Whether you're trying to lose weight or just keep from gaining weight, sooner or later it all comes down to calories. Even with the "fad diets" that promise amazing results in a short time, while promising that you can do all this without feeling hungry all the time, if you do the math you realize that all of them work because – one way or another – they reduce the number of calories you eat. Long-term diet success depends on reducing this number.
The thing is, it's not that hard to do. By following a few simple guidelines, and by making some intelligent substitutions of low-calorie foods for high-calorie foods, you can easily cut 100 to 200 calories a day from your diet. Even the higher amount is a mere 10% of your recommended calorie intake for the day, and by doing it you can lose two pounds a month. Over time, your weight loss total gets bigger, while your waistline gets smaller.
Why cut a few calories in each meal vs. going on a stricter diet?
Because it's easier. And it's easier to maintain, and make a part of your normal eating habits, so that cutting calories becomes an intuitive part of eating. Cutting a few calories here and there as the result of intelligent choices is a good way to develop healthier eating habits, and do it without feeling hungry all the time.
10 Simple Calorie-Cutting Tricks
The following are just a few suggestions for ways that you can cut 100 to 200 calories from your diet every day. "Mix and match" them as you see fit to get started on developing healthier eating habits that will pay off for you. Each of the tips below will cut at least 100 calories.
1) Eat oatmeal instead of your normal breakfast cereal; even though oatmeal theoretically contains the same number of calories per serving, its high fiber content consists of carbohydrates that are not absorbed by the body as calories. If you like a heartier breakfast, order bacon instead of sausage with your eggs; that's 100 calories saved, too.
2) Watch out for beverages. They are full of "sneaky calories." This obviously includes colas, sweet teas, and sports drinks that are full of sugar, but also includes "diet drinks." They may only contain 10 calories per 8 ounces, but they come in 16-ounce bottles, so if you regularly drink five bottles a day, drinking water instead will cut 100 calories right there. Skip the cream and sugar in your coffee and use skim milk instead and you've saved another 100 calories.
3) When cooking, find substitutes for the oil, one teaspoon of which contains 100 calories. Rather than using oil or butter when frying vegetables or chicken, use a low-salt chicken broth; it'll keep the food from sticking just as well, but save calories. Or use a cooking spray.
4) Watch out for portion size. A "supersized" burger or order of fries can contain 2-3 times more calories than the "regular" size. A three-ounce bagel not only costs less than a 4-ounce bagel, it delivers the same taste treat while saving you another 100 calories.
5) Substitute, substitute, substitute. Use skim milk in recipes instead of whole milk. Order grilled chicken instead of fried chicken. Replace one ounce of tortilla chips with one cup of celery dipped in hummus or salsa. Replace half the butter or oil in your favorite muffin recipe with an equal amount of applesauce. Make a sandwich from lean deli turkey meat instead of salami. Replace half of the ground beef in your meatball recipe with an equal amount of brown rice.
6) Beware of condiments, dressings, and toppings. A "normal" serving of mayonnaise contains 100 calories, and studies indicate that most people use 2-3 "normal" servings on their hamburgers or sandwiches. Low-fat dressings sound good in theory, but a "normal" serving size is really only a couple of tablespoons; measure it out and spread it around rather than just pouring it on and drowning your salad.
7) Cut down on the alcohol. A glass of wine contains about 100 calories, while a glass of beer contains about 150. If you switch to wine and have two drinks, you've saved 100 calories for the day. Stick to only one drink, and you've saved even more.
8) Use a doggy bag. If your restaurant of choice serves you a twelve-ounce steak, cut it in half and take the rest home for tomorrow's lunch, and you've saved 200 calories.
9) For snacks, try to eat high-fiber snacks that make you feel full, but don't add to your daily calorie intake. Eat fruits and vegetables instead of chips and candy.
10) For desserts, again consider substitutions. Think frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. If you really love your ice cream, serve it in a dish rather than a waffle cone and you've saved 100 calories. One slice of angel food cake drizzled lightly with chocolate syrup contains 100 fewer calories than three chocolate chip cookies.