7 Sneaky Cooking Swaps to Try Tonight

There’s some good news—you don’t have to forgo your favorite foods to shed pounds.

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Maybe chilly weather, a bad day or a craving has you reaching for your favorite high-fat or high-sugar foods. Indulgences can derail your dieting efforts and cause feelings of guilt. Luckily, it is possible to lighten up fat-, carb- and sugar-laden comfort foods with simple substitutions.

Upgrade your ingredient lists with nutrient-rich black beans, butternut squash and more. These substitutions slash calories and give your meal (and your body) a boost of necessary nutrients.

Test your healthy foods swaps knowledge.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

Swap: Flour for Black Beans

2 / 8 Swap: Flour for Black Beans

Black beans contain about half the calories of flour—a difference of 228 calories per cup. But this swap offers more than a calorie reduction. Flour is loaded with carbohydrates and boasts a glycemic load of 66; a food’s glycemic load determines how much it will affect your blood sugar. A higher glycemic load can cause a spike in blood sugar. Black beans, with a glycemic load of only 14, causes no such spike. Black beans also contain more fiber than flour. Ready to give this swap a try? Replace one cup of flour with cooked, rinsed and pureed black beans to make 100-calories-per-serving brownies.

Swap: Butter for Avocado

3 / 8 Swap: Butter for Avocado

Butter is delicious, but it’s no secret that it isn’t the healthiest option. Salted butter is high in cholesterol, sodium and fat, and lacks nearly all other nutrients. Swap butter for mashed avocado; one fifth of an avocado, the recommended serving size, contains less than six grams of fat. That’s half the fat of one tablespoon of butter! Spread some avocado on toast or replace equal parts butter with avocado in your favorite baked good.

Swap: Breadcrumbs for Rolled Oats

4 / 8 Swap: Breadcrumbs for Rolled Oats

Breadcrumbs add great crunch and flavor to meals, but are high in carbs and sodium. Plain breadcrumbs contain 790 milligrams of sodium per cup—that’s more than 30 percent of the daily recommended value. And if you opt for seasoned breadcrumbs? Your sodium count rises to 2,110 milligrams. Rolled oats contain only five milligrams of sodium per cup and add extra fiber. Just pulse rolled oats in a food processor and use them in recipes that call for breadcrumbs, like Dr. Oz’s Curried Turkey Meatloaf.

Swap: Mayonnaise for Greek Yogurt

5 / 8 Swap: Mayonnaise for Greek Yogurt

Mayonnaise-based salads, like tuna and chicken salad, are calorie bombs. One serving of mayonnaise—approximately two tablespoons—contains a whopping 195 calories, 22 grams of fat and 195 milligrams of sodium. Plain Greek yogurt weighs in at just one gram of fat and 13 milligrams of sodium. Swap equal parts mayo for Greek yogurt and enjoy the flavor without the guilt.

Swap: Oil for Pumpkin

6 / 8 Swap: Oil for Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a classic fall flavor, but its benefits can be reaped all year long. Pumpkin puree can be used as a substitute for butter and oil in many baked goods. A one-cup serving of pumpkin contains about 85 calories—which is about 20 times less than butter at 1,630 calories or oil at 1,880 calories per cup. Neither butter nor oil contain the amount of good-for-your-gut fiber, vitamins A and K or iron that pumpkin does, either. Lighten breads, muffins and cakes by swapping equal parts oil for pumpkin or three quarters of a cup oil for a cup of pumpkin puree.

Swap: Cheese for Butternut Squash

7 / 8 Swap: Cheese for Butternut Squash

Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food, but it's high in fat and calories. In fact, one cup of shredded cheddar cheese contains 455 calories, 37 grams of fat and 700 milligrams of sodium. Save those extra calories, fat and sodium by replacing cheddar cheese with butternut squash. Butternut squash contains 80 calories, zero grams of fat, eight milligrams of sodium per cup and boasts vision- and immune-boosting vitamin A.

Swap: Oil for Applesauce

8 / 8 Swap: Oil for Applesauce

Incorporate unsweetened applesauce into your favorite baked treat to eliminate the majority of fat and calories in baked goods. The swap is simple: Replace oil with three quarters of the amount of applesauce. One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories, zero grams of fat and immune-bolstering vitamin C (about 86 percent of the daily recommended value). The same cup of oil contains about 1,900 calories, 220 grams of fat and almost no nutrients.

Check out other cooking hacks for weight loss!

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