Pro tip: Eat ice cream instead of sorbet.
The best ways to “eat healthy” depend on your goals. Once you know what you’re working toward — like eating fewer calories or more protein — use the tips below from New-York-based registered dietitian Isabel Smith and Ilyse Schapiro, registered dietitian and co-author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? to make it happen:
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO CUT CALORIES:
1. Eat cold greens instead of warm ones. Crisp lettuce takes up more room on the plate and requires more crunching. While it’s probably not the greens themselves that pack on the pounds, there’s something to be said for filling up your plate (and your mouth) with salad instead of other stuff.
2. Blot oil off of pizza. Blotting the oil off of pizza can save you up to 50 calories a slice, Schapiro says. And if you abide by the belief that every calorie counts, that’s not nothing.
3. Opt for plain, dark meat poultry instead of light meat loaded with condiments.Dark meats (like chicken thighs) get a bad rep for containing more fat and calories per ounce than white meat (like chicken breast). But dark meat, which tends to be more moist and flavorful than its lighter counterpart, only has about 10 more calories per ounce, according to Schapiro. And because light meat tends to be on the dry side, you end up covering it in condiments, which can contribute loads of calories that settle the score. So, as long as you eat dark meat without the extra fixings, it could be a better choice than white meat drowned in ketchup, gravy, or cranberry sauce.
4. Top pasta and pizza with garlic powder, fresh grated pepper, or red pepper instead of grated Parmesan. The calories in spices are negligible, while a couple heaping tablespoons of Parmesan cheese can easily tack on 50 calories, Schapiro says.
5. Eat bagel flats instead of full bagels. This trick beats scooping out the dough, which saves calories but also makes more room for high-calorie fillings.
6. Instead of sharing an appetizer and ordering your own meal, order your own appetizers and split an entree. When you share apps, you’re more likely to agree to ordering unhealthy ones (Nachos, anyone?) — and starters tend to be more appropriately portioned for one than some of the colossal entrees you see on menus, so you’ll save calories by eating less food overall. Order a salad or broth-based soup as a starter to fill you up, and share one main (which tends to be large enough for two, anyway).
7. Dress your food yourself. Order salad dressing, aioli, and sauces on the side to control the amount you eat. (No shame if you down the entire portion — chances are, it will still be much less than the amount you would have unknowingly eaten had the condiment been added in the kitchen.)
8. Pour off the oil that collects at the top of peanut butter jars and dressing bottles.
Natural peanut butters and vinaigrettes sometimes separate because oil is less dense than other ingredients. Instead of stirring or shaking the container to combine, pour the oil off. You’ll skim off about 119 calories and 14g of fat for each tablespoon of oil you discard, leaving fewer calories in every remaining serving.
(Pro tip: Leave a little bit of oil in nut butters to make spreading easier, and keep some oil in your dressing — your body needs some fat to function, and you want to make sure you’re getting enough.)
9. Order vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressing. It often saves you calories and fat — particularly if you pour off some of the oil that collects on top of the vinegar using tip no. 8. (It’s another reason to order your dressing on the side.)
10. Use unsweetened almond milk in your coffee. While a splash of skim or 1 percent milk obviously won’t kill your diet, the calories in creamers and whole milks add up. Unsweetened almond milk often contains half the calories of skim, so the simple swap can save you quite a few calories over time.
11. Eat powdered peanut butter instead of the real stuff. Powdered peanut butter products like PB2, which is designed to be mixed with water or added to smoothies and sauces directly, deliver peanuty flavor without the fat found in regular nut spreads. The result is a product with way fewer calories: A two-tablespoon serving will only cost you 45 calories, as opposed to the 200 calories you’d throw back eating the same-size serving of regular peanut butter — one reason why Smith recommends it.
12. Eat white fish instead of dark fish. Cod, mahi-mahi, tilapia, and tuna contain fewer calories per ounce than salmon. While salmon’s extra calories come from super healthy fats (which are definitely worth eating), choosing a less fatty fish will save you calories if that’s the ultimate goal.
13. Bake or grill instead of frying. When you cook food in a frying pan over direct heat, you need to add oil or butter to the bottom of the pan to stop ingredients from sticking. That adds calories. But food sticking isn’t such a big problem when there’s no pan — like on a grill top — or when you cook food using the indirect heat in your oven.
14. Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread. Some whole grain breads contain slightly fewer calories than white bread (or just as many). But whole grain breads contain more fiber to keep you full for longer, so you end up eating fewer calories later on. (In other words? You lose the battle but win the war.)
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO EAT MORE PROTEIN:
15. Add chicken to your pizza. A measly 3 ounces of chicken can add about 25 grams of protein to your meal, according to Smith.
16. Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Smith likes this trick because Greek yogurt contains about 10 times as much protein as mayonnaise.
17. Mix in liquid that forms on top of yogurt. As unappetizing as the cloudy water might appear, that liquid is worth eating because it contains valuable whey protein. Mix it back into the yogurt and try to forget what you saw when you peeled back the lid.
18. Eat quinoa instead of rice. Quinoa may be a grain, but it stands alone as a complete source of protein. It also makes a solid stand-in for oatmeal in the morning.
19. Combine two carbs to make a complete protein. It’s a trick vegetarians and vegans swear by.
20. Scoop the dough of out your bagel. This can save you upwards of 200 calories, according to Schapiro, and it creates a cavity for you to refill that calorie void with protein-rich toppings, like tuna, cream cheese, and smoked salmon.
