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How To Lose Weight And Still Eat What You Love!

I hear this question frequently (and I’ve asked it myself, too): How the heck can you lose weight and still eat what you love?

It feels like a Catch-22, right?

I mean, let’s say you are absolutely craving a brownie🟫…a rich, fudgy, dense brownie. Come on now, is an apple🍎 going to cut it?

Or maybe you want some fried chicken. Finger-lickin’ good style! Grilled chicken breast will not satisfy you, now, will it?

NO.WAY.COM!

Seriously, I don’t know about you, but I’m betting you don’t want to eat dry chicken breast and steamed broccoli every day for the rest of your life.

Sure you want to lose the weight and get fit and sexy, but there is a thing called enjoyment of life, is there not?

So how to keep eating what you love and lose (or maintain) your weight?

Not to worry! I’ve got you covered on how to lose weight and still eat the food you love!

By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll learn all about:

  • Examples of small changes to cut significant calories daily.
  • Ingredient substitutions you’ll love.
  • Recipe makeovers that will leave you drooling! 🤩

Let’s get learning!

Before I get to the nitty-gritty details, I want to back up just a bit so you’ll understand why it’s harder to lose weight when you’re over 50 than it was years ago.

Why Losing Weight Can Be Hard Over 50 (especially when you love food)

The number one reason losing weight over 50 becomes more difficult is loss of muscle mass.

Muscle is a fat burner…muscle tissue burns more calories per unit of time than does fat. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn just by sitting around!

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The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn…

This is one reason that keeping up (or beginning) strength training over 50 is vital.

Recommended Reading: Why You Must Exercise If You’re Over 50

There are also hormonal changes with estrogen production decreasing. This leads to a tendency to gain more weight around the belly.

Consequently, even if you have been active, and continue at the same rate, you’ll likely eventually need about 200 fewer calories daily than when you were younger. 

Not fair, huh?

The second reason is decreased activity. This could be the result of many things:

  • not having to lug your children around everywhere
  • stand and pace at their sports practices and games
  • playing/walking/frisbee throwing with them a few times a week.

Or, it could be because you’ve worn out a joint here or there and you experience pain from time to time, making it more uncomfortable to exercise.

In any case, there are a variety of reasons that could be responsible for your “surprise” weight gain over 50.

What Else Happens To Your Body As You Age

A 13-year study on both men and women in Sweden, published in the journal Nature Medicine found that, regardless of weight gain, the lipid turnover in their fat cells decreased. 

Essentially, this measured how fast the fat in the cells is removed and stored.

Guess what can help counteract this slow-down? You guessed it…exercise. 

This lipid turnover slowdown occurred independent of whether the subjects were overweight to begin with, or whether they lost or gained weight (or stayed the same) over the duration of the study.

This is likely why, all things being equal, you need the aforementioned approximately 200 fewer calories when you’ve over 50 to maintain the same weight.

Besides that, of course there’s wear and tear on your organs, joints, and skin, leading to all kinds of health issues that we won’t get into here.

Suffice it to say, continuing…or starting…exercise and maintaining healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to stave off the worst effects of aging.

What About Your Mindset?

Mindset is a surprisingly huge factor in weight loss over 50. I’ve written a lot about it and I invite you to read the following to get a good grounding in mindset.

Recommended Reading: How Your Thoughts Determine Your Actions

I’m going to be perfectly honest here and confess that I don’t like the word “mindset.”

It sounds trendy and kind of woo-woo, and that’s definitely not the vibe I’m trying to present.

Perhaps you can think of mindset as your frame of reference, your way of thinking, your perspective, attitude, or outlook.

Your mindset is your frame of reference or way of thinking…

Whatever you want to call it, it means how you see the world, other people, and yourself in the mix. 

To you, is the world random, magical, cruel? Is your intelligence is set, or can it be increased? 

Do you think (about anything) that it’s “just the way I’ve always been,” or do you ever think things like, “well, my family are all ____________ (fat, smart, stupid, alcoholics), so I can’t do (think, be) __________.”

Those are all mindset issues, and they influence your weight, happiness, status, income, relationships, etc., much more than you know.

