel free to pass this on. Here are a couple of links. Make yourself heard: Contact your Senator
Contact Congress

These letters were just the tip of the iceberg. Check Steve Edwards' Mailbag for more reader comments. If you'd like to ask a question or comment on a newsletter article yourself, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

For Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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