7 Menu Swaps for Healthy Dining

Looking to shed belly fat? There's only one formula you need to know, and luckily for you, it's easier than anything you encountered in ninth-grade algebra. The magic equation is this:

Calories Out - Calories In = Total Weight Loss (or Gain)

If staying slim comes down to simple math, why are so many Americans fat? The short answer: We're eating our weight in burgers and pasta. People tend to blame their extra flab on lack of exercise (the "calories out" part of the weight-loss equation), but the truth is, overeating is usually the biggest perpetrator of pudginess. It takes 3,500 calories to create one pound of body fat, so if you eat just 500 extra calories a day, you'll add one new pound to your gut each week. Make that a habit—like so many of us unwittingly do—and you're looking at 52 pounds of excess flab per year!

But here's the good news: You don't have to give up your favorite foods to keep the pounds at bay. Case in point: The list of food swaps below, excerpted from the new Eat This Not That! 2012. Make these tiny tweaks to your diet, and you'll subtract thousands of calories without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. See, isn't math fun?

More: The Diet Detective: Restaurant Shockers

#7 Top Swap: Tacos

Eat This
Baja Fresh Baja Fish Tacos (2)
500 calories
26 g fat (4 g saturated)
840 mg sodium

Not That!
Long John Silver's Baja Fish Tacos (2)
720 calories
46 g fat (9 g saturated, 7 g trans)
1,620 mg sodium

Total savings: 220 calories and 7 g trans fats!

Long John's is one of the few fast-food chains still filling its fryers with trans fats. That's especially worrisome considering that the chain tops each Baja Fish Taco with a big scoop of "Crumblies," the deep-fried shards of trans fatty batter that might qualify as the least heart-friendly food on the planet.

Baja Fresh, on the other hand, manages to both fry its fish and embellish it with tangy sauce without inflicting a gram of trans fatty damage. And instead of Crumblies, Baja tops its tacos with pico de gallo, a nutritionally rich flavor enhancer with just a handful of calories. (Read The Truth about Calories to discover even more need-to-know health and nutrition advice.)

More: A Full Day of Eating Out

#6 Top Swap: Caesar Salad

Eat This
Panera Grilled Chicken Caesar Signature Salad
510 calories
29 g fat (9 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
820 mg sodium

Not That!
Wendy's Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad (full size)
770 calories
49 g fat (16 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,810 mg sodium

Total savings: 260 calories and 990 mg sodium!

Compared with the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad on Panera's menu, the Spicy Chicken Caesar on Wendy's has 5.5 times the fat and nearly a third less protein. And thanks in large part to the massive chunks of Asiago cheese, Wendy's doles out more than 75 percent of your day's saturated fat with every Caesar sold. Not even the Baconator is that dangerous. Of course, if you think this salad sounds bad, wait until you see our shocking list of 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper.

More: 18 Salad Bar Survival Tips

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