8 Easy Cooking Hacks for Weight Loss

Lose weight (without sacrificing flavor) with these simple food swaps.

Medically reviewed in May 2022

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Surprise: it is possible to lose weight and still enjoy what you’re eating—you just have to get creative and utilize the right ingredients. Not sure where to begin? Start with small changes. “Making dietary changes is about making lifestyle changes that become consistent,” says bariatric surgeon, Neil McDevitt, MD of Summerville Medical Center in Summerville, South Carolina and Trident Medical Center. Read on to learn healthy (but tasty!) food swaps.

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Ditch The Mayo

Just one tablespoon of mayonnaise adds about 90 calories to your daily intake. Save calories and fat by swapping mayo for non-fat, plain Greek yogurt. An entire cup of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt contains only about 130 calories, zero fat and 24 grams of protein. You can also use plain Greek yogurt rather than sour cream to top a bowl of chili or dollop on your tacos. McDevitt recommends combining a packet of powdered dip mix with Greek yogurt for a delicious, but healthier veggie dip.

Try other healthy and delicious dip recipes.

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Lighten Up Your Baking

Don’t sacrifice your waistline to satisfy your sweet tooth. Lighten up your baking by swapping vegetable oil for pumpkin puree. “A cup of pumpkin is about 83 calories and has about 7 grams of fiber; a cup of oil is around 1900 calories,” says registered dietician, Lauri Watson, RD of Summerville Medical Center in South Carolina. The swap is simple—replace the measurement of oil with the same amount of pumpkin puree. Want to make your baking even healthier? Replace sugar with unsweetened applesauce. Simply swap the measurement of sugar with the same amount of applesauce and decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by a quarter of a cup. You’ll save 600 calories for each cup.

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Carbohydrate Substitutes

Eating too many carbs can derail your diet. Enjoy your favorite pasta and rice dishes with tasty, fiber-filled veggie substitutes. Spaghetti squash contains vitamins C and A, and makes a great base for your favorite pasta sauce. “Microwave it or bake it, and then shred it with a fork. You can use spaghetti squash as the base for anything, from a red sauce to white sauce,” McDevitt says. Indulge in a cup of spaghetti squash for just 40 calories, versus a 220-calorie serving of pasta. Love rice dishes? Shred cauliflower and stir-fry it with olive oil, garlic, ginger and veggies for a healthier rice substitute.

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Frozen Fruits

Make your own “ice cream” or popsicles with your favorite frozen fruits, Greek yogurt and cocoa powder. Simply blend peeled frozen bananas in your food processer to make one-ingredient ice cream for 100 calories or less. Create guilt-free popsicles by freezing Greek yogurt mixed with your favorite base, like coconut water or almond milk, with fresh fruits like blueberries and watermelon and toppings like mint, nuts or shredded coconut.

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Eat Lean, Not Dry

Swapping ground beef for leaner ground turkey can save calories and fat, but unfortunately, leaner cuts of meat often dry out during preparation. Prevent dryness by adding applesauce to your ground meat; one or two tablespoons will keep turkey burgers extra juicy. Opt for 99% lean ground turkey breast and enjoy a serving for only 120 calories and 1 gram of fat.

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Wrap Away

They make an easy lunch, but wraps and sandwiches aren’t great your waistline. Replace your 10 inch sandwich wrap with crisp lettuce leaves like romaine, Bibb or iceberg to save more than 180 calories, 39 grams of carbs and excess sodium. Even an 8 inch whole wheat wrap contains about 120 calories. A leaf of Bibb lettuce contains less than one milligram of sodium, while a whole wheat wrap may contain about 480 milligrams—about 20% of the daily recommended value of sodium.

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Swap The Snacks

Mindless munching can quickly sabotage your healthy eating efforts, especially if you’re snacking on junk food. Stock your pantry with healthy snacks, like kale chips and roasted chickpeas, for guilt-free snack options. You can bake kale chips at home, in just 10 minutes at 350 degrees, using a teaspoon or two of olive oil and tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. One ounce of baked kale chips will only cost you about 35 calories; one ounce of potato chips contains 155 calories and almost 11 grams of fat.

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Guilt-Free Pudding

Utilize overripe bananas by blending them with Greek yogurt to create protein-packed, guilt-free pudding. Add dark cocoa powder for an extra dose of sweetness and heart-healthy flavanols. Combine one mashed banana with five ounces of non-fat plain Greek yogurt for a dessert with 185 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. This healthy alternative is akin to a small cup of store bought banana pudding, but has less fat and fewer calories.

Haven’t satisfied your craving for something sweet? Check out other healthy dessert recipes here.

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