Whether that’s restricting calories, eating nothing but tomatoes all day, or some arbitrary point-counting exercise, most people try a diet at some stage.
But the real secret to weight loss is realizing that what you believe about nutrition and health may not be true.
This article will present some healthy food swaps that take the breaks off weight loss.
#1. Replace That General Mills Cereal With Eggs
Cereal is big business, and major conglomerates are forever marketing their boxes of flour and sugar as “heart healthy.” With heavy hitters in the industry such as Kelloggs, Nestle, and General Mills; that’s a lot of money behind the advertising.
However, if you can’t lose weight, then cereal is one of the last things you should be eating.
In truth, cereal is an ultra-processed food made from possible combinations of flour, vegetable oil, sugar, flavors, colors, and synthetic vitamins.
You may think that “not all cereals are the same,” and that’s certainly true. For example, steel-cut oats are a much healthier choice than something like Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms or Cornflakes.
That said, studies show that compared to eating eggs, consumption of oats leads to higher low-grade inflammation in the body (8).
Additionally, chronic inflammation is believed to play a causal role in obesity. So, forget about eating “heart healthy grains” for breakfast.
One of the best healthy food swaps you can make is replacing them with eggs.
Why Choose Eggs For Breakfast?
Eggs have virtually no impact on blood sugar levels, and they are crammed full of beneficial nutrients.
Some of these include choline, an essential vitamin that many people in the world are now deficient in (9).
Unfortunately, as a result of misguided science, many people have an inherent fear of eggs due to cholesterol.
Even the United States FDA no longer classify dietary cholesterol as a nutrient of concern (11).
There are so many tasty ways to make eggs; they’re also highly nutritious, and relatively affordable.
#2. Ditch the Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice and Eat Your Fruit
Almost everyone thinks — or has thought — that orange juice is healthy. After all, it’s full of fresh fruit, right?
First of all, many brands of juice are not fresh at all and instead they use concentrated orange juice.
Sadly, this version of juice couldn’t be more unfresh; you can see the production process behind it here:
However, even for freshly squeezed orange juice, there are still many problems. The first thing to remember is that our body is designed to eat fruit, not drink it (12).
When we eat a piece of whole fruit, it has all the beneficial nutrients working in tandem with each other. It also contains naturally occurring fiber, which slows down the digestion of the fructose (fruit sugars), therefore diminishing the blood sugar response (13).
However, when we tear away the fiber, we are left with nothing but fruit sugars and a few vitamins.
These results may be down to people who eat whole fruit being more health-conscious. However, it is certainly interesting.
If you can’t lose weight and still drink juice, then you should think about quitting it.
Smart Healthy Food Swaps: Berries, Avocado, and Olives
While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fruit consumption in general, if you want to lose weight it might be worth emphasizing lower sugar fruits.
Contrary to popular belief, fat doesn’t make you fat – and it increases satiety. As a result, eating enough fat decreases the likelihood of snacking throughout the day (19).
So, instead of a glass of sugary orange juice, how about replacing it with some blueberries and fresh cream?
#3. Can’t Lose Weight? Stop Putting Butter In Your Coffee!
I certainly have nothing against butter.
If you have read many of the articles on here, you’ll know that. Butter is a super tasty, natural food that improves the taste of almost anything.
However: it’s not really the most nutrient-dense food around (20).
There is a recent craze for putting butter in coffee, known as ‘bulletproof coffee’ or ‘keto coffee’ by some.
While there’s nothing wrong with putting a spoon or so in there, I’m talking about people who drink hundreds of calories of it a day in the hope of losing weight.
Many people believe that putting butter in your coffee can help weight loss – and it can. But that’s when it displaces food, not when it’s an addition to a standard meal.
And on that note, we come back to nutrient density; what is better for you, a meal full of nutritious food? Or hundreds of calories of butter?
The answer is the former, every single time.
Butter is great as part of a meal, but it’s very energy dense and has relatively low nutrients compared to other foods. Basically, as great as it is, it shouldn’t be the meal.
This rule is especially the case if you are eating anything other than low carb. Lots of fat in addition to higher levels of carbohydrate is a dangerous metabolic recipe, as shown in numerous studies (21, 22, 23).
Healthy Food Swap: Emphasize Nutrient Density
Instead of drinking a meal’s worth of butter, eat a steak and some eggs.
Compared to hundreds of calories from coconut oil, an avocado or some dark chocolate is a great alternative.
And on the topic of dairy, a nice chunk of aged cheese offers many more nutrients than butter – and it’s arguably tastier too.
What if I only want butter coffee because I can’t lose weight?
A cup of bulletproof coffee occasionally is fine, but if it’s regularly displacing meals, then there’s a chance for nutrient deficiencies developing.
And those relate to overall health in addition to weight loss. For example, there is emerging evidence linking obesity to nutrient deficiencies and the resulting physiological changes they bring (25, 26, 27).
All in all, a nutritious meal beats drinking butter.