Recommended Reading: Use A Growth Mindset To Lose Weight

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So, How CAN You Lose Weight and Eat What You Love?

All right! You needed some background first on why you may find it difficult to lose weight now that you’re over 50 before we get to the good stuff.

In order to lose weight, as you KNOW, you have to consume fewer calories than you expend during a certain time period.

Similarly, in order to maintain your weight, you need to be eating, on average, the same calories as you expend, on average, each day, week, etc.

Meaning, if you go over your baseline one day, but go under the next, you’re going to be okay in the universal scheme of things.  

Want to see something interesting? 

Look at a typical REAL chart graph for weight loss and see the mini ups and downs during the overall downward trend.

This is why you should not freak out if one day you get on the scale and see you’ve gained 2 (or 3 or 5) pounds!

Am I right????

So you know you need to consume fewer calories than you expend if you want to lose weight. There is more than one way to go about this!

You can eat less food, or more lower-calorie foods, you can exercise, or the best option, a combination of both.

But we’re focusing losing weight while still eating the food you love in this post, so we’re gonna stick with that.

How To Easily Cut 250 Calories Per Day

Seriously, you’re not going to believe how easy this is. You just have to get into the habit of doing the thing, and searching out all the areas you can find. 

colorful text saying yes you can

I wrote about one idea in a post a couple of years ago. The idea was, if you drink cream in your coffee, to gradually decrease the quantity until a full 250 calories are reduced.

I don’t drink coffee, so this doesn’t apply to me (and perhaps not to you), but a surprisingly large amount of women I’ve encountered drink real cream in their coffee and say, “Oh, I just couldn’t give it up!”

Yes, they can. You and they just have to do it gradually. That’s the key.

Portion Control

One way to cut 250 calories per day, while not groundbreaking, is to practice better portion control. 

For some of you, that may mean just plain practicing portion control (leaving out the “better”). 

Recommended Reading: 5 Clean Eating Tips To Help You Lose Weight

For example, don’t just dig the serving spoon into the mashed potatoes and drop them on your plate until there’s a big gob there, but take maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of what you normally would.

Same for the butter or gravy you put on top. Try a bit less. Make small changes, and once you get used to them, make a bit more change.

As long as you’re not leaving yourself hungry, of course.

Drink Less Alcohol

Another way to cut 250 calories is to drink less alcohol in the evening (of course, IF you drink in the evening!).

I love Chardonnay, and to be honest, I was drinking too much of it on week nights. Sure, I would keep it to no more than 2 glasses, but I realized…eventually…that my glasses were WAY bigger than 5 oz!

large glass of wine

Let’s not get into how many glasses I was really drinking. Suffice it to say it was too many for a lot of reasons.

I gradually (there’s that word again) cut down until I truly was just drinking one 5 oz. glass in the evening.

And then I went even further and now I only drink one small glass on Friday night date night.

This has cut a HUGE amount of calories from my daily total. You may not have this issue, but it’s a GREAT place to start if you do drink alcohol.

Be Mindful Of All the “This and Thats”

Meaning, condiments, beverages (non-alcoholic), stray bites and tastes, etc.

When I take my vitamins in the morning, I like to swig them with orange juice. An 8 oz glass of OJ has around 110 calories. I certainly don’t need that much to take a couple of pills!

So, I have just about a quarter cup, which comes in at around 27 calories.

Another option is to have something like Simply Lite or Trop 50, both weighing in at 50 calories per 8 oz. glass.

Or, how about just taking your vitamins with water???

Sure, this doesn’t omit a full 250 calories a day, but when added to another one that’s worth about 100 calories, you’re almost there.

How about tastes? 

Let me tell you a little story. It’s kind of embarrassing, but what the heck.

I LOVE mashed potatoes and gravy. This is one thing I will keep eating even after I’m full. I don’t know exactly why.

Do I think I’ll never have it again? This is my last chance?

Doubtful…at least consciously. Who knows what’s going on in my subconscious.

But the time before last that we had this, I had a reasonable portion and when I went to clean up (this is when I usually have a “few” extra bites drizzled with leftover gravy), I THOUGHT about it first.

