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Slideshow: Mealtime Game Changers

Fried Chicken and Potato Salad

Fried chicken and potato salad are great for the occasional picnic. But at home, for everyday meals, treat your family to a delicious baked sweet potato and a skinless rotisserie chicken breast, prepared at your favorite grocery store. This simple swap won't skimp on flavor or nutrition. But it saves about 252 calories, 26 g fat, and 985 mg sodium per serving!

Cheeseburger and French Fries

Cheeseburgers and french fries likely top the list of Americans' all-time favorite foods. Even the regular dressed burger -- 1/3 pound or less -- is still loaded with fat, salt, and calories, which is exactly what we need to eat less of. In a rush, 2 ounces of turkey in a wrap or on whole-wheat bread with lettuce, mustard, and a side of fruit is rich in fiber and nutrients. And it saves about 228 calories, 21 g fat, and 815 mg sodium.

Pasta Carbonara

Creamy pasta carbonara is made with bacon, eggs, and cheese. If you choose this dish from a restaurant menu -- where portions are often larger than standard serving sizes -- you might get 1,440 calories, 88 g fat, and 3,000 mg sodium. Instead, make whole-grain pasta at home with vegetables and your favorite low-sodium spaghetti sauce for a nutrient-rich dish. One regular serving of spaghetti and sauce has about 300 calories, 4 g fat, and 43 mg sodium.

Fish Sticks With Mac and Cheese

Store-bought breaded fish sticks with macaroni and cheese is a Friday-night staple in many homes. This kid-approved, home-style meal can contain 422 calories, 19 g fat and 757 mg sodium. Swap the fish sticks for a piece of heart-healthy grilled salmon (about 3 ounces cooked). Serve it with a half cup of quinoa or a whole grain such as a rice medley, for a nutritious meal with only 286 calories, 12 g (healthy) fat, and 58 mg sodium.

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes might be the ultimate comfort food. But a huge helping can sabotage your diet with 453 calories, 22 g fat, and 723 mg sodium per serving. Help save your heart and health by choosing lean pork tenderloin (3 ounces roasted) and roasted red potatoes for a meal with about 240 calories, 3 g fat, and around 60 mg sodium. Save even more sodium by passing on the salt shaker.

Caesar Salad With Croutons

How could a Caesar salad with croutons not be healthy? Salads can be diet helpers, but only if you use a small amount of vinaigrette, a pinch of cheese, and no croutons. A healthier option is a mixed-greens salad with heart-healthy walnuts, fresh pears, and a drizzle of vinaigrette. You'll get a fiber boost, and you'll save 71 calories, 8 g fat, and 539 mg sodium over the traditional Caesar salad with 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Muffin and Specialty Coffee

It sounds innocent, but a breakfast of a large muffin and specialty coffee with whipped cream can start your day with 1,140 calories and 46 g fat. It's a sugar-heavy meal, so you might get hungry faster or eat more than usual at lunchtime. Try a high-fiber and high-protein breakfast that will keep you satisfied until lunch, such as a whole-grain bagel with crunchy peanut butter and a "skinny" latte. This combo contains 616 calories and 17 g fat.

Glazed Doughnut and Orange Juice

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. When it consists of nothing but a doughnut and orange juice, it might send your blood sugar soaring and make you hungry again in no time. Instead of a glazed doughnut, opt for creamy whole-grain oatmeal and top it with fruits and nuts. The savings come to about 226 calories, 10 g fat, and 4 mg sodium, and you get a satisfying, long-lasting meal that can also help lower your cholesterol.

Fried Eggs

Eggs can be part of a healthy diet, but how you cook them can save you calories. Fried eggs can contain 90 calories each. Instead, poach two eggs for 69 calories each. Add whole-wheat toast or an English muffin and a side of fruit for a quick, nutritious meal that should keep you feeling full for hours. Whole grains and fruits add valuable nutrients and fiber to your diet.

Smoothie

Some foods and drinks only sound nutritious. A smoothie can provide protein and fiber, but you may get extra calories if you drink several servings at once or if you make it with frozen yogurt or ice cream. Stick with smoothies made without added sugar. Another choice is a fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait topped with a sprinkle of granola. This calcium-, nutrient-, and fiber-rich snack has only 134 calories and 2 g fat.

Cheesecake

When it comes to dessert, less is more (unless fruit is on the menu). Share your favorite restaurant dessert with a friend or opt for a mini dessert that can be eaten in two bites. Besides, the first few bites of any dessert should satisfy your sweet tooth. Many two-bite desserts have fewer than 250 calories and 10 g fat. Compare that to a typical slice of restaurant cheesecake, which may set you back 710 calories and 42 g fat.

Giant Chocolate-Chip Cookie

Next time you're tempted to nibble on an oversized -- 3 inches wide or bigger -- chocolate-chip cookie, think twice. These decadent cookies may contain more than 350 calories and plenty of fat. You might enjoy ice cream just as much. A half-cup of light ice cream is rich and delicious with only 118 calories and almost 4 g fat.

Guide to a Healthy Kitchen

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 03, 2014

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