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO EAT MORE PRODUCE:
21. Eat warm greens instead of cold ones. Veggies like spinach and kale wilt when you cook them (see tip no. 1). When each leaf takes up less room, you’ll add even more of them to your bowl to constitute a substantial-sized serving, and likely eat more greens overall.
22. Order vegetables on your pizza or in your pasta dish. It’s not salad, it’s ~pizza salad~.
23. Add fruit to your cereal or oatmeal. A crisp, chopped apple can naturally sweeten hot or cold cereal, and give every bite a satisfying crunch.
24. “Butter” your toast with avocado. A ripe avocado spreads easily — and gets your breakfast Insta-ready.
25. Stuff spinach and tomatoes inside your grilled cheese sandwich. Wrapped up in cheesy goodness, you’ll forget the veggies are even there.
26. Add canned veggies to canned soup. While you’re in the canned good aisle, grab an extra can of carrots, corn, peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini. (If your middle name isn’t “Lazy,” you can also use fresh or frozen veggies.) Add them to minestrone, chicken soup, chili, or chowder — you really can’t go wrong.
27. Dress your salad with more salad. Double or nothing — try pro chef Candice Kumai’s carrot ginger dressing recipe: Combine 3 carrots, chopped; ½ cup rice vinegar; and 2 tablespoons each of chopped onion, reduced-sodium soy sauce, water, chopped fresh ginger. Blend until smooth.
28. Swap your bowl of cereal for a smoothie bowl. Smoothies are the easiest way to sneak green things into your breakfast — and fruit sweetens the deal. Just blend until smooth:
And if you miss your bowl of Cheerios? Pour your smoothie into a bowl, top with cereal, and eat it with a spoon. (The frozen fruit in the recipes above makes for an extra thick and creamy consistency.)
29. Use full-fat dressings. This doesn’t technically add more produce to your diet, but consuming healthy fats (like olive oil from vinaigrette) helps your body absorb more of the nutrients (like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K) from the produce you eat.
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO EAT LESS SUGAR:
30. Buy plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt. This can spare you from upward of 15 grams of sugar, depending on the brand, according to Smith.
31. Choose unsweetened nut milks instead of regular. This can save 5 to 15 grams of sugar depending on the brand — and that’s before you pour it into your cereal (which tends to harbors loads of sugar on its own).
32. Eat real fruit instead of dried fruit. A cup of grapes has 15 grams of sugar while a cup of raisins contains 86 grams. And while you might not eat an entire cup of raisins, you’ll get a larger volume of food if you eat whole fruit before it’s dehydrated.
33. Eat pure dark chocolate instead of chocolate candy. Ounce for ounce, the candy bar will almost always contain more sugar.
34. Drink cappuccinos instead of lattes. A Starbucks grande cappuccino contains 10 grams of sugar while the same-size café latte packs in 17 grams.
35. Eat ice cream instead of sorbet. The fruit-flavored treats sound innocent enough, but you’re actually better off with cream-based desserts if your goal is to reduce your sugar. On average, sorbet has about 12 more grams of sugar per cup than ice cream does.
36. Top your burger with mustard instead of ketchup. Condiments are a sneaky source of sugar. Here’s how they compare:
37. Use marinara sauce instead of ketchup. Marinara sauce only has about 25 percent of the amount of sugar found in ketchup, and it doesn’t taste half bad with sandwiches, French fries, eggs, etc.
38. Allow yourself at least some sugar. “The all-or-nothing approach is hard for most people and can lead to over indulging at some point,” Schapiro says. “Refined sugar makes you crave more, so as you cut it down, the cravings should lessen. I’m a big fan of having one treat per day of about 150 calories or less. This helps to keep the sugar to a minimum and cravings at bay.”
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO CUT BACK ON CARBS:
39. Wrap sandwiches in lettuce instead of bread.
You’re still eating a burger (or chicken sandwich, or whatever) — so that will taste just as good. And the lettuce gives the whole thing a crunch that’s different from bread but not entirely terrible. “It can help to reduce the carbs in your meal carbs to almost nothing,” Smith says.
40. Eat your sandwich open-faced. You’ll halve the carbs — without sacrificing all of them.
41. Start your meal by eating protein. Protein is more substantial and satisfying than anything you’ll find in a bread basket. Start your meal by eating your main — chicken, fish, etc. — and eat the rice, pasta, or bread after if you’re still truly hungry, Smith suggests.
42. Swap whole wheat flour for regular when baking. It contains more indigestible fiber than white flour, so your body absorbs fewer carbs, explains Smith.
43. Eat puffed oats instead of oatmeal. Puffed cereals take up more space because they are filled with air, so they’ll fill your bowl up with fewer calories than denser cereals, resulting in fewer carbs per bowl.
44. Make mashed potatoes using cauliflower. Cup for cup, boiled cauliflower contains 27 fewer grams of carbs than boiled potatoes. When you combine both veggies, you get a lower-carb mash-up that still hits the spot when a carby mashed-potato craving strikes. (Just swap in boiled cauliflower for half the potatoes in your usual recipe.)
45. Eat thin-crust pizza instead of regular. Thin crust pizzas can contain one-third of the carbs (and calories) found in thicker-crust pizzas, according to Smith.
46. Swap zucchini ribbons for pasta. Half a cup of raw zucchini has about 5 grams carbs, whereas the same amount of dry pasta has about 40 grams.
47. Ask for extra broccoli in Asian stirfries. Because broccoli (and cauliflower, mushrooms, snap peas, and carrots, etc.) fill up space in a takeout carton, they’ll “crowd out” the dish’s starchy staple, like noodles or rice, Schapiro says.