Just stopping for a few seconds made a big difference and kept me from eating more.

Did I still want it? Yes, but I realized it wouldn’t taste any different from the dozen (or whatever) bites I had when I was eating dinner.

And you know what? The last time it was even easier to resist!  Who knew it could be this easy?

(Note: I’ve found this to be true of the alcohol limit as well…it seems almost unthinkable at first [which thought itself is almost unthinkable if you ask me] that I could do this and not be all cravy-crazy…but after a couple of evenings it’s now quite easy).

Ingredient Substitutions

Now we get into the nitty-gritty of actually still eating what you love while losing weight. These are simply suggestions for you to run with, but also to spur your creativity.

Ground Meat

I buy 96% lean ground beef and 99% lean ground turkey breast. I even make my husband’s grilled hamburgers out of the lean ground beef and he (an ardent meat lover) loves them!

The difference here depends on what you would call “regular” ground beef is pretty big. 

A quarter-pound of the lean that is cooked, yields 130 calories and 4 grams of fat.

A quarter-pound of regular ground beef is 388 calories and over 22 grams of fat.

Bingo! The difference is 258 calories! That’s just about our magic number.

Ground turkey 85% lean is 230 calories for ¼ pound and 17 grams of fat. The same amount of 99% lean is 120 calories and 1 gram of fat.

So, the difference is not as much as the ground beef, but still over 100 calories.

I’m telling you the flavor difference is minimal if you use the right condiments and seasonings. We’ll get to some of those in the section on recipe makeovers.

You can make so many things with ground turkey or lean ground beef. The recipes abound.

Here are a few scrumptious and “healthy-ish” recipes that I have found:

Ranch Chicken Tostadillas (this is SO yummy!)

Homemade Crunchwrap Supreme (these are a TAD higher in calories, but man…talk about flavor!)

One of my favorite things to eat in the world is meat loaf.

Especially leftover meatloaf sandwiches. I’m telling you I could eat one of these every.single.day.

And making the meatloaf with 99% fat free ground turkey is the absolute bomb!

See my comments and recipe link below on this gustatory wonder!

Breads, Tortillas & Wraps

This is where you can go wild these days!

I love bread. Well, I just plain love carbs! I wrote a post about losing weight while eating more carbs and I believe it and live it!

But hey, why not save some calories wherever you can and STILL eat stuff you love?

I’m all for that.

Sandwich Bread

First up for just plain old sandwich bread. Some of you may prefer white bread, but with the exception of bread made from white whole wheat, it’s definitely true that whole wheat is more nutritious.

It just so happens that I was raised on what we called back in the day, brown bread (Roman Meal to be specific), so whole wheat is a no-brainer for me.

I love whole wheat bread, and I’ve found a brand that I believe is local to me (Franz) in Washington state, and a few other western states.

It’s called Franz 24 Grain, and each slice has 60 calories. I love it. 

Dave’s Killer Bread also has a 60 calorie, as well as 70 and 80 calorie slices that are healthy.

You CAN find Sara Lee and a few other brands that are fewer calories, like around 45. I have tried those and don’t really care for the taste or texture.

For comparison, regular old bread varies widely in calories from around 80 up to 130 or more per slice. 

The bottom line, though, is search around. You can probably find something reasonable so you can still enjoy a regular sandwich without guilt!

Tortillas

How about tortillas? I love Mexican (or Mexican-inspired) food! I also adore chips and homemade salsa.

So………I make my own tortilla chips out of thin corn tortillas! Specifically Mission Low Calorie Yellow Corn Tortillas.  They’re only 25 calories each!

Right now this product is only available in the Pacific Northwest, California, Arizona, and Texas. 😔

If you can’t find this one, or something similar, Mission’s extra thin yellow corn tortillas are the next best thing–just 40 calories each.

To make the chips is so simple. Just take a stack of 4 or so and cut into 6 equal triangles.

After a quick spray of olive oil, add whatever herbs and/or spices you like and bake at 400 degrees for about 6 minutes.

