Healthy food swaps

Choosing healthier foods is easier than you may think. By changing just a few eating habits you can make a big difference to your diet.

Making small changes to your diet is the healthiest and most achievable way to lose weight.

Your first step is to eat fewer foods high in calories, fat, salt and sugars and swap them for something healthier, including more fruit and vegetables.

Remember, small changes can add up to make a big overall difference to your diet.

Find out more from the eatwell plate about which foods you should be eating – and in what amounts – to achieve a balanced diet.

Food and drink swaps

Try these small changes when you have your next meal or drink, or when you open the kitchen cupboard or fridge looking for a snack. Once you've got started, try thinking of your own healthier swaps, too.

When buying pre-packed food, don't rely on the attractive promotional print on the wrapping, which can be misleading. Instead, learn to read the nutritional information when checking for calorie, fat, salt and sugar content.


  • swap whole milk for semi-skimmed, 1% fat or even skimmed milk
  • swap a sugar-coated breakfast cereal for a wholegrain breakfast cereal such as porridge or shredded wholegrain wheat cereal with no added sugar – read about how to choose a healthy breakfast cereal
  • swap a sprinkle of sugar on your breakfast cereal for a topping of fresh or dried fruit, which counts towards one of your 5 A DAY
  • swap full-fat greek yoghurt for lower-fat or fat-free greek yoghurt, or natural low-fat yoghurt

Get more ideas for healthy breakfasts.


  • swap white breads, bagels and muffins for wholegrain varieties
  • swap butter and cheese in your baked potato for reduced-fat spread and reduced salt and sugar baked beans
  • swap a tuna melt panini for a tuna salad sandwich on wholemeal bread without mayo
  • swap a cheddar cheese filling in your sandwich for reduced-fat hard cheese


  • swap creamy or cheesy sauces for tomato- or vegetable-based sauces on your pasta, meat or fish dishes
  • swap mashed potato made with butter and whole milk for mash with low-fat spread and a lower-fat milk, such as semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed
  • choose leaner cuts of meat – for example, swap streaky bacon for back bacon
  • swap the frying pan for the grill when cooking meat


  • swap a coffee made with whole milk to a "skinny" coffee made with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk
  • swap a cordial for a cordial with no added sugar
  • swap a few of your sugary drinks for a glass of water
  • swap a cola or fizzy drink with some 100% fruit juice (with no added sugar) mixed with soda water
  • swap hot chocolate made with whole milk and served with whipped cream for a hot chocolate made with skimmed milk and no cream


  • choose from these 10 surprising 100kcal snacks 
  • swap a blueberry muffin for a currant bun on its own or with some reduced-fat spread
  • swap yoghurt-coated raisins for plain raisins
  • swap salted nuts for unsalted nuts
  • swap cheese straws for rice cakes with lower-fat cream cheese

More information

Download the NHS Choices weight loss plan, a 12-week guide combining advice on healthier eating and physical activity.

Learn the basics of a healthy diet in Eight tips for healthy eating.

Get started on reaching a healthy weight in Start losing weight.

Find healthy recipes for your family in Healthy recipes.

Page last reviewed: 16/08/2015

Next review due: 16/08/2017


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The 29 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

User363614 said on 23 July 2015

Insulin spiking foods including jacket potatoes and baked beans are not healthy

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Laraju said on 09 March 2015

I am losing weight, started at 13st 10lb, and I have lost 9lb in two weeks. I know I will find it hard to maintain loss so someone to 'report to' might be good. I'm not very interested in groups though. I have lost weight by strict diet change and reduction in food intake, and by increasing my exercise. i try to go for a walk each day and I have been swimming three times. What's the best exercise for weight loss? Running is out - my feet and ankles aren't great. I want to get to 10st asap.

