Healthy Food Swaps for Weight Loss

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • The Natural Products Expo West 2014 just wrapped up in Anaheim, California.  With over 65,000 attendees, many of whom seek the “healthiest foods in the marketplace,” this is the event that showcases trends and products in the wellness sector.  Even healthy foods require portion control, and even the healthiest of processed foods are not meant to entirely replace the simple fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, teas, and water that should frequent our daily diet.  But we all want pizza, quick grab snacks and convenient meal bars.  Most of us need some guidance when it comes to the better-for-you swap outs that include un-fried fries, carb-free noodles, baked chips, dried and baked fruit products, nut butters, condiments, soups, entrees and more.  This show has them all. 

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    Every year this blog highlights some good for you standbys, or their latest releases, and some entirely new products and trends.  The key to these foods is that they either can replace an unhealthy or caloric food choice, or they have unique satiating/nutrient content. 


    Here are some noteworthy finds:


    (1) We should all be drinking more water and unsweetened teas, and avoiding unnecessary liquid calories.  For some people, plain H2O doesn't measure up, especially if soda is the meauring stick, so gently flavored waters or teas can be the next best thing.   Zero calorie fortified waters, though calorie-free, are not innocuous because of their vitamin content, so waters with just the essence of fruit flavor are best choices, especially if you're drinking several daily.  I recommend Ayala herbal waters and the four new unsweetened teas. HINT waters come in a variety of gently-flavored varieties.  Both companies offer flat or sparkling options.


    (2)  If you add a single serving of chia to a yogurt or healthy smoothie, it will cost you about 70 calories, but it will provide a huge boost of omega-3 fatty acids, filling fiber and a range of other nutrients.  Some research suggests it may help you to lose weight, and that may be thanks to the fiber and satiating qualities of the seeds.  Taking a yogurt and adding a healthy dose of chia plus berries can be a calorie-conscious and filling way to replace a higher calorie breakfast or lunch.  One chia brand I was somewhat impressed with, based on heritage, back story and nutrition claims was Salba.  Want a ready-made mixture?  Look for Chia Pods from The Chia Company at supermarkets nationwide.


    (3)  Give me something with a “crunch” that can replace chips and other typical snacks, say consumers.  If you don’t want to crunch into an apple, then the next best thing may be Peeled Snacks puffed dried organic Apple Clusters.  They come in three flavors, and these little crunchy puffed treats are made from organic apples and organic fruit juice concentrate.  Still want a chip?  I favor Lesser Evil Super 4 snacks, with the “4” referring to white bean, quinoa, lentil and chia ingredients.  I’m also a fan of IPS Egg White Chips with 7 grams of protein per serving, Beanitos Bean Puffs, Rhythm Superfood Chips, Maya Kaimal Chickpea Chips (coming soon), and Jans Mixed Roots Chips.  Of course, air popped popcorn has more fiber and less fat than even these healthier swap outs.  Don't forget that nuts also offer crunch and high-quality proteins BUT portion control is crucial.  And remember that even healthy chips need not be consumed daily.


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    (4)  I want easy, tasty entrées, say consumers.  That often translates to eating lots of meat and fast food.  Most frozen or prepared entrees are loaded with salt, preservatives, sugar, fat and calories.  Since going meat-free several times a week is considered a healthy habit that most of us should embrace, you can certainly turn to beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs and fish.  I turn to tofu and use it to replace eggs or meat in simple stir frys, scrambles or salads and Morinu is my go-to choice. Wildwood makes flavored tofu crumbles, if you don’t want to deal with the seasoning part of a dish.  Beyond Meat offers chicken-free strips and non-meat crumbles.  Gardein is a favorite of mine with chicken, meat and fish free options, and so is Quorn, which has burgers and meatless swap outs for real fried chicken nuggets.  Vegetarian Plus offers a range of Asian prepared meatless alternatives, and Qrunch and Lightlife have a range of meat free sausages and hot dogs.  Just remember to read labels, for sodium levels in particular, and remember these should not be “every night choices.”  I’m also a fan of high protein pasta, high protein ancient grains like quinoa, or portabella mushrooms as meat alternatives.


    (5)  What about a healthier baked muffin?  In the frozen food section, Garden Lites offer veggie and fruit muffins that are moist, made with real ingredients and have about 120 calories per muffin.  There’s also a range of frozen vegetable side dishes with pretty healthy protein and nutrition profiles.  Another healthy muffin option that you bake is U-Be-Livin-Smart with no oil, sugar or flour, packed with a unique protein/fruit/vegetable base. 


    (6)  We all need desserts, but the key is to indulge occasionally and to have other calorie-conscious choices that we can enjoy, a bit more frequently.  Dessert can be healthy, satisfying and downright delish with a perfect calorie profile.  Yasso has five new frozen yogurt bars that are downright indulgent, with only 100 to 130 calories per bar.  Sea Salt Caramel, Mint Chocolate Chip, and three others that will allow you creamy taste minus the calorie and fat load of regular ice cream.  Arctic Zero currently has four 85 calorie bars and some new ones on the way. 


    These six swap outs can help you to shave measurable calories off your daily diet.  


    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience.  Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts.  Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch?  Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at


Published On: March 14, 2014