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Registered Dietitians Answer Your Questions about Restaurant Nutrition

Simple Swaps for a Healthier Meal?


When it comes to improving your diet, these simple swaps can help get you moving in the right direction without drastic changes.
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Q: What are some simple swaps I can make for a healthier meal?

A: Sometimes the path to a healthier lifestyle is more about the little changes we make than the big ones. This is true for increasing your movement, reducing stress, losing weight and improving your diet. When it comes to improving your diet, these simple swaps can help get you moving in the right direction without drastic changes:
  • Swap your chicken leg for a chicken breast – white meat chicken and turkey (like the breast), is lower in saturated fat than darker portions. The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories. 
  • Swap your fries for a naked baked white or sweet potato – Get all the flavor with fewer calories, less fat and often less sodium. Potatoes may have a bad reputation, but they are high in fiber, an excellent source of vitamins C and B6, are a good source of magnesium, and have more potassium than a banana.
  • Swap your pinch of salt for a pinch of herbs and spices – You may have heard that as a country, we take in more sodium than we should. Choosing herbs and spices in place of salt can help reduce your sodium intake without giving up flavor. Take the Two Week Challenge!
  • Swap your Iceberg for Romaine - In general, dark leafy greens such as spinach and Romaine lettuce are known for their high levels of vitamins A and K, calcium, iron, folate and fiber. Iceberg may have the crunch but not much nutrition beyond that.
  • Swap your butter for olive oil – While there is still some debate, experts continue to recommend limiting saturated fat (found in butter) in favor of unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil, avocados and nuts.
  • Swap your fried choices for grilled – This is a common recommendation by top experts for a variety of reasons, including maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart failure. Instead of loading up on the extra fat and calories, opt for healthier cooking methods like grilling and broiling.
  • Swap your flour tortilla for whole wheat or corn – Whole grains, whether they’re prepared as tortillas, a creamy sweet breakfast or a savory evening side, have been shown again and again to help reduce the risk of cancer, improve heart health and help with weight management.
  • Swap your tilapia for salmon – While seafood is a great choice for lean protein in your diet, certain types, such as salmon and herring, are also rich in heart and brain-boosting omega 3 fatty acids.
There are so many little ways to improve your diet without drastically changing it. In general, follow the MyPlate model to boost fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins in your diet. Experts agree that these high-quality foods can have a positive impact on your risk of developing many diseases including heart disease, cancer and even diabetes.

When eating out, search for dietitian-recommended Healthy Dining menu choices like these that take the guesswork out of a healthy diet:
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