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Low-Calorie, Lower Fat Alternative Foods

These low-calorie alternatives provide new ideas for old favorites. When making a food choice, remember to consider vitamins and minerals. Some foods provide most of their calories from sugar and fat but give you few, if any, vitamins and minerals.

This guide is not meant to be an exhaustive list. We encourage you to read labels to find out just how many calories are in the specific products you decide to buy.

Dairy Products

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Evaporated whole milk
  • Evaporated fat-free (skim) or reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • Whole milk
  • Low-fat (1%), reduced-fat (2%), or fat-free (skim) milk
  • Ice cream
  • Sorbet, sherbet, low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt, or ice cream
  • Whipping cream
  • Imitation whipped cream (made with fat-free [skim] milk)
  • Sour cream
  • Plain low-fat yogurt
  • Cream cheese
  • Neufchatel or "light" cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
  • Cheese (cheddar, Swiss, jack)
  • Reduced-calorie cheese, low-calorie processed cheeses, etc.
  • Fat-free cheese
  • American cheese
  • Fat-free American cheese or other types of fat-free cheeses
  • Regular (4%) cottage cheese
  • Low-fat (1%) or reduced-fat (2%) cottage cheese
  • Whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • Part-skim milk, low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • Whole milk ricotta cheese
  • Part-skim milk ricotta cheese
  • Coffee cream (½ and ½) or nondairy creamer (liquid, powder)
  • Low-fat (1%) or reduced-fat (2%) milk or fat-free dry milk powder


Cereals, Grains, and Pastas

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Ramen noodles
  • Rice or noodles (spaghetti, macaroni, etc.)
  • Pasta with white sauce (alfredo)
  • Pasta with red sauce (marinara)
  • Pasta with cheese sauce
  • Pasta with vegetables (primavera)
  • Granola
  • Bran flakes, crispy rice, etc.
  • Cooked grits or oatmeal
  • Reduced-fat granola


Meat, Fish, and Poultry

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Coldcuts or lunch meats (bologna, salami, liverwurst, etc.)
  • Low-fat coldcuts (95 to 97% fat-free lunch meats, low-fat pressed meats)
  • Hot dogs (regular)
  • Lower fat hot dogs
  • Bacon or sausage
  • Canadian bacon or lean ham
  • Regular ground beef
  • Extra-lean ground beef such as ground round or ground turkey (read labels)
  • Chicken or turkey with skin, duck, or goose
  • Chicken or turkey without skin (white meat)
  • Oil-packed tuna
  • Water-packed tuna (rinse to reduce sodium content)
  • Beef (chuck, rib, brisket)
  • Beef (round, loin) (trimmed of external fat) (choose select grades)
  • Pork (spareribs, untrimmed loin)
  • Pork tenderloin or trimmed, lean smoked ham
  • Frozen breaded fish or fried fish (homemade or commercial)
  • Fish or shellfish, unbreaded (fresh, frozen, canned in water)
  • Whole eggs
  • Egg whites or egg substitutes
  • Frozen TV dinners containing more than 13 grams of fat per serving
  • Frozen TV dinners containing less than 13 grams of fat per serving and lower in sodium
  • Chorizo sausage
  • Turkey sausage, drained well (read label)
  • Vegetarian sausage (made with tofu)


Baked Goods

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Croissants, brioches, etc.
  • Hard french rolls or soft brown ’n serve rolls
  • Donuts, sweet rolls, muffins, scones, or pastries
  • English muffins, bagels, reduced-fat or fat-free muffins or scones (choose lowest calorie variety)
  • Party crackers
  • Low-fat crackers (choose lowest in sodium)
  • Saltine or soda crackers (choose lowest in sodium)
  • Cake (pound, chocolate, yellow)
  • Cake (angel food, white, gingerbread)
  • Cookies
  • Reduced-fat or fat-free cookies (graham crackers, ginger snaps, fig bars) (choose lowest calorie variety)


Snacks and Sweets

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Nuts
  • Popcorn (air-popped or light microwave), fruits, vegetables
  • Ice cream, e.g., cones or bars
  • Frozen yogurt, frozen fruit or chocolate pudding bars
  • Custards or puddings (made with whole milk)
  • Puddings (made with skim milk)


Fats, Oils, and Salad Dressings

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Regular margarine or butter
  • Light spread margarines, diet margarine, or whipped butter, tub or squeeze bottle
  • Regular mayonnaise
  • Light or diet mayonnaise or mustard
  • Regular salad dressings
  • Reduced-calorie or fat-free salad dressings, lemon juice, or plain, herb flavored, or wine vinegar
  • Butter or margarine on toast or bread
  • Jelly, jam, or honey on bread or toast
  • Oils, shortening, or lard
  • Nonstick cooking spray for stir-frying or sautéing
  • As a substitute for oil or butter, use applesauce or prune puree in baked goods


Miscellaneous

Higher Fat Foods

Lower Fat Alternative

  • Canned cream soups
  • Canned broth-based soups
  • Canned beans and franks
  • Canned baked beans in tomato sauce
  • Gravy (homemade with fat and/or milk)
  • Gravy mixes made with water or homemade with the fat skimmed off and fat-free milk
  • Fudge sauce
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Avocado on sandwiches
  • Cucumber slices or lettuce leaves
  • Guacamole dip or refried beans with lard
  • Salsa

 

Healthy Weight Tip

Replacing high calorie/high fat foods with lower fat/lower calorie choices is a great way to lose or maintain weight and build healthy lifetime habits. Some changes can be made gradually. For example, start by replacing whole milk with 2 percent milk, then gradually make the switch to 1 percent or fat-free (skim) milk.

Looking for easy-to-use information for losing and maintaining weight?

Cover of Aim for a Healthy Weight bookletThe Aim for a Healthy Weight booklet includes portion and serving size information, sample reduced calorie menus, tips on dining out, a sample walking program, a weekly food and activity diary, and more.

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