By Cynthia Sass
Updated: September 20, 2013

I waited tables all through college and graduate school and as a nutrition science major, I was probably one of the few servers that didn't mind when customers asked for substitutions or sauces and dressings on the side. In fact, I thought it was smart! I do it myself (although always politely and apologetically) and encourage my clients to do the same. Just a few simple swaps can make a huge difference to the healthfulness and calorie content of a meal. Here are a few examples:

Panera Bread Chipotle Chicken Sandwich = 990 calories

Swaps: Substitute the ancho chipotle spread for cilantro hummus, ditch both the bacon and cheese = 540 calories

Savings: 450 calories (the equivalent of a whole meal)

Moe's Southwest Grill Triple Lindy Burrito = 830 calories

Swaps: Order a streaker (no tortilla), ditch the cheese and ask for half of the usual rice portion = 305 calories

Savings: 525 calories (again, the equivalent of a whole meal)

Generally, here's what you'll save by making these 10 changes at any quick service or sit down restaurant:

  • Slather on spicy brown mustard instead of mayo – 100 calories
  • Ditch the bacon – about 130 calories
  • Say no to "special sauce" – 100-200 calories
  • Go cheese free – 100-150 calories
  • Swap salad dressing for balsamic vinegar – about 200 calories
  • Cut the croutons – 170 calories
  • Trade in French fries for a side of grilled veggies – 300 calories
  • Nix the sour cream – about 90 calories
  • Pass up the side of chips tortilla - about 350 calories
  • Go naked (no flour tortilla) – about 300 calories

So if you're at a restaurant that doesn't publish its nutrition facts or doesn't break it down by ingredient, here's what you can rely on:

For any sandwich or wrap you'll save at least 600 calories if you order mustard instead of mayo or special sauce, no bacon, no cheese and ask for grilled veggies instead of fries

For any salad you'll save at least 600 calories if you skip the bacon, cheese and croutons and douse it with vinegar instead of dressing

For any taco or burrito order you'll save at least 550 calories if you skip the cheese and sour cream and say no thanks to the side of chips

Are you a frequent swapper-outer too? Please share your tips!



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