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Easy Diet Swaps for Healthier Snacks

Ask anyone who’s ever sworn off junk food and vowed to eat better: Eating nutritious foods, especially healthier snacks, can be a huge challenge. Sudden changes from favorite foods to unfamiliar textures and flavors can set you up for failure. If your body is accustomed to a high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar diet, eliminating these foods overnight can result in cravings that derail your diet. A better way to change your eating habits: Make small changes in phases, giving yourself time to get used to the new, healthier addition before making another change.

Diet Swaps for Savory Snacks

If your preferred snack is crisp-fried and salty, you’re in luck when it comes to transitioning to healthy eating habits. Here’s a game plan to ease yourself from chips to veggies:

  1. Switch from flavored chips to plain ones. Add your favorite dip, if you like.
  2. Switch from full-fat chips to reduced-fat. Too drastic? Mix the two types together, gradually increasing the amount of reduced-fat as you get used to them. Or choose pretzels, which are naturally low in fat.
  3. Switch to a healthier dip. If your favorite uses sour cream or mayo, replace half with plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt. Over the next few weeks, increase the amount of yogurt. Or add salsa or hummus to your dip rotation.
  4. Alternate between chips and your favorite vegetables. If carrots and celery sticks don’t appeal, try bell pepper strips, broccoli or cauliflower florets, or grape tomatoes.

Other options:

  • A handful (1 ounce, or about ¼ cup) of nuts
  • Lower cholesterol deviled eggs

Diet Swaps for Sweet Snacks

When it comes to cookies, cakes, and pastries, you face the double-whammy of sugar and trans fats. Trans fats can raise cholesterol, and put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re craving:

Something crispy, try...

A graham cracker spread with peanut butter or no-sugar-added jam.

Something creamy, try...

Something crunchy, try...

  • Trail mix (combine 2/3 cup nuts, 1/4 cup dried fruit, and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips for 4 portions)
  • Popcorn (make on the stove with a little oil, then dust with cocoa powder or grated Parmesan cheese)

Chocolate, try...

Melt dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) in the microwave. Dip strawberries, frozen banana chunks, or orange sections.

Cinnamon, try...

  • Caramelized Applesauce
  • Cinnamon toast (toast whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and sprinkle with a few shakes of cinnamon sugar)

Tangy, try...

  • A frozen fruit pop (no sugar added), or freeze grapes or watermelon chunks
  • Granny Smith apple wedges spread with peanut butter
  • A parfait made with tart Greek yogurt

After you’ve made the transition at home, you may find it hard to resist temptation at parties or events. Navigating the buffet or even knowing which snacks to reach for can be tricky. One way to make it easy on yourself: Offer to bring a few dishes. This way, you’ll know which options fit with your eating plan.

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