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10 Food substitutions for a summer body

Whether you’ve let your summer fitness plan slide or you’re getting a late start on achieving a bikini-ready physique, we’ve got 10 simple diet tweaks that will cut calories and help you lose those last five pounds so you can confidently strut your stuff in skin-baring summer wear. We’re not talking diet deprivation, we’re talking healthy, flavorful food substitutions from Chef Susan Irby, author of Substitute Yourself Skinny (Adams Media, May 2010).

Woman with egg dish

Crash diets don’t work

The restrictive fad diets that eliminate fat, carbohydrates or entire food groups are not only impossible to follow for more than a few days (or hours!), they are unhealthfully deficient in nutrients and teach you little to nothing about healthy eating. Though it’s tempting to pick up the first diet book or supplement that screams “Lose 30 pounds in 30 minutes,” but, seriously, if losing weight were that easy, wouldn’t we all be bikini-ready regardless of the season?

The bikini chef speaks

Chef Susan Irby, known as the Bikini Chef who specializes in “figure-flattering flavors,” has made it her mission to teach us beach body craving ladies to sensibly and deliciously cut calories without obliterating the satisfaction we need to stick to a healthy eating plan. “Great tasting food doesn’t have to be bland, boring, and flavorless,” she explains. “As the Bikini Chef, my food philosophy is fresh, fresh, fresh. Fresh citrus, fresh herbs, fresh natural ingredients that wake up your taste buds, are pleasing to your palette, and give you satisfying flavor.”

10 Bikini body food substitutions

Those homemade blueberry scones you love for breakfast? You can have them – simply swap in nutrient-dense ingredients. The burger you can’t live without on the weekend cookouts? Make it lean and trim it down in size. Can’t resist a good plate of pasta? Chef Irby recommends ditching the store-bought marinara (often high in sugar) and making your own fresh tomato sauce. Satisfying flavor is on the menu this summer, ladies, and these simple substitutions can be used all year round.

1. Substitute wheat flour for white flour

Substituting wheat flour for half of the white flour will make your scones, muffins or pancakes more bikini-friendly, but Chef Irby suggests going a step further by adding fresh wild raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries, which will liven up the flavor, wake up the color, and give a fresh, flavorful twist to an otherwise boring breakfast.

2. Swap out full-fat cream for non-fat dairy

Can’t resist clam chowder? Swap out the cream and make it a diet-friendly treat. Cream sauces and creamy soups get most of their creaminess from fat- and calorie-laden heavy whipping cream. Replace cream with a combination of half nonfat milk and half nonfat sour cream. Chef Irby says you will get the same coveted creamy texture without the unwanted creamy.

3. Lighten up your egg dishes

You don’t need to swear off whole eggs completely; eggs are used as a binder in many dishes and using only egg whites can get pricey. Chef Irby suggests using two egg whites for every one egg for a leaner, lighter breakfast, and when baking or making dishes such as burgers, replace half of the whole eggs with egg whites to keep the texture but save on calories, fat, and cholesterol. “As a side note, the majority of protein in eggs comes from the egg whites, not the yolk, making them a deliciously healthy option all around” the Bikini Chef adds.

4. Cut back on the high-fat beef

If you crave a hamburger, make your own lighter, leaner version by combining lean ground beef and lean ground turkey. You’ll find you sacrifice nothing on flavor or texture but save yourself plenty on fat and calories. To further help you reach your beach body goals, trim down the size of these leaner burgers by making sliders (mini-burgers) for lunch and dinner, as well as for tasty bites at summer pool parties.

5. Replace mayo with yogurt

Chef Irby suggests using nonfat vanilla yogurt as a delicious substitution for mayonnaise. Use as a healthy substitution in chicken salad, tuna salad, and dipping sauces such as aioli. It is very flavorful and naturally creamy so you don’t need to use a lot of it.

6. Cut the cheese

If you can’t go without cheese, Chef Irby recommends lower fat versions such as reduced fat cream cheese, reduced fat Monterey jack, and reduced fat feta. However, if you prefer full fat versions, opt for freshly grated parmesan or parmiggiano reggiano, which are supercharged with flavor, and cut back on the amount you use.

7. Substitute citrus for salt

Instead of salt, add citrus to both sweet and savory dishes. Chef Irby says, “The rind, or zest, of lemons, oranges, and limes is edible and adds a refreshing flavor to steamed or grilled vegetables, sauces, meat dishes, practically everything.”

8. Pass on the bacon

Got to have crumbled bacon in your summer salads? It certainly adds flavor — along with fat, salt and calories. Chef Irby suggests sidelining the bacon, but if you just have to have it, opt for leaner turkey bacon instead of pork bacon.

9. Make your own pasta sauce

That seemingly harmless jar of marinara or dipping sauce may be a sugar-bomb in disguise. “Instead, use freshly diced tomatoes with a little freshly chopped basil leaves or cilantro leaves,” suggests the Bikini Chef. “Add a hint of lemon zest, drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (about a half-tablespoon each) and finish with a small pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.”

10. Kick the bag of chips habit with homemade chips

Chef Irby relies on baked wonton wrappers to replace high fat, high calorie tortilla chips. Her recipe for wonton chips: Buy the squares and cut into triangles. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake in the oven at 225 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Top with salsa, serve with chicken salad or other dips as you would crostini and chips. She adds, “As a bonus, they are inexpensive and unused wonton wrappers keep in the freezer for up to three months.”

Think simple and tasty

These simple food substitutions will help you seamlessly cut calories and reach your beach body goals without decreasing your everyday food satisfaction. Chef Irby concludes, “In fact, most people love the lower calorie, lower fat substitutions once they’ve tried them and have gotten past their fear of trying what they perceive will be tasteless food.” Best yet, they are easy, affordable, flavorful, and will help you stay in bikini shape all year long.

More Beach body diet and fitness tips

For more ways to deliciously keep your beach body all year round, visit or, if you are in the area, catch Chef Irby on her radio show The Bikini Lifestyle with Susan Irby The Bikini Chef on KFWB News Talk 980 in Los Angeles, California.

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