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Sneaky Swaps for Diabetes Meal Plans

An RD’s favorite calorie cuts

Are you, like many people, trying to trim a few calories in order to trim a few pounds? I often say: “Think about it, saving just 300 calories a day means 2,100 fewer calories to worry about at the week’s end. No doubt, that’s a step in the right direction!”

When trying to cut back on calories, using techniques that focus on portion sizes may be a good place to start ­­­– whether it’s downsizing a meat portion to the size of a deck of cards, or using smaller plates and glasses at mealtimes. (Read more about portion sizes here.)

But what about small switches that may save calories, yet still satisfy the appetite and taste buds too? Embracing small permanent changes in the types of foods and beverages you choose may help you shave off 300 calories each day, which may aid in long-term weight management efforts.

Here are more than two dozen of my favorite small food switches, designed to save calories without affecting flavor or satisfaction, all of which I’ve shared with, and gathered from, my clients over the years. There are a variety of swaps that save different calorie ranges across breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and the occasional sweet treat. Whether you’re preparing food at home or eating out, you’ll see it’s possible to spread the calorie savings over the day, all without blowing the carb budget.

May you be pleasantly pleased by a few of these swaps!

Breakfast Swaps

  • Enjoy a crunchy 4-ounce apple instead of 12-ounces natural apple juice to save 122 calories.
  • Sneaky swap: sip a 12-ounce glass of one percent milk instead of whole milk and save 84 calories.
  • Grab a 6-ounce light fruit yogurt instead of a 6-ounce fruit-on-the-bottom regular yogurt and save about 87 calories.
  • Savor turkey sausage links instead of pork sausage and save about 36 calories per link!
  • Pump up flavor in your omelet with ¼ cup peppers and onions instead of ¼ cup shredded cheese to save 200 calories. 
  • Instead of the usual large bagel, choose a whole wheat English muffin (saves 170 calories), 1 cup cooked oatmeal (saves 165 calories), or a mini-bagel (saves 216 calories).

Lunch Swaps

  • Try a 6-inch whole-wheat tortilla wrap instead of two slices bread to save 66 calories. Or try a lettuce wrap instead of the bread and save 94!
  • Crunch on 1 ounce baked chips instead of traditional chips and save 40 calories.
  • Using lean ham, turkey, or chicken on your sandwich instead of Italian meats such as salami saves about 120-130 calories per serving.
  • Skip the cheese and use calorie-free choices such as lettuce, tomato, onions, and cucumbers on your sandwich to save 93 calories. 
  • Replace mayo with creamy Dijon mustard and save 75 calories per tablespoon! 
  • For tasty toasted sandwiches, skip the butter or margarine and toast in the oven or grill in a nonstick pan with butter flavor cooking spray, to save about 120 calories.
  • Top salad with 3 ounces grilled chicken strips instead of fried and save about 100 calories.
  • Drizzle 3 tablespoons vinaigrette on your salad rather than creamy dressing to save 70-86 calories. 
  • Pick water-packed tuna over oil-packed and save 110 calories per cup.  
  • Nosh on nonfat cottage cheese instead of full-fat and save 112 calories per cup.  
  • Choose a cup of coleslaw over potato salad and save 100 calories. Opt for a dill pickle instead of either one and save 300 calories!  
  • Pick a cup of peaches canned in juice over those in heavy syrup and save 85 calories.

Dinner Swaps

  • Use spray butter on veggies instead of margarine or butter and save 65 calories per tablespoon.
  • Choose a spring roll instead of a fried egg roll to save 80 calories.
  • Steam veggies and top with a light drizzle of olive oil at the end, rather than sauté in oil to save about 100 calories.
  • Enjoy mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes and save 100 calories per cup. 
  • Go for grilled onions with your meat instead of deep-fried onion rings/straws to save about 100 calories per serving.
  • When preparing packaged foods (such as rice or stuffing) that call for oil or margarine, leave it out or use broth instead to save 70-120 calories.
  • Order a 3-ounce shrimp cocktail over 3 ounces fried shrimp to save 107 calories.
  • Enjoy veggies on your pizza instead of meat toppings like pepperoni or sausage and save about 90 calories per medium slice. 
  • Enjoy 5 ounces grilled fish instead of fried and save about 234 calories!

Snacks and Sweets Swaps

  • Enjoy frozen treats in a dish and save 50 calories by skipping the cone.
  • Munch on light microwave popcorn instead of the movie theater butter variety and save about 22 calories a cup. (That really adds up, as most people eat more than one cup!)
  • Enjoy dipping crunchy cucumber slices into salsa rather than tortilla chips and save 115 calories per ounce!
  • Savor a no-sugar-added frozen fudge pop over 1 cup chocolate ice cream and save about 245 calories. I like the built-in portion control of ice pops!

*All nutrient counts are estimates based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release #25

Tami A. Ross, RD, LD, CDE*, is the president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the co-author of Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day – Or Less! and What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes. Ross is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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