Co-Author: Elizabeth Daeninck, MS, RD
You watch what you eat and exercise, so why is the scale still your worst enemy? You may be eating more calories than you think. Consuming just 100 extra calories a day for a year can add up to a 10 pound weight gain, so those little slips can be a big deal!
To avoid scale creep, try substituting healthier choices that have fewer calories, but maintain flavor. Cutting calories can be easy – it’s a matter of making a few simple substitutions over the course of a day. Watch out for these worst calorie-packing offenders you may not even realize are sabotaging your weight management plan!
Cutting Calories in the Morning
Love your morning fog lifter? A grande size cafe mocha made with 2% milk contains about 260 calories. Slim down your drink by ordering the smaller tall size made with skim milk, and you can save around 100 calories. With the rich flavor from the chocolate syrup, you won’t miss the 2% milk. Bonus: Always ask for your drinks without whipped cream – it saves you almost half a day’s worth of saturated fat.
Bagels have gotten bigger! A specialty shop blueberry bagel with 2 oz of cream cheese adds up to about 530 calories. If you have only half the bagel, and fill out your breakfast with a side of fruit, you’ll cut about 115 calories, plus get a healthy dose of vitamins from the fruit.
Cutting Calories in the Afternoon
What are you drinking with your lunch? If you’re cracking open a canned soft drink, chances are you’re gulping down around 140 calories before you even unwrap your sandwich. Simply eliminating a single daily soft drink, at 140 calories per can, will save you 51,100 calories a year! Need more convincing to give up your favorite soft drink? Those 51,100 calories from your daily soda translate into nearly 15 pounds over a year’s time! Can the soda, and pair your lunch with zero calorie water instead. If it’s the fizz you like, try calorie-free flavored seltzer water.
At snack time, it’s easy to use up an entire day’s worth of discretionary calories (100-300 calories) with one push of a vending machine’s button. You can break the vending machine habit by bringing your own lower-calorie snack from home in anticipation of the afternoon snack attack. You’ll be cutting calories but keeping your afternoon snack.
Cutting Calories in the Evening
At dinner, serve your plate at the kitchen counter with reasonable portions. Research suggests that if food is served on the table family style, people continue to eat even after they are full. Skipping seconds if you’re not really hungry for them is a simple way to cut unnecessary calories.
If you enjoy an occasional nighttime snack, take the time to measure out a serving and put the container away. It’s easy to eat more than a serving if you and the box are in front of the T.V. Four handfuls of snack crackers can quickly turn into a 500 calorie diet buster! Mindless noshing can add up to big calories before you can say “commercial break.”
28 Ways to Cut Calories Effortlessly
An extra 40 calories per day may not seem like much, but consider this: If you were to cut a mere 40 calories a day from your diet, you would lose at least a pound in three months, or four pounds in a year!
Making small changes to your diet every day to help reduce your calorie intake will help offset weight gain over the year, and possibly even help you to lose weight! Try some of the ideas below to help you reduce your calorie intake. The more tips you implement, the more calories you cut from your diet!