Turn over with tongs and back to the oven for about 6 more minutes. Watch carefully because all ovens vary.

Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll get the hang of the timing!

For corn tortilla tacos, I use the same thin tortillas; you can have 2 or three tacos for a very reasonable calorie count!

As for flour tortillas, the BEST thing I have found recently is Mission Carb Balance tortillas, which are pretty big and only 70 calories each. 

This is as opposed to regular flour tortillas which weigh in at a minimum of double that count!

It’s a total no-brainer. Remember, eat what love and lose weight! It’s a mantra you need to keep in mind. Don’t deprive yourself of the tastes you love. It just doesn’t usually work long term.

As an aside, during my teen and early 20s years, I loved to eat Taco Bell bean burritos with extra cheese.

I would put around 4 or 5 of the little mild sauce packets on as I ate it. One of my favorite memories of that time (kinda sad, I know).

But guess what??  I have found original Taco Bell Mild Sauce in bottles at Walmart and it’s exactly the same.

With a Carb Balance tortilla, some fat-free refried beans, low fat cheese, onion and the taco sauce, I have my own DIY Taco Bell bean burrito for less than 250 calories!

I eat this often for lunch, along with apple slices or an orange.

Wraps, Pitas & Pizza

Now for wraps. There are zillions of these floating around, lots of them under a low carb name. I’m not worried about the carbs at all, but I do like the lower calories!

I mean, why not have a turkey and cheese concoction wrapped up in a delicious (and big!) whole wheat wrap? The Ole Extreme High-Fiber has only 50 calories! 

They have come out with a new, smaller size as well, clocking in at only 30 calories each!

How can you get a sandwich wrap for so few calories?

Joseph’s Heart Healthy pitas have 70 calories. These can double as a base for an individual pizza, too.

There are so many possibilities. You just need to look around for what’s available in your area, or via online shopping.

Get creative and look for high fiber and/or whole grain options when you can.

For pizza specifically, I usually use either whole wheat English muffins or Joseph’s pita if I’m not making my own crust.

There are some homemade crust recipes floating around that are made with self-rising flour and non fat Greek yogurt.

I haven’t tried the one linked so cannot vouch for it, but it looks good and I’ve heard good things about it.

BUT, the pizza crust I make has just flour, water, a little salt and a tablespoon of oil (which you CAN leave out if you want) + yeast, so the calories should be about the same (water has fewer calories than nonfat Greek yogurt!).

Eat A Whole Pizza?

If you made this crust without oil, the entire pizza (minus toppings) would have 467 calories, and there’s no way I’m ever eating a whole pizza!

Adding some reasonable toppings would make it 550 or so.

In reality, I’d eat the pizza with a salad, and not the entire pizza.

So a nice pizza dinner for under, or right around 500 calories, which is NOT too much for most people.

Even IF you ate the whole pizza AND a salad, as long as you allowed for it, you’d be just fine.

The key is “allowing” for it. Planning for it.

Not just winging it! Depending on what your losing or maintaining calorie range is, you can certainly plan for pizza night. 

Pasta

I don’t have a lot of pasta substitutions, except for the ones that have the same amount of calories but are made from, for example, chickpeas.

This is just better nutrition, but doesn’t save calories.

There is one called Fiber Gourmet that I haven’t tried yet. They’re a bit expensive (as compared to regular pasta), but I’ll certainly report when I’ve tried one or more of them to let you know how they stack up.

The upside is they are HALF the calories of regular pasta, but supposedly taste the same. 

And, as you can infer from their name, they have LOADS of fiber. I’m talking 25 grams in just one serving of their linguini! That’s the entire recommended fiber amount for a day for a woman.

Even whole wheat pasta only has 5 grams of fiber per serving (which is considered pretty good).

Besides those options, though, the usual substitutes are spiralized veggies like zucchini, or spaghetti squash.

Now, you may love those and if so, that’s great.

But they don’t cut it for me, and I’m all about LOVING what I eat, not settling for some watery excuse for spaghetti noodles.

Edit: I just found a way I’m going to try for spaghetti squash noodles that are supposedly NOT mushy and are more al dente like actual spahetti noodles are supposed to be. I’ll update as soon as I’ve tried it!

