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Weight Loss Making the Switch to Low-Calorie Foods

The currently popular high-fat, low carbohydrate diets promise quick, dramatic weight loss. But they are not the rout to healthy, long-term weight management. A diet high in fat, especially if it is high in saturated fat, is not good for your heart. These diets are also high in protein and can cause kidney problems and increased bone loss. High-fat, low-carb diets are also low in many essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

While some people following this type of a diet lose weight in the short term, much of the weight loss is due to water loss. As with most quick-fix diets, the weight tends to quickly return once you stop dieting. The best course is to steer clear of all fad diets. The healthiest, most effective route to long-term weight loss is a lower fat, lower calorie, well balanced diet.

Here are some tasty, low-calorie alternatives to old favorites. Read labels to find out how many calories are in the specific products you buy.

Instead of

Replace with

Milk Products


Whole milk

Low-fat or fat-free

Ice cream

Sorbet, sherbet, fat-free frozen yogurt or reduced-fat ice cream

Whipping cream

Imitation whipped cream (made with fat-free milk) or low-fat vanilla yogurt

Sour cream

Plain, low-fat yogurt or fat-free cream cheese

Cheese (sandwich types)

Reduced-calorie, low-calorie, or fat-free cheeses

Cereals and Pastas


Roman Noodles

Brown rice or whole-grain pasta

Pasta with cheese sauce

Whole-grain pasta with red sauce or vegetables.


Bran flakes, crispy rice cereals, cooked grits or oatmeal, reduced-fat granola

Meat, Fish, Poultry


Cold cuts, hot dogs

Low-fat cold cuts and hot dogs (watch the sodium content)

Bacon and Sausage

Canadian bacon or lean ham

Regular ground beef

Extra-lean ground beef or ground turkey

Chicken or turkey with skin

White-meat chicken or turkey without skin

Oil packed tuna

Water-packed tuna

Beef (chuck, rib, brisket)

Beef (round, loin) with fat trimmed off, if possible, choose select grades

Pork (spareribs, untrimmed loin)

Pork tenderloin (trimmed), lean smoked ham

Whole eggs

Eggs white

Baked Goods


Croissants, brioches, etc

Hard French rolls or "brown 'n serve" rolls

Donuts, sweet rolls, muffins

English muffins, bagels, reduced-fat or fat-free muffins

Cake (pound, layer)

Cake (angel food, gingerbread)


Reduced-fat, low-calorie, or fat-free cookies (graham crackers, ginger snaps, fig bars)

Fats, Oils, Salad Dressings


Regular margarine or butter

Light-spread, reduced-calorie, or diet margarines; look for "trans fat-free" soft margarines

Regular Mayonnaise

Light or diet Mayonnaise

Regular salad dressing

Reduced-calorie or fat-free dressings, lemon juice, vinegars

Butter or margarine on toast

Jelly, jam, or honey on toast

Oils shortening, or lard

Nonstick cooking spray instead of greasing pans for sauteeing

You can find many more substitutions in our service database. Please sign in and go to Meals. If you are following a plan, you will see how easy and fast it is to make food substitutions. If you are not following a plan, start by tracking what you eat. You will immediately see the nutritional facts, learn and adjust portions or choose more nutritional foods.

Source: National Institutes of Health - U.S. Department of Healthy and Human Services - NIH Publication no. 05-5213 August 2005

Adapted by Editorial Staff, December 2007
Last update, August 2008


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