Top 4 Healthy Food Swaps for Weight Loss in 2021

What if there was a way to eat the foods you enjoy while losing weight? Well, we believe there is. Sustainable weight loss doesn’t have to consist of eating bland foods and completely removing the foods you want from your diet – because, well, that doesn’t work. But healthy food swaps do. Here are four healthy food swaps to try for more nutritious (yet still delicious) meals!

4 Healthy Food Swaps

1. Olive Oil Instead of Butter

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a much less processed and healthier alternative for butter. In a study conducted by Yolanda Jimenez et al., 20 men fasted for 12 hours before being given a breakfast either high in butter, olive oil, or walnuts. Results of the study showed that there was “A higher increase in total postprandial TG [triacylglycerols] with the butter breakfast than with the walnut- or olive oil-enriched breakfasts” (1). Through the experiment, scientists found that triacylglycerols, which butter generates when consumed, lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress levels. Additionally, butter is significantly high in saturated fat, which can cause fat accumulation and weight gain. On the contrary, olive oil and walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties and are substantially lower in saturated fat, making them much more beneficial to your health than butter. Consider swapping butter for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to manage your weight efficiently. Check out these Recipes Featuring Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

2. Sparkling Water Instead of Soda

Soda is loved by many; however, it contains a high amount of sugar and has been shown to cause weight gain. According to an article by Vasanti S Malik et al., “[i]n the United States, on average, a 12-oz serving [12 oz = 1 can of soda (or 1 soda) = 1 serving] of soda provides 150 kcal and 40–50 g sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup...which is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of table sugar. If these calories are added to the typical US diet without reducing intake from other sources, 1 soda/d could lead to a weight gain of 15 lb or 6.75 kg in 1 y (16)” (2). Sparkling water is an excellent substitute for soda because it has the same bubbly sensation; however, it has no sugar and will not cause weight gain. Try it with fresh citrus or cucumber and mint. It’s also great for diluting fresh juice (½ water and ½ juice).

3. Whole Fruit Instead of Juice

Many people purchase fruit juices and even go on juice cleanses; however, juices are not healthier and more beneficial for weight loss than whole fruits. In an article by Alexandra Pepin et al., the authors mentioned a meta-analysis that included a study consisting of participants gaining weight after regularly consuming fruit juice. The results of the study showed that “the consumption of more than five servings/week (200 mL/serving) of either natural fruit juices or sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, more specifically of abdominal obesity and hypertriglyceridemia” (3). This shows that fruit juices are not linked with weight loss, even if they are naturally sweetened. Rather than consuming fruit juices, consider eating whole fruits. Eating an apple, orange, or any whole fruit contains more fiber and nutrients and less sugar than fruit juices. Stock up on your fresh produce and start eating fruits instead of drinking them!

4. Natural Sweetener Instead of Table Sugar

There are more nutritious and healthful sweeteners that can be used in place of table sugar (sucrose). Although all sweeteners contain similar amounts of sugar, table sugar does not have any nutritional value. In an article by Marion Valle et al., the authors stated that “[p]revious studies have shown that consumption of natural sweeteners compared to refined sugar can improve metabolic health. It was previously reported that honey consumption limits weight gain, improves dyslipidemia, and reduces glycemia in both humans [18,19] and rats [20,21]. Moreover, both maple syrup [22,23] and agave syrup [24] intake has been shown to improve glucose homeostasis compared to sucrose” (4). The natural sweeteners mentioned in this article (maple syrup, agave, and honey) all have weight loss properties and nutritional benefits. Rather than consuming and baking with table sugar, try using one of the natural sweeteners. Not only do natural sweeteners deliver sweetness, they also provide nutrients and minerals that are beneficial for your health.

The Bottom Line

Making small adjustments and food swaps in your diet can lead to attainable weight management and weight loss. Losing weight does not have to involve not eating what you enjoy or cutting food groups out. There are many delicious alternatives to your favorite foods that are more healthful and nutrient-dense!

Written by Cameron Kao

Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do you have to completely remove foods from your diet to lose weight?
A: These food swaps can be used however often you would like. If you are craving a soda, drink one! If you feel like changing up your diet and trying out these Healthier Food Diets to see if you will like them, go for it! Weight loss is all about balance and moderation, not restriction.

Q: Can you use these food swaps in recipes when cooking and baking?
A: Yes, for example, sugar and butter can easily be substituted in recipes. However, you will need to adjust the ratio of ingredients or alter your recipe if you use these food swaps. It would be easiest to find recipes online already tested with the ingredients you plan to use!

Q: Where can I buy these food swaps?
A: Your local grocery store should have all of these food swaps. Additionally, these food alternatives are often easy to find and very affordable! If you are specifically planning to swap out your butter for olive oil, check out Olivaio’s online shop to purchase some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)!