Dairy Products

Lots and lots of options for lower calorie dairy products!

Sour Cream

Sour cream is a no-brainer. Just use light sour cream. I can’t tell the difference between light and regular.

The Daisy brand has 35 calories per 2 TBSP. vs 60 calories for the regular. 

Sure, you might say, “wow, only a 25 calorie difference?”

But remember, we’re looking to cut our calories by an average of 250 per day, so 25 here, 50 there, etc. really adds up.

The other option is nonfat Greek yogurt. Many people swear by this substitute, but I’m not wild about the tangy taste. Try it and see what you think!

I DO, however, like mixing NF Greek yogurt with other ingredients, like regular mayonnaise to lower the calories. It’s the best of both worlds.

Mayonnaise

Yes, I know mayo is a condiment, but I’m lumping it together with sour cream and yogurt for a reason. Read on.

Mayo (full fat) has 120 calories for 2 TBSP!!  That’s a lot. The light version (I’m using Best Foods/Hellman’s for this comparison) has 70.

Full disclosure: Unlike with light vs. full fat sour cream where I cannot tell a difference in taste or texture, there is a difference in taste AND texture for the mayo.

So, I mix full fat, low fat, AND light sour cream (roughly equally) when making, for example, a tuna sandwich, or chicken salad.

Here’s the thing…you really have to experiment to get something that YOU like.

This is all about LIKING the substitutes…remember, EAT THE FOOD YOU LOVE and still lose weight.

Of course it goes without saying that I top my baked potatoes with the light sour cream. I just don’t dollop it on indiscriminately! Just enough to get the potato as moist as I like it.

I also make an insanely delicious blue cheese or feta cheese dressing/dip that’s literally finger-lickin’ good. 

Made with low fat mayo and light sour cream + LOTS of garlic, it’s amazing, low(er) calorie, and can be used in so many ways.

Cheese

For cheese, there are a couple of options:

Use reduced fat cheese. Trader Joe’s Value brand grated low fat cheese has 80 calories per ¼ cup, vs the regular one that has 120. Walmart has their own brand of this as well.

Purchasing cheese already grated isn’t for everyone, but I love it on tacos, etc.

Trader Joe’s also has (or at least HAD) a variety of low fat or reduced calorie cheeses that come in a block. 

They used to have a 75% reduced calorie cheddar called Cabot, but I haven’t been able to find it for a long time.

Not everyone has a Trader Joe’s handy, but check your local stores to see what the options are.

The other idea is to use a more strongly flavored cheese, like sharp cheddar, or Asiago, Cotija, Pecorino, Manchego, and other hard cheeses.

assortment of hard cheeses

If you use these, a little goes a long way! I LOVE Cotija cheese grated on Latin inspired recipes. I also use Asiago all the time in recipes.

When you use these stronger-flavored cheeses, simply note the calories per serving, and use accordingly. 

For example, Asiago cheese. One ounce has 111 calories, so if you have only half of that, you’re in at about 56 calories for a veritable explosion of flavor. 

You just don’t need a lot for an impact.

This is the way you eat what you love and still lose weight!

You PLAN for your meals, make substitutions when you can and when they still make the meal or snack DELICIOUS, and when this meal or snack satisfies you!

Butter

The all-important butter has several options for substitution.

For flavor alone, you can use butter-flavored cooking spray. If you don’t use those types of sprays (some people object to the propellants, or artifical flavoring), of course don’t use it.

I use this to spray baking pans when making brownies and the like, and on popcorn.

Do remember that they don’t really have zero calories, so use it sparingly.

For use in baking,there are many options. Some of them reduce the calories a lot more than others.

