Weight loss usually isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult that it feels like a near-impossible goal. As any registered dietitian or nutritionist will tell you, it all comes down to basic math — calories in versus calories out. But strictly counting calories has its downfalls. When it comes to long-term weight loss success, it’s all about balance. That’s why so many people start by swapping out some of their high-calorie favorites for healthier, lower-calorie alternatives that are equally tasty. We asked real women to share some of the simple diet swaps that have been monumental in helping them shed pounds — and keep the weight off for good.
Frozen grapes instead of ice cream
“After my divorce, I had a tough time and gained about 20 pounds. To help shed the weight, I needed to cut back on calories, especially on high-calorie frozen treats like ice cream. This swap worked so well that I still use it today to help maintain a healthy weight. At the beginning of the week, I freeze grapes, which can be done with small clusters or individual grapes. After rinsing, put the clusters of grapes in a bowl or lay the loose grapes in a single layer on a sheet pan, and pop them in the freezer for at least two hours. Instead of eating hundreds of calories from ice cream, 3/4 cup of grapes is only 90 calories. Plus, grapes provide vitamin K, potassium, and fiber, along with polyphenols that may contribute to heart health.” —Toby A.
Veggie rice instead of white rice
“At 307 pounds, I was told that I was pre-diabetic and advised by my physician to decrease my intake of carbs, sugar, and starches in order to save my life. While making the changes wasn’t easy, I knew it was necessary for my health. I started by swapping my favorite starch-heavy foods with veggie versions, such as cauliflower and broccoli rice, zucchini noodles, lettuce wraps, portobello mushrooms as burger buns, etc. It works!” —Caroline J.
PB2 instead of peanut butter
“PB2 is a peanut butter powder made from peanuts that have been pressed to remove most of the oil, and it can be mixed with water to make a low-fat peanut butter. The reason this is a great swap for weight loss is that you save approximately 150 calories for every 2 tablespoons of PB2. This product made it easier for me to reduce the fat and calories in my diet while I was working to lose weight, but it still contains protein and fiber, just like regular peanut butter, so it still helped me feel satiated. There is a chocolate PB2 as well that can work as a substitute for chocolate hazelnut spread.” —Summer Y.
Cacao instead of milk chocolate
“I'm a mum and an Australian-accredited practicing dietitian who put on 40 pounds in pregnancy and didn't really start to lose much weight until I finished breastfeeding. I know for myself and clients I see, outside of exercise, the biggest change often comes in portion control and snack foods that become a daily food rather than a sometimes food. Instead of cutting out my guilty pleasure of chocolate altogether, I started adding pure cacao into my smoothies along with other healthy ingredients like vegetables. It did the trick!” —Kristy M.
Fruity green teas instead of fruit juice
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved juice — orange, cranberry, you name it. I tried to get into fruit-infused waters, but they were never enough to satisfy me. I finally found fruity green teas, and they were enough to suffice my craving. I think this swap worked because the properties of the green tea gave me energy without all the sugar and boosted my metabolism to help me shed those pounds.” —Candace T.
Vegan non-dairy options instead of dairy options
“I realized that cheese, milk, and yogurt were making me bloated and hurting my stomach. By swapping to vegan options for these, especially those I could make at home, I was feeling better and could get higher protein and healthy fats than the normal dairy versions.” —Renata T.
Non-fat yogurt instead of sour cream
“The protein in the yogurt helps me feel fuller for longer, plus it has less calories, meaning I can lose more weight without sacrificing taste, which I love! If I have a baked potato, I use yogurt instead of sour cream. Sometimes, for a real treat, I’ll make organic, no-salt chili and add yogurt as a topping. The fact that I can’t tell the difference in taste is amazing!” —Allison C.