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beatsbetter4u said on 20 February 2013

Can i suggest Fruitflow to the topic its a new natural scietifically proven tomato extract that hase been proven to work in a similar way to aspirin but without the side effects it counts as 1 of your 5 aday and is recieving rave reviews from the people who use it, you can get it through verious methods including Sirco a fruit jiuce sold in sainsburys
this is being hushed as the next big thing and can honestly feel why since drinking it i have more vitality energy and my cirulation has improved no end.

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simo roudana said on 26 December 2012

great post thank you for sharing it with us, for me my meals are simple, milk in the morning with cake, dinner not something has alot of fat. i get 4 meals a day, i focus on olive oil, and argan oil, they are important for our health. ginger water too.
i would like to share my blog here:

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soozybee said on 08 July 2012

Such tripe. I was fat from the ages 12 to 30. I tried every diet under the sun. weight watcher, slimming world, calorie counting. I eventually cut all grains, processed food and sugar from my diet. Loved every second of it eating delicious food, natural fats to keep me fuller.

Never thought I'd see the day when I am full with just 2 - 3 meals a day no snacking all thanks to not eating grains. After a year and a half I am currently at my ideal weight, fitter and healthier than most people I know .

Do some research yourself people instead of just following the info ploughed out. Humans are not adapted to eat grains. They contain toxic anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, and phytates. Look up some of these things....honestly

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Tombola said on 28 March 2012

I just sent a comment on BMI and calories and my views but you timed me out? There is no indication of time-out restrictions when you are typing in?

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AMMnearly40 said on 30 August 2010

I have been trying to change my lifestyle for the last 15 weeks. I was 4 stone overweight and didn't move. I have had the usual ups and downs, bad weeks, good weeks etc. Tricks I have found useful:
1. A bad hour/day/week is all it is, catch yourself, stop yourself and think ok that was yesterday today is a new day and I can start again.
2. do not deprive yourself, I have found lower fat alternatives to crisps, snacks, cakes etc. And I keep a stock of them in the house so if a craving hits I am ready.
3. Portion control, I went out and bought a smaller plate and bowl that was number one. I then purchased online some rosemary conely portion pots, I was shocked at how much smaller my portions should be. To stop hunger I filled my plate with vegetables etc. I also bought some digital scales and for the first few times measured my meat portions so I could get an idea of what they should look like.
4. Treat yourself, I have one treat every day, if I have an urge for chocolate I will have a small bar or wine, one glass or crisps, one bag, icecream, ww little pots etc
5. Move even if it is just a little bit but aim to move every day. some days if I have been busy I will just spend half an hour walking up and down the stairs. Or if I am at home all day I will step on and off the bottom step 20 times every 2 hours.
I personally like just dance on the wii but you have to find something you enjoy.
6. reward yourself, every month if I have lost weight I reward myself, I will budget for it so I may have a new outfit (if there is a sale on!) or get my nails or hair done or it could be as simple as a new nail varnish but I let myself know I am buying myself or treating myself because of my hard work.

so far I have lost 2 stone 2lb and 25" off various bits.

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User363614 said on 14 August 2010

Actually, the jacket potato at 1pm is likely to give you a mid-afternoon energy slump. High glycaemic starchy carbs may appear to satiate appetite in the short term, but they cause energy slumps in the long term - think of the characteristics associated with sugar; high Gi foods are worse.

Don't get me wrong, jacket potatoes are a good source of vitamins and fibre, but sustained energy, no. Adding the cottage cheese and salad may help, but a sweet potato or whole-grain pasta would be better.

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jan1984 said on 13 January 2010

One of the best tips I have is switch from beef steak to venison - a low fat and tastier alternative. Supermarkets are stocking various venison products at reasonable prices now. 1 venison steak is smaller than a typical supermarket portion of rump or sirloin but fills you up and is delicious without having to worry about cutting fat off.

Satisfy sweet cravings with cherry juice. Pure morello cherry juice is GORGEOUS! and full of antioxidants. It's no substitue for chocolate but it is a start. Like previous comments, stick with the high cocoa %. Try fair trade products which tend to be nicer too.

