Weight Loss

Easy Ways To Make Favorite Foods Healthier

In last week’s post we shared a wide range of low calorie recipes to demonstrate that eating sensibly doesn’t mean eating flavorless, boring food. Sometimes it’s not always possible to make food from scratch. Maybe you want to modify a recipe or snack that you love to make it healthier. Knowing how to adjust ingredients to cut calories, avoid unnecessary fats, and reduce sodium is easy to learn. Here are a few ways to do just that:

Snack time:

We all know we should eat more vegetables, but one plate of chips and dip can’t be that bad, can it?

The image below, for example, shows a snack that can be modified in many ways.

  • The portion size of both the dip and the chips is multiple servings. That alone increases the calories and other nutritional values. Cutting the portions down to just one serving of each makes the snack “healthier.”
  • Take it a step further and you can swap out the dip for hummus, or swap out the chips for vegetables.
  • To completely modify the snack but still have the satisfaction of dipping and the crunch, changing to salsa and veggies completely cuts the calories, in addition to reducing the sodium drastically by omitting the chips.

The next example shows an easy way to “save” calories throughout the day, allowing more wiggle room for meals. Grazing throughout the day is also one of the recommendations from the G.R.A.D.E. Diet, which will help keep your blood sugar stable and also prevent you from reaching for something unhealthy.

Substituting nutrient rich vegetables in place of crackers is one great way to snack without adding any unnecessary fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and other ingredients commonly found in processed foods. And, don’t forget eating veggies is one way to get your daily water intake- fruits and veggies have a high water content.


When looking to keep a healthy diet, portion size is one of the most important factors to consider. The image below is a great example of how you can still have the foods you enjoy, but even cutting the portion slightly saves you a significant amount of calories, fat, and sodium.

Mozzarella sticks and dip at your favorite restaurant don’t appear excessive as far as portion size goes. But, considering they are fried sticks of cheese, along with the marinara sauce that is high in sugar, this “small” appetizer is likely going to exceed the daily amount of fat, sugar, and sodium all at once.

Instead, opt to order a side salad, light on the dressing, with a small portion of chicken added in. The image refers to the nutritional values of the cheese sticks and the chicken in the salad. Adding in the sauce and the salad itself adds more calories. However, the caloric addition of the lettuce and other chopped veggies is slight compared to the sauce of the other appetizer.

Main dish:

Many of us enjoy “fast casual” dining, including places like Chipotle or Qdoba. Although the ingredients are fresh and unprocessed adjusting portion size and substituting a few ingredients makes a big difference in the nutritional content.

For a 2000 calorie diet, the burrito on the left surpasses half the day’s calories. Considering the contents of the burrito may include cheese, sour cream, salsas, and other ingredients, its safe to say that the amount of fat, sodium, cholesterol, and potentially sugar is also on the high end.

Changing the burrito to a salad bowl, therefore omitting the tortilla, reduces the calories, sugar, and fat content (if the tortilla is made with shortening, which many are). Choosing lettuce instead of rice also cuts back the calories in addition to some of the sodium. Both options included black beans, which are a great source of fiber and protein. Lastly, the portions are large enough that only eating a half would be a good idea. Then you also have a meal for later; you’ll be surprised how you’ll still feel satisfied despite holding back from cleaning your plate.

Eating a burger can still be a reasonable option with some small adjustments to the meal.

Reducing the serving size of the chips is an easy way to reduce calories, fat, and sodium. In our previous post about what’s really in the food we eat, we discovered that the serving size for most breads is just one slice. So, to still enjoy the bread but keep the sugar and carbohydrates down (not to mention many breads are highly processed, something to avoid), it’s a great idea to make the burger into an open-faced sandwich. Adding in vegetables provides valuable vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and will also help you feel full, without a huge calorie input.


Dessert may seem like something to avoid, but making the right choice allows you the freedom to indulge your sweet tooth. The option of sorbet isn’t a terrible choice, if you stick to the serving size.

You can enjoy a substantially larger helping of watermelon and still cut the calories by half the amount. Eating watermelon helped you reduce the levels of sugar in the sorbet, and also increased your water intake (watermelon is 92% water).

Dessert, as with other foods throughout the day, can be enjoyed in moderation, or modified to satisfy the craving.

Being creative while making food selections is key to enjoying a flexible, well balanced diet. There is no need to overly restrict- that often just pushes us to over indulge later. If after the day has passed, you realize better food choices could have been made, don’t stress- there’s tomorrow to refocus and mindfully pursue healthier eating habits.

-Dr. Courtney

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