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Why it's better: In order to get their fruity taste and make up for the missing fat, flavored low-fat and fat-free yogurts are loaded with sugar -- up to 35 grams in a 6-ounce cup! Plus, they typically contain only 6 grams of protein or fewer. Greek-style yogurt has about 13 grams of protein and 6 grams or fewer of added sugar per 5.3-ounce serving, making it the healthier option.
Try: FAGE Total Greek Yogurt, a favorite of FITNESS editors. It comes in fat-free and low-fat varieties. When you crave fruit-flavored yogurt, choose Dannon Light & Fit Carb & Sugar Control Yogurt, with only 2 grams of sugar per 4-ounce cup.2. Pack lunch with whole-grain crackers instead of white bread.
Why it's better: White bread can raise your blood sugar more than chocolate cake, Coke, or ice cream. And with less than 1 gram of fiber per slice, it doesn't keep you full. Instead of a traditional sandwich, pair whole-grain crackers with hummus, low-fat cheese, or nut butter. You'll get satisfying crunch -- and more fiber.
Try: High-fiber Triscuits (3 grams of fiber per serving) or All-Bran Crackers (5 grams of fiber).3. Try beans instead of rice.
Why it's better: As a side dish, brown rice beats white, but beans trump both -- they're high in fiber and protein. One cup of kidney beans has 16 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein.
Try: A three-bean salad made with black, kidney, and pinto beans, or toss them in a green salad as a source of protein. If you're using canned beans, be sure to rinse them first to wash off the excess sodium they're packed in.4. Try eggs instead of egg whites.
Why it's better: The protein is in the whites, so you'll get a healthy meal if you skip the yolks, but you will miss out on some crucial nutrients. Yolks contain choline, which is important for brain health; lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are key for healthy vision; and vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption and has been linked to a lowered risk for colon and skin cancers. Unless you're watching your cholesterol levels, choose the whole egg.
Try: Omega-3-fortified eggs from chickens that are fed a nutrient-rich diet of seeds and grains. A new brand, sold at Wal-Mart and major supermarkets, is Christopher Eggs, which contains 660 milligrams of omega-3s per egg -- up to 18 times the amount found in an ordinary egg.5. Make a sandwich with natural peanut butter and low-sugar jelly rather than reduced-fat PB and regular jelly.
Why it's better: All peanut butter is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which makes it a great choice for lunches or snacks. But many reduced-fat brands contain added sugar to make them taste more like regular peanut butter. Add jelly and you're getting lots of nutritionally empty sugar calories. Natural peanut butter contains no additives or artificial oils, and low-sugar or no-sugar jelly gives you the sweet taste you love with far fewer calories.
Try: Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter and Polaner Sugar-Free Strawberry Preserves.
Why it's better: True, California rolls are wrapped in seaweed, which contains essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. But the white rice and imitation crabmeat make these rolls nutritional duds. You're mostly getting refined carbs, which cause your blood sugar to spike and leave you feeling hungry shortly afterward.
Try: Real sushi (ask for brown rice instead of white for extra fiber) or sashimi, which contains lots of protein and healthy omega-3 fats and no rice. If you don't like raw fish, try seared tuna or smoked salmon rolls.7. Try canned salmon as an alternative to canned tuna.
Why it's better: Eating fish is good for you, period, but if you're worried about consuming too much mercury or you're tired of tuna sandwiches, switch to salmon. You'll get almost no mercury, and packaged salmon is usually wild, not farm-raised, so it contains fewer contaminants. Plus, one serving gives you a healthy dose of omega-3s, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and boost mood.
Try: Bumble Bee Pink Salmon. A quarter cup has 11 satisfying grams of protein.8. Try ground turkey breast instead of ground turkey.
Why it's better: Ground turkey can contain white meat, dark meat, and skin, which increases calories and fat. Ground turkey breast is white meat only, so it's leaner, which means you can save up to 76 calories and 10 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving.
Try: A Boca Meatless Ground Burger, if you're not a fan of turkey. Each serving has just 60 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.9. Make beef tenderloin instead of brisket.
Why it's better: Cuts ending in "loin," such as top loin and sirloin, tend to be leaner than prime cuts, such as brisket and prime rib.
Try: A 3-ounce serving of tenderloin rather than a same-size slice of brisket -- it will save you 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat. If you want a fattier cut of beef, look for brands labeled "100 percent grass-fed" or "grass-finished." Cows that eat natural grasses have a lower level of saturated fat and a higher level of omega-3s than those fed only grain.10. Drink water.
Why it's better: Duh! No swap (or explanation) needed here. Nothing beats water when it comes to staying hydrated.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2007.