  • Applesauce. Applesauce is one of the biggest reducers of the calorie and fat content of baked goods. It adds a touch of sweetness, so you can even reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. An alternative that’s also good is a 1-1 mixture of applesauce and low fat buttermilk.
    • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup applesauce + 1/2 cup buttermilk).
    • Best for: Sugar cookies, cakes, banana bread, zucchini bread
  • Avocados. Avocados add nutrients and healthy fats to your recipes. Use dark ingredients like chocolate to cover up the green tint. Especially good are brownies made with avocado! Using avocado does reduce calories, but not as much as applesauce. Avocado has 167 calories per 100 grams and butter has 717 calories per 100 grams.
    • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup pureed avocado.
    • Best for: Brownies, cakes, muffins
  • Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt adds protein to recipes and replaces sweetness with a tangy flavor. The tang is not my personal favorite, so I usually mix this with something else if the flavor will be noticed
    • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup Greek yogurt.
    • Best for: Most things, especially cakes.
  • Pumpkin purée. This is a nutrient-rich butter replacement. Just remember this will impart a stronger taste than applesauce.
    • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup pumpkin puree.
    • Best for: Most things
  • Prune Puree. This was the first butter substitute I ever used, many, many years ago! I used a product called Sunsweet Lighter Bake to make delicious chocolate chip cookies with no butter! Alas, this is no longer made, but it’s easy to make your own puree.
    • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup prune puree.
    • Best for: Cakes and brownies; some cookies

A Brief Interlude On Planning

Before we move on to the final section, I want to take a moment to talk a bit about how some people think all this planning and calculating is exhausting, or just plain NOT FUN.

For sure it takes some time and some work (and thinking…and math). You can look at that and say, “not for me!”

And that’s fine. You can just keep winging it and hope for the best. I’m almost positive it will keep working out the same way it’s been working.

If you’re reading this (especially if you’ve read this far) you probably want to eat and enjoy the foods you love AND lose weight (or maintain).

pink planner
Get a pretty planner!

This means you need to do something DIFFERENT than you’ve been doing. With something different comes new habits, thinking, and processes.

This takes effort, I’m not going to lie. BUT, remember that you control your thoughts, so you can approach this in a bunch of different ways.

The way I like to approach it is to make it almost a game! Like in, how many calories can I save and still adore the awesome pizza I want to make for dinner?

Recommended Reading: How Stress Can Help You Lose Weight & Get Fit

Or, if I decide to stop drinking wine at night (which I’ve done!!) I can add some mini chocolate chips to my non-fat frozen chocolate yogurt treat (which is fabulous!).

I literally make it fun. And you certainly can, too. You can challenge yourself, have a challenge with others (join the PhaseTwoFitness FB Group and we can have a challenge in there!). 

There are all sorts of ways you can make this something other than a chore!

After all, isn’t your health and wellbeing worth it?

Recipe Makeovers

The third way you can eat what you love and still lose weight is by taking advantage of recipe makeovers.

This of course will use some of the ingredient substitutions in the previous section, but I wanted to give you some specifics so you can get your motor running.

Also, you may or may not eat meat (or beef), and you may love vegetables more than I do! But these are just examples to get your ideas flowing. 

Use them as springboards to brainstorm ways you can lighten up your favorites while still loving the heck out of them!

Recipe makeovers don’t solely have to be for reducing the calories. They can also be about making them just plain healthier.

Recommended Reading: How Nutrient Density Can Help You Lose Weight

For example, making bran muffins using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white.

The calories are the same, but you get the added boost of more vitamins, minerals and fiber with the whole wheat (and you literally cannot tell the difference in the finished product). Not to mention the added fiber will keep you fuller, longer!

Or, another thing is make various recipes, from smoothies in the morning to spaghetti sauce, healthier by sneaking in some sort of vegetable.

You can, for example, add frozen kale leaves to a fruit smoothie, adding an entire vegetable serving 🥬 (!), without even knowing it’s in there (as long as you have some darker berries in the smoothie).

healthy fruit vegetable smoothies

Boom! An extra serving of veggies. And since I don’t absolutely adore veggies, this is a boon to me.

Ditto with including frozen riced cauliflower! It has the bonus of thickening a smoothie if you don’t want to include a frozen banana. I’m not wild about the taste of banana in all smoothies, but I cannot detect the cauliflower at all (and I’m not a fan of the taste of cauliflower).

Without further ado, here are some recipe makeovers I love. Use them as is, or just for inspiration.

The possibilities will amaze you!

