Top Food Swaps & Staple Ingredients for Lower-Calorie Cooking

Jan 8 2021
Looking for some go-to ingredients to help you cut calories and boost your portion sizes? Here are some smart swaps we swear by. (P.S. It’s 100% okay to enjoy the originals, but if you're looking to shave off some calories, these ingredients do the trick. You can even go 50/50 with the originals and the swaps!)

Powdered Peanut Butter

This pick is becoming more mainstream, which means it's easier than ever to find. (Look for it in the PB aisle, or order from Amazon.) Essentially, it's defatted peanut flour; it’s like peanut butter with the oil removed. It packs all the flavor of jarred peanut butter, but a 2-tbsp. serving has only about 50 calories and 2g fat. Just add water for an instant peanut spread. It also works beautifully in baked goods, blends into smoothies like a dream, and can be added to oatmeal and yogurt bowls to kick them up a notch. Click here to learn more!

Unsweetened Almond Milk

These days, there are dozens of fantastic milk swaps out there, but our default is still the unsweetened almond milk in shelf-stable cartons (like Blue Diamond Almond Breeze) that we've been using for ages. A cup has around 35 calories -- less than half the calories of skim milk -- and the texture is great. Use it virtually anywhere you’d use traditional milk. We mostly buy the vanilla version, but for savory recipes, you'll want plain unsweetened. Read up on more milk swaps!

Natural No-Calorie Sweeteners

This is another product that's seen a lot of growth in the last few years -- natural calorie-free sweeteners have come a LONG way. Stevia-based options (like Truvia) have gotten a lot tastier. We also LOVE the 0-calorie options by Swerve, sweeteners made with monk fruit (like this one by Health Garden), and ones made with allulose (like this kind by Anthony's.) Try out a few and see what works best for you.

Veggie Noodles

Spiralized zucchini is still going strong, but we're also seeing other veggies get the pasta-swap treatment. Don't discount the power of nature's own veggie noodles: spaghetti squash! There are several ways you can prepare that squash (click for options), but you can also buy it prepared and frozen from Green Giant. And for a shelf-stable pasta swap, check out Palmini, a.k.a. noodles made from hearts of palm.

Veggie Rice

Cauliflower rice is great (like, REALLY great), but it's not the only option. Introducing Palmini Rice! Just drain, heat, and eat. Green Giant also has several varieties of frozen Riced Veggies... Our freezer is always stocked with those! Looking for something a bit heartier? Check out RightRice as well as Green Giant’s shelf-stable Riced Veggies. Both are lentil-based with other nutritious add-ins… We're superfans!

Meatless Crumbles

Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous, a bag of meatless crumbles (like the kind by MorningStar Farms) is an amazing shortcut. It makes throwing together an impromptu single-serving meal extra easy, since you can just scoop out what you need and put the rest back in the fridge or freezer. We still use extra-lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken too… So many smart protein picks! 

Fat-Free Liquid Egg Substitute or Egg Whites

This swap is another old-school favorite. We still make sure to eat our healthy fats (we’re looking at you, nuts & avocado), but we love this convenient calorie-saving swap. Cook up a microwave egg scramble in minutes (click for recipes), and use this pourable swap in all sorts of recipes. You can measure out exactly the amount you need -- no egg cracking required.

Bread Swaps

Finally, following in the footsteps of countless lettuce-wrapped burgers, there are a bunch of veggies that you can use instead of sandwich buns and bread! (Are we trying to trick ourselves into eating more veggies? Maybe.) Cucumber subs are a total favorite, zucchini boats never fail, and these Meatball Parm Pepper Subs are so good, you won't miss the bun.

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SmartPoints® value* not what you expected? We follow the same method as WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) when calculating the value of a recipe: We add up the SmartPoints® values* of the individual ingredients using the Recipe Builder, not the calculator. (Many foods have a value of zero and remain zero in recipes.)

*The SmartPoints® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe or its manufacturer or developer by WW International, Inc., the owner of the SmartPoints® trademark.