I found swimming was a great starting point for exercise - you get fit without realising and tone up. Don't worry if you don't lose weight, your muscle will be building up. If you can't walk or run far without being out of breath, swimming gets your lungs in shape too. You will find it easier to walk faster / jog (depending on your starting fitness levels) after a month of swimming 30 mins twice a week.

The best measure of how well your diet is going is how your clothes fit. Weighing yourself is not always the best way of judging how well you've done. Try making small changes, avoid the scales for a month and see how your body shape changes. You'll be a lot happier looking at yourself in an item of clothing you've not fit into for ages than you will staring down at scales that have remained static or even worse, gone up!

Low fat products - beware of salt & sugar levels. Many cheap / healthy processed foods use these to bulk out the product which can leave you craving the naughty stuff!

Finally, don't deny yourself anything if you really crave it. By all means try a diversion. However, you could end up taking the healthier option but feeling denied, so caving in to the treat anyway. Better to just cave in and cut out the excess cals from eating 2 meals or treats!

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not-a-worry-wart said on 03 October 2009

This plan looked like a reasonable one until i got to dinner.. now note that it said the person wanted to make something 'special' for dinner, this is what, a once in a month occurance? dont let anyone talk you out of a good cut of beef and yorkshire pud. red meat keeps your iron count up and as an 'occaisional treat' 1 yorkshire pudding will not do you any harm, especially if you have already cut out your fatty foods for fruit and nuts and are getting your excercise. my grandparents have a roast every sunday, just a sensible portion of meat and lots of veg, they are fit as a fiddle!
it makes me sad to think the nhs are verging on becomming one of those diet advisiors that wont ever let you have a little treat. Bear in mind, the widley publicised recommended daily calorie intake is 2000 to 2500. This doesnt even touch 2000, so if you arent trying to lose weight, you might need that portion of roast tatties!

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RyanDunn said on 02 October 2009

I'm sorry i love the NHS but how big is that bag of crisps 288 cal. i'm sure they are only like 180 MAX.

Also the other choices aren' t that much less in cals. But i guess they do give you more energy per cal.

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HelenBn17 said on 20 May 2009

I've lost 4 stone and i use to be a real sweet tooth girl who couldn't resit the sweets at the checkout desk in the supermarket.

I got round this by Freezing Grapes !!! whenever i had a sugar need i would eat/suck on a frozen grape, even though they are frozen they a still really sweet. Because they are frozen it takes longer to eat them and best of all they are part of your 5-a-day.

Try it and i am sure you're be passing the tips on to your friends just as i have been.

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Bish Bash said on 25 April 2009

I'm a big guy, in my fifties, and was brought up with the finish your plate doctrine, i really enjoy my food so dieting never works beyond hours let alone days.. still i try but the other day i caught a tummy bug fom my grandson (5) so had to stop eating for a couple of days.. i decided to use this unfortuante problem to my advantage.. my tum is used to eating large amounts so i go hungry fast, i also work 10 - 12 hrs a day which doe'snt help.. my tum shrank so i bought a lot of grapes and orange juce (apples make me want to eat more for some reason), like you if i watch telly i nibble bread crisps etc, chocolate..
so as i said i've changed my mindset.. now when i'm watching tv that i keep a glass of chilled filtered water by me and grapes etc.. it's surprising how much you can drink without trying, my tums full but not with food, it's having a suble effect now, i don't get reflux anymore, i've so far given up my sat morning religion of my bacon butties, and if you can eat tomatoes on toast theres no calories in that.. tip put a little splodge of ketchup on for a while when you start if you have a sweet tongue.. another interesting, but downside which shows, i'm tired for a few days, but bear with it.. i've noticed my bodys starting to use fat for energy now.. and i don't have a craving for food as much, i've not had chips for weeks.. great.. my wife helps me, she calls me for dinner dishing up, and after throwing ecess food away, rather than me being temped to pile in on my plate because i hate waste.. my 'up bringing'
another tip.. set yourself an expectation for a meal, i think about tomatoes on toast for tea and i'll eat it happily, BUT.. if my wife says steak and chips.. i'll want that ! and not what i wanted.. we work together, i've lost some weight, but it's a controlled loss, not starvation, i'm also having slightly smaller meals now, but i also have a glass of cool water while i'm waiting for tea.. i've also noticed i have more energy now