“Fried” Chicken

This is both one of my favorites, and my husband’s too! And he LOVES Kentucky Fried Chicken (can’t say I hate that, either). 🍗

Ninja Foodie

It’s best if you have an air fryer, but if you don’t, the regular oven works as well. I have this air fryer and it’s the most awesome kitchen tool I have purchased of late! I can’t quite decide which I love the best, the air fryer or the Instant Pot?

This is the airfryer/indoor grill that I use and I cannot say enough good things about it!

You just dip the chicken (I use boneless, skinless thighs, but breasts and other cuts work as well), in egg, or use something like Egg Beaters, or (lowfat) buttermilk. 

Then dredge in a mixture of flour, panko or regular breadcrumbs (or a combo) and whatever herbs and spices you love.

In my air fryer, I cook them at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, turning at the halfway point.

They are incredibly tender and delicious, with a really good crunchy, crispy coating that has few calories added, and if you use the Egg Beaters option, no added fat at all.

air fried chicken

Skinny Taste Perfect Air Fryer Chicken Breast

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Air Fryer Fried Chicken Thighs

Ground Turkey Meatloaf

I’ll confess that meatloaf was one of my very favorite dinners growing up. Especially when we had it with mashed potatoes with a nice pool of butter on top!

I do remember when the loaf came out of the oven it was sitting in (a lot of) grease! But yum, it was tasty.

Many years later when my kids were young, I found a recipe for making meatloaf with lean ground turkey. I’m talking about the 99% lean kind. 

I thought it might come out dry, but not only was it NOT dry, the flavor was as good as I remembered!

And the big test? Slicing it up the next day for meatloaf sandwiches!

That’s my all-time favorite sandwich. Mustard on one side of the bread, ketchup on the other, and a thick slab of leftover cold meatloaf. 

OMG what could be better?

Note that you COULD make this sandwich more high-calorie for family members by adding cheese and maybe grilling it in butter.

Here’s my favorite recipe for turkey meatloaf, which comes pretty close to the one I came across so many years ago.

Skinny Taste Turkey Meatloaf

Pizza

There are about 12 (zillion) different ways to make delicious, satisfying, yet lower calorie pizza! (Thank goodness).

You can make a low-calorie but scrumptious crust as outlined above.

But you can also get very creative and use tortillas, Lavash bread, pita, English muffins, and of course store-bought pizza crusts like Boboli, etc. Just be sure to check the calorie count so you know what you’re getting.

I do like crust as part of the pizza experience, so tortillas are out for me (as a pizza crust anyway), but a LOT of people seem to like Skinny Taste’s take on that, so it’s worth a try.

Pasta Sauce

Yum, yum. I love what I call spaghetti sauce, but of course you can use it for lasagne, stuffed shells, and all sorts of other things.

How to make it healthier and lower in calories? Lots of ways. First, I use 96% lean ground beef, but of course you can use ground turkey as well. 

You could even substitute a meat alternative, or use mushrooms for extra texture.

I cook the onions, garlic and shredded carrots in just a half-tablespoon of oil, but you can certainly saute in broth! (That’s a trick I learned from Dr. John McDougall and it works great).

Besides that, it takes tomato puree (which is very low in salt, too!) and a bunch of herbs all of which have either very low, or no calories at all.

The final piece of my pasta sauce is a cup of milk…the original recipe calls for cream, but I use 1% milk. Of course you can leave this out, but it gives it a nice richness.

And mind you, this makes a HUGE amount of sauce, so one cup of milk, even if it were full fat, would not add that much to a serving.

How about another healthy tip? You can add pureed pumpkin to it! I wouldn’t add a ton because it would affect the taste, but with a cup or so, no one can tell the difference.

Other people add things like zucchini, which you could shred and add along with the shredded carrot and no one would be the wiser!

I hope that gives you some ideas for healthifying (made up word!) your pasta sauce!

Fries

I’m going to include both potato and sweet potato fries here. The typical serving of fries deep-fried in oil is shown below:

“For example, one small baked potato (100 grams) contains 93 calories and 0 grams of fat, while the same amount (100 grams) of french fries contain 319 calories and 17 grams of fat.”