- Choose fruit instead of juice: A medium orange has 60 calories, while a cup of orange juice contains 110 calories. Go for the fruit instead! (Calories saved: 50)
- Downsize your bagel: A mini bagel has only 80 calories, while a regular medium-sized bagel contains 240 calories – and an average Einstein Brothers bagel is a whopping 350 calories! (Calories saved: 160 – 270)
- Wrap it up: Use a 110-calorie 10-inch tortilla instead of a 240-calorie medium bagel as the base for your breakfast or lunch. (Calories saved: 130)
- Wrap scale down: Use an 8-inch tortilla instead of a 10-inch one. (Calories saved: 50)
- Choose light cream cheese: One ounce (2 tablespoons) of light cream cheese contains 60 calories, while regular has 100 calories. (Calories saved: 40)
- Go Canadian: Have Canadian bacon at 90 calories for two slices instead of regular bacon at 250 calories for two slices. (Calories saved: 160)
- Add the real thing to your yogurt: One cup of fruit flavored low fat yogurt contains 230 calories. Instead, consider having one cup of low fat plain yogurt with 1/2 cup of fresh fruit for only 180 calories plus extra fiber! (Calories saved: 50)
- Make the mayo light: Lightening up your mayonnaise saves you 50 calories per tablespoon. (Calories saved: 50)
- Spray it: Spraying your non-stick pan with a cooking spray costs 6 calories while using a tablespoon of butter or margarine cuts into your daily calorie budget by 100 calories. (Calories saved: 94)
- Lighten up on butter and margarine: Regular butter or margarine contains 100 calories per tablespoon, but light butter or margarine has only 50. (Calories saved: 50)
- Season up: Using herbs to season your vegetables instead of butter or margarine will save you 100 calories per tablespoon. (Calories saved: 100)
- Creamy options: Trading the Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs super-rich (20% fat) ice cream for a Breyer’s or Hood light reduced fat (6% fat) version saves 130 calories per 1/2 cup. (Calories saved: 130)
- Cone down: Choosing a small waffle cone rather than a large will save you 40 calories. Eliminating the cone altogether will save you 60 calories for a small one, 100 calories for a large. (Calories saved: 40 – 100)
- Choose fish in water: A 6oz can of chunk light tuna stored in oil has 275 calories. Packed in water, it has only 150 calories. (Calories saved: 125)
- Lower the fat in your cottage cheese: Use 1% cottage cheese rather than 4%. (Calories saved: 40 per half cup)
- Starching down: Try cutting back on your portion of rice, pasta or noodles by just 1/4 cup. (Calories saved: 45 – 60)
- Lightening your coffee: Use 2 tablespoons of whole milk rather than 2 Tbsp half and half cream. (Calories saved: 20)
- Make baking healthier: Replace half of the fat in a recipe with applesauce. Per 1/2 cup, applesauce contains 90 calories, but butter or margarine contains a whopping 810 calories! (Calories saved: 720 calories per 1/2 cup!)
- Soda shocker: By drinking an 8 oz mini can of regular soda rather than the usual 12 oz size, you save 50 calories. Better yet, drink water or diet soda to save 150 calories for a 12 oz can. (Calories saved: 50 – 150)
- The chips are down: Try a bag of baked chips instead of regular chips. (Calories saved: 70 per 2 oz bag)
- Go fresh: Choose a 60-calorie 1/2 cup of fresh fruit instead of a 250-calorie 1/2 cup of dried fruits like raisins. (Calories saved: 190)
- Vary your chocolate options: Instead of a 1.5 oz chocolate bar at 225 calories, consider having a cup of chocolate milk (160 calories) or a fat free chocolate pudding (85 calories). (Calories saved: 65 – 140)
- Ah nuts: Measure out your nuts – they add up quickly! One ounce of nuts (about 23 almonds, 18 medium cashews, 18-22 mixed nuts, 15-20 walnut or pecan halves) are worth 100 – 200 calories. It is easy to eat more than this if you are not paying attention and measuring… (Calories saved: Lots!)
- Cheers: Drink light beer rather than regular. (Calories saved: 30 per 12 oz can)
- Wine Not?: Drink 4 oz of wine instead of 12 oz of beer. (Calories saved: 50)
- Go lite on syrup: Two tablespoons of regular syrup contains 110 calories, but lite syrup contains only 50 calories. (Calories saved: 60)
- Cut the juice: Have 1/2 cup of orange juice instead of a full cup. (Calories saved: 55)
- Leaving behind: Why not leave 3-4 bites on your plate? You don’t have to finish it all if you are full. (Calories saved: Varies)
The Bottom Line
Although you may not implement all of the above ideas, it is worthwhile trying to use at least one tip each day to help prevent a progressive, subtle weight gain over the years. By making simple alterations such as the ones mentioned above in your daily diet, you will not feel deprived while working to reduce your calorie intake.
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Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.