Making a good choice on an ingredient can make or break a meal. So many of my dishes coming in at 400 calories or less is all due to the food swaps I use.
Everyone knows fruits and veggies are low cal, rice cakes taste like styrofoam, spreads are better than butter, etc. But there are some not so transparent options and I want to share some of my picks with you ! For some of these items it took a lot of trial and error to find them – I hope this saves you some time and spares you from having to eat some pretty yucky low cal stuff !
I have also listed a bunch of ‘Go To Snacks’ on another page – they make great snack choices. But this is a list more of INGREDIENTS that you will using in making up meals.
Pepperidge Farms makes some great breads that come in at only 45 calories per slice. Don’t shy away from bread all together – I know it makes me nuts if I don’t have any carbs. Just make the right choice
Tortillas / Wraps:
Smart & Delicious Low Carb whole wheat wraps by La Tortilla Factory are only 80 calories for a large wrap. Compare that to some that come in upwards of 200 calories and it’s easy to see the difference. That’s 4 more slices of turkey bacon I can have !
Other grain products:
Thomas’s makes great 100 calorie bagels, light whole wheat muffins that are only 100 calories and Sahara pitas at only 140 calories. Every calorie counts – so choose wisely
I found this GREAT pasta – FiberGourmet. I buy it on Amazon (see my shopping page for a link). It’s only 130 calories a serving. I can almost eat DOUBLE THE PASTA – and I’d do anything for my carbs !
Weight Watchers make a great low fat cream cheese – they are individually packaged and about 2 T for 60 calories. To me they are far creamier than the Philadelphia low fat cream cheeses and they are good enough to eat just plain on a bagel.
Be sure to choose the low fat version of shredded cheeses – you can save hundreds of calories over just 4 oz. of cheese. The low fat and no fat cheeses of today are nothing like the plasticy ones of the past. They melt, they are creamy, and they are full of flavor.
I love Laughing Cow Light cheeses – heck, I made a whole post about them – so I will just point you there ! Suffice it to say, they are great as an ingredient, spread on crackers or apples – – just plain G O O D.
We all know skim in the best for us in terms of fat – – but not all skim milks are equal – be sure to check the calorie count on yours ! I use Lactaid skim milk – not because I am lactose intolerant, but because I find the taste more pleasing than most other brands. And the calorie count is a little lower so I can have a bit extra on my cereal in the morning
These come in all shapes and sizes – there are ones that are low fat, ones that are butter hybrids, ones that lower cholesteral. Make a good choice for you – but be sure to look at the calorie count. You can double the calories in a tablespoon full by making the wrong choice. At only 45 calories per tablespoon and a pretty good taste, I use Promis Activ Spread.
You can eat a boat load of Egg Beaters for very few calories ! I don’t like egg white omelettes and I do crave eggs, so regular Egg Beaters are my choice. Only 30 calories for 1/4 cup or the equivalent of an egg. And that means a whole lotta scrambled eggs for me ! I also use them in all sorts of recipes including baked goods.
For me a lot of the choices also come down to taste as well as calories. If 2 sour creams are really close but one tastes so much creamier for 5 extra calories, then I am there ! Especially with sour cream – because I really HATE the consistency of any brand no fat sour cream. I find Daisy Light to be the best on the market in terms of creaminess and flavor. Give it a try if you see it on your grocer’s shelves !
Don’t be fooled by low fat salad dressings. Low fat does NOT EQUAL low cal. Sometimes low fat dressings have MORE calories, so beware. When in doubt, make your own – get a package of the Seven Seasons dry dressing packet and add half or less the oil, and then more vinegar and water to make up for the less oil and you will have a much healthier option ready to go in the frig.
Most spices and herbs have very little calories and this is great considering they also add the most flavor to meals !
There are some I use to specifically replace buttery flavor on potatoes, on other veggies, in some baking processes, etc. Here are 2 very good things to have on hand -
Molly McButter – a powdered butter flavor replacement. Great on veggies.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray – a liquid butter flavor replacement. Also great on veggies, but even better on bread for grilled cheese, on bakes goods to get a golden buttery top, and sprayed right on popcorn !
Don’t waste your calories on sugared drinks. Even so called ‘healthier’ choices next to sodas are full of calories…Vitamin Waters, Gatorade, etc. I stick with zero calorie flavored waters. With the added flavor, I don’t feel like I am drinking just plain old water. There are many brands – I happen to like the Aquafina and Adirondack ones the best.
I am an Equal girl for my coffee and any cold prep. But Splenda is what you need to use to cook/bake and it does a fine job ! 1 T of sugar is 46 calories. So in baked goods, using Splenda sweetener and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend makes a BIG difference.
Choosing lean meats is very important. There is a very large difference in the calories between 90% lean ground beef and 95% lean ground beef. Losing the fat does mean losing some of the flavor and moistness, but my recipes take this into account and make up with lower calorie ingredient options. So be picky when choosing your meats.
Choose beef that is less marbled (like filet mignon), make sure to trim fat off your pork loin and pork chops, and always choose skinless chicken.
I use Perdue Perfect Portions chicken breasts. They are individually wrapped and all weigh in at about 6 ounces. It takes all the guess work out of it. I do, however, have a kitchen scale for when I am not using pre-portioned cuts. And I suggest you get one too. Heck – I was short changing myself when I was guessing – now with the scale, I know I am right in the zone and am counting my calories accurately !
Many seemingly SIMILAR items, just different brands, have much different calorie counts. So spend a day when you have some extra time and really label read as you do your shopping. Then when you find some GOOD CHOICES, keep replenishing those rather than reinventing the wheel each time you shop. And hopefully my list here is a good start for you and will save you some time and effort.