The addition of oil adds 226 calories, and it’s all fat. 

When air fried, you can use as little as a half-tablespoon of oil, or just spray with olive or avocado oil spray, and the calories (total) would be anywhere from 150 to 200 calories, depending on how much oil you use, and how much is absorbed by the fries.

Not only is this a big difference, but air fryer fries taste delicious! I mean, as good, or better than their deep-fried counterparts, if you ask me.

I especially love sweet-potato fries. Growing up, my only experience with sweet potatoes was the overly sweet (really, sickeningly sweet) monstrosity my mom made at Thanksgiving.

Not only were they overly sweet, but then marshmallows were put on top and then back into the oven it went.

When I say I thought I hated sweet potatoes, that’s no joke. It almost makes me gag to think of it!

Many years later, however, when I was all into healthy eating, I learned how very high in nutrients sweet potatoes are. And fortunately, somewhere I tried sweet potato fries and I was totally hooked.

Now of course my first forays into this new world all included deep-fried potatoes, but a long time ago I purchased the first Biggest Loser cookbook and found a sweet potato fries recipe.

Life has never been the same! It’s simple, yummy, and healthy. Plus I’ve now updated it for the air fryer! 


Desserts

You didn’t think I’d leave you without any desserts, did you? 

Brownies

A few years ago a product called No-Pudge Fudge showed up and it’s a fat-free brownie mix. And also super yummy.

Trader Joe’s made their own version for a while but I haven’t see it there for a long time. I have figured out a way to make a version of them that really satisfies my chocolate craving. 

You can make them with either applesauce or non fat yogurt in place of the oil/butter, and you can even use a sugar substitute if you’re into that sort of thing!

You may not LOVE this (it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing with brownies), but with some judicious internet or Pinterest searching you can come up with all sorts of lower calorie desserts that are still satisfying.

Another trick with regular brownie (or cake) mixes you get from the store is just to replace the oil with applesauce.

Replace the egg(s) with Egg Beaters and you’ve removed virtually all the fat, and certainly every single bit of the added fat.

I’m not saying these are the paragon of healthy food choices, but if you want some cake or brownies without (much) guilt or worry about calories, this is one easy way to do it!

Wrapping Up

Let’s recap how you can eat what you love and still lose weight.

They were:

  • Making small changes to reduce calorie intake by 250 calories or more per day
  • Finding lower fat/sugar/calorie ingredient substitutions
  • Making over your favorite recipes to be healthier and lighter

Now that you’re privy to my top 3 ways for losing weight while still eating your favorite things, you can skip the stress of always freaking out about food and start enjoying [nearly] effortless AND permanent…weight loss.

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18 Comments

  1. This is such a useful post, thank you! I definitely learned a trick or two on how to easily cut 250 calories (will definitely try cutting the cream from my coffee, although I add milk, not cream)

    1. I’m glad it was helpful! And yes, the ideas are springboards and ways to show what is possible if you think about it for a bit. Once you start the thought process you can be amazed at the things you think up. 😉

  2. Love the food substitution ideas so you don’t really have to miss out 🙂
    The realistic weight loss graph is a good reminder too. thank you!! xx

  3. Thanks for the wealth of information. When it comes to weight loss, your mindset and every day habits definitely play a big role too.

  4. Yep, portion control is everything! This is the approach I take. I still eat the foods I love. I don’t cut anything out. I just try to be mindful of my portion sizes. Or say if I want McDonald’s for lunch, I’ll take it easy at dinner time to compensate.

  5. I really love that you put this extensive post together. These are some great suggestions. It’s wonderful to consider these minor adjustments can really help. There are some I would have to either adjust or delete due to dietary restrictions. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

    Pastor Natalie
    Letstakeamoment.com

    1. Yes, Natalie, I love how small things really add up. It makes losing weight, maintaining, or keeping healthy much more doable, right?
      Also, of course people need to make adjustments as their preferences and restrictions allow…it’s great that there are so many ways to make changes!

  6. Hey thanks for all these tips I am trying to lose some weight and this article is really helpful