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 Guide 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.

Breakfast

  • 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.

Lunch

  • 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

Dinner

  • 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

Drinks

  • 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

Snacks

  • 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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