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Guidelines on Overweight and Obesity: Electronic Textbook
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VI.A.1.b. Low-Calorie, Lower Fat Alternatives

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 stress reading labels to find out just how many calories are in the specific products you decide to buy.

Higher Fat Foods Lower Fat Foods
Diary Products
  • 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 milk (check label for calorie content)
  • Whipping cream
  • Imitation whipped cream (made with fat-free[skim] milk) or low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 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.
  • American cheese
  • Fat-free 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 (1/2 and 1/2) or nondairy creamer (liquid, powder)
  • Low-fat (1%) or reduced-fat (2%) milk or nonfat dry milk powder
Cereal, Grains, and Pasta
  • 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
  • Coldcuts or lunch meats (bologna, salami, liverwurst)
  • Lower-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, basket)
  • 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)
  • Chorizio sausage
  • Turkey sausage, drained well (read label)
  • Vegetarian sausage (made with tofu)
Baked Goods
  • 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
  • Party crackers
  • Low-fat crackers (choose lower in sodium)
  • Cake (pound, chocolate, yellow)
  • Cake (angel food, white, gingerbread)
  • Cookies
  • Reduced-fat or fat-free cookies (graham crackers, ginger snaps, fig bars) (compare calorie level)
Snacks and Sweets
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn (air-popped or light microwave), fruits or 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
  • 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 or herb flavored 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 sauteing 
  • As a substitute for oil or butter, use applesauce or prune puree in baked goods
  • Canned cream soups
  • Canned broth-based soups
  • Canned beans and franks
  • Canned baked beans in tomato sauce
  • Gravy (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
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