#4. Low-Fat Dairy Is Not Good For You: Replace With Full Fat
First, there’s a misconception that replacing full-fat dairy with low-fat dairy is one of the best healthy food swaps.
Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more wrong.
While low-fat dairy products are lower in calories, total intake of energy doesn’t matter as much as what those calories are.
As an example, what would cause the biggest gain in body fat?
a) 2000 calories of bread and sugar.
b) 2500 calories of meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and dairy.
I’m betting on option A!
Also, it’s kind of interesting how we view skim milk now. If we are having difficulty losing weight, there’s a fear of whole milk and a belief that the reduced fat version is the key to weight loss.
However, did you know that farmers use skim milk to fatten pigs?
In fact, we’ve known that skim milk is uniquely fattening for decades. Here’s an image from a farming guide way back in 1930:
As mentioned at the start of this article, this shows how cereal is not a good idea.
How do farmers fatten pigs? By feeding them grains and skim milk.
What do dieters do when they can’t lose weight? Eat grains and skim milk.
To summarize: low-fat dairy has more chance of making you fat than more natural, full-fat dairy.
Healthy Food Swaps: Natural, Full Fat Dairy Products
In contrast to heavily processed products like fat-free milk and low-fat cheese, whole milk and full-fat dairy are much healthier.
All in all, it’s similar to the fruit juice story. Processed dairy products are missing their natural fat and nutrients.
Also, saturated fat stabilizes blood sugar levels by slowing the release of milk sugars. As the fat is absent from skim milk, this makes it a terrible option for diabetics in particular.
#5. Having a Cheat Day? Make a Fathead Pizza!
First of all, a cheat day is not conducive to weight loss.
But so many people do it, probably because they are on an unsustainable, boring, and restrictive diet.
The problem also relates to what food people choose for their “cheat.”
After a few days of progress and losing weight, they “treat” themselves to a pizza hut buffet or a giant McDonald’s meal.
Not surprisingly, this results in regaining the weight they previously lost and the common complaint, “I can’t lose weight!”
If this sounds like you, then you should read up on low carb diets.
Cutting out bread and sugar isn’t so hard when you can eat salmon, steak, cheese and a few pieces of dark chocolate.
Also, low carb diets are not restrictive once you understand them – and most of the food tastes delicious.
“Can’t I Cheat Occasionally?”
While it’s okay not to be 100% strict with the way you eat, there are always smarter healthy food swaps we can make.
For example, instead of visiting the local pizza house, a much better option is to make your own.
While it may sound strange if you have never tried it, the pizza looks and tastes similar to the real thing. However, the pizza crust is less dry and much tastier.
Seriously, give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.
#6. Smart Swaps: Nutritionally Upgrade Your Snacks
However, making some smart, healthy food swaps is very easy when it comes to snacks.
Here are ten common snacks/drinks people eat, and a healthier replacement for each one of them.
- Potato Chips (Crisps): instead of eating a packet of oily chips, opt for a handful of nuts – a real heart healthy snack. There is nothing healthy about baked Lays.
- Cheese Sandwich: a cheese salad is an excellent alternate choice to bread.
- Caramel Latte: Instead of a sugary caramel latte, have a regular latte and sweeten it with erythritol or stevia.
- Fries (Chips): As regular potato fries are very high in starch and vegetable oil, a smart replacement is rutabaga fries.
- Milk chocolate: most commercial chocolate is very high in sugar, so choose dark chocolate instead. All in all, dark chocolate is much more nutritious than milk chocolate.
- Apples and bananas: While apples and bananas are not bad for you, they are high in sugar compared to other fruits. For weight loss, fruits like strawberries and blackberries are a better option.
- Pastries: Pastries are also high in starch and other unhealthy ingredients. However, cloud bread is a nutritious alternative option.
- Cakes: While you may think cakes are a definite no-no, there are dozens of options that are free of sugar and flour here. But just to point out, cakes should still be an occasional treat.
- Soda: Sorry this one’s a little boring, but you should just drink water. Tea, herbal tea, and coffee are all fine too.
- White Rice: A cultural staple in much of Asia, this is extremely high in starch and best avoided – especially if trying to lose weight. However, cauliflower rice is an excellent substitute that is very adaptable.
Note: if you have any unhealthy dependence on sugar, then it’s best to avoid all sweet foods.
The Best Healthy Swaps
Hopefully, some of these six food replacements will be helpful to you.
Everyone has their preference of food, so change understandably takes time. However, implementing some of these changes will have you going in the right direction.
Lastly, it’s important to realize that the best healthy foods are the ones you love.
For me, my diet comprises of meat, fish, nuts, veggies, dairy, berries, and dark chocolate. I love all of those foods, and I know they’re really good for me.
At the end of the day, you will only have success with any diet if you actually like what you’re eating.
And I don’t know about you, but for me, steak and eggs beat low-fat crackers any day of the week.
For more on weight loss, see here for five of the biggest mistakes people make.