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User218788 said on 31 March 2009

also, to add to my above post, the dark stuff is so rich... you can't eat as much of it ;o)

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User218788 said on 31 March 2009

my best advice is when you need some chocolate, don't deprive yourself otherwise you will eat more when you do have it. I eat a couple of squares a day of dark choc (the 70% stuff) and it really curbs my cravings... also the really dark stuff is actually good for you! It has a high catechin content, which is a flavonoid (antioxidant) which can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. It has also shown in some studies to slow down ageing and prevent some cancers!

AND, more health benefits in a study on chronic fatigue sufferers (M.E.), patients felt so much better they could return to work, some after been off 6mths... oh yeah... and non had put on weight from eating the choc!

So, you can eat choc... just keep it min 70% cocoa!!!

hope this helps xXx

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User211571 said on 23 March 2009

There are a couple of things I've found useful: If you want chocolate, try a low calorie hot chocolate drink, or stir the chocolate powder into a vanilla yoghurt. It really works!

Also, at those times when you really crave something sweet or fatty, have an apple or a yoghurt for the time being, and then tell yourself that if you still really, really want it after 15 minutes, then you'll allow yourself a small portion. You'll be surprised at how quickly the craving goes once you've had something to eat. Lots of takeaways have been avoided this way!

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sunnyc said on 06 January 2009

my recent find for satisfying sweet craqving is sugar free jelly and muller ricethey are low in fat and calories so i can enjoy guilt free

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rosie-posie said on 03 December 2008

i think that this is a very good diet to use & as im a comprehensive student this would be one that i could use & show my friends plus i would loose weight & have a happier life & not be as stressed

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Pete R said on 02 September 2008

It's sound advice but my problem is portion size! You really have to watch the amount of these healthy alternatives that you eat. I keep telling myself that it's healthy food so it doesn't matter how much. Perhaps that's why my weight stubbornly refuses to drop!!

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jadensgrandma said on 05 August 2008

This sounds just like the type of diet I eat consistently!

However, I am still about 20lbs overweight. I have never been one for much fried food, or any other type of fats including chocolate!

I think it is because I am desk-bound and work long hours. I am too tired to exercise at night, so I park a ten minute walk away from work which gives me a bit of exercise each day.

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Anonymous said on 09 July 2008

i have been dieting and 2 hrs at the gym 5 times a week i don c results.i feel gud n toned but weigh n the size is nt moving

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hannah said on 06 July 2008

i have been dieting for a while now and exersising but all you really need to do is eat less :)

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Susi said on 30 June 2008

Info for Rama - comment posted 15.6.08
The following link gives you basic guidance on what to focus your attention on if you are trying to reduce the energy (calorie ) content of your normal diet. your diet.
Try to focus on one or two changes at a time. You will have a better chance of sustaining them and incorporating them into your "normal" daily eating pattern.

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ema said on 19 June 2008

how much would you lose in a week

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Rama said on 15 June 2008

I am asian origine women.We have different food consuming practice.I am still in puzzle where to start n where to end.Could any help me? Rama

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nicky said on 23 April 2008

this change in diet really does work. I canged from the fatty foods to healthy foods in september 07 and have lost and kept off 2st 5lbs

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Anonymous said on 18 April 2008

I agree with the previous comment. In addition, this diet is not that expensive in time or money.

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Anonymous said on 17 April 2008

This sounds fine but what do we do when cravings for something sweet or fatty hit us? Does anyone have an answer?

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Anonymous said on 17 April 2008

sounds like a reasonable and doable diet for a change !!!...fed up of seeing those "diet and die" kinda regimes... thanx :)

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