Menu Makeover

Simple ways to make your meals healthier.

Many people want to lose weight but aren’t willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes to get there. Maybe you dread the gym and make every excuse not to exercise. Or you just can’t seem to give up your addiction to soda and sweets. As you consider making a few changes in your effort to shed pounds, you may be glad to know there are simple, pain-free changes you can make to your daily diet that go a long way in your quest to cut calories.

When you plan your meals this week, try the following food swaps and see how far a few small changes can go in your weight loss efforts.

Change Breakfast

Skipping breakfast to try to lose weight will only backfire when lunch rolls around and you’re excessively hungry. People who eat breakfast tend to eat fewer calories overall than those who go hungry all morning. As you choose your breakfast foods, here are some suggestions to cut a hundred or more calories.

Turn down the large Frappuccino or latte and drink your coffee black with a little half-and-half instead. Rather than drinking a 12-ounce glass of orange juice, eat a whole orange. Choose an English muffin with peanut butter and fruit slices instead of a bagel, cream cheese, and jam. Fill up a bowl with high-fiber, low-sugar cereal or oatmeal and use skim milk rather than full fat milk. Eat a side of bacon instead of sausage. Once you do these things, you’re ready to get your day started full of energy and not useless calories.

Modify Lunch

Don’t let lunch be the downfall of your diet. Eating out or not planning ahead can wreck havoc on your weight-loss intentions. Here are six easy ways to cut a hundred calories in your lunch menu.

1. Skip the cheese on your sandwich or burger. 2. Reduce your soda size to small rather than a medium. 3. Use barbecue sauce instead of mayo or honey mustard to flavor your sandwich. 4. Choose an oil-and-vinegar dressing rather than a cream-based dressing on your salad. 5. Cut another 100 calories by using a whole-wheat wrap for your sandwich rather than two slices of bread. 6. Plan to eat a side of fresh fruit rather than a pile of chips. Done with lunch? Keep moving!

Transform Dinner

The day’s not over yet, so don’t give up. With these simple swaps you can cut another hundred or more calories at dinner.

Craving pizza? Order it thin-crust rather than deep-dish. And pile on the veggies and skip the pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese. Any time you make dishes with ground beef (spaghetti, casseroles, chili, or meatloaf) buy the reduced-fat variety, and then mix in shredded or finely chopped vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, peppers, squash, or mushrooms to make the meat go further, your fiber amount go up, and your calorie count go down. Because of the high calorie and carbohydrate content of pasta, swap out all or some of the noodles with zucchini or squash noodles. Flavor your veggies with garlic and spices rather than loading on the butter. And instead of piling the sour cream and butter on your baked potato, try using low-fat plain yogurt for that creamy, tangy taste.

Alter Snacks

Eating a small, healthy snack between meals can help prevent overeating at mealtime. You may be used to snacking on cookies, chips, and vending machine junk, but a few changes can make a big difference in your daily calorie intake. Save 100 calories or more by making these simple swaps.

Rather than packaged cheese crackers, try apple slices and peanut butter. Instead of milk chocolate bars, satisfy your sweet tooth with a couple dark chocolate squares. Pop your own popcorn rather than filling up on movie-theater popcorn that’s loaded with added butter and salt. Finally, leave the processed, pre-packaged snacks at the grocery store and fill your buggy with fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt cups, and whole-grain snack options.

Do all these things, and you’ll naturally trim hundreds of calories every day. Do it enough days in a row and you’ll see pounds begin to fall off your frame!