We all know that the best way to lose weight is by burning more calories than we consume. Unfortunately, this means that there are only two ways to achieve healthy weight loss — eat less or exercise more. If you’ve opted for the calorie cutting method, you already know how difficult it can seem to lower your daily caloric intake. Luckily, we’ve been there too, and we’re in your corner with five easy ways to reduce the number of calories you consume throughout the day.
Switch to Water – If you’re a soda drinker, you may not realize that you’re getting 140 to 170 calories every time you pop open a 12 ounce can. If you prefer your soda in 20 ounce bottles, the calorie count only goes up. Other noncaloric beverages, such as your morning latte, afternoon apple juice, and the milk you pour on your cereal also add up. Take the time to stop and count how many calories you drink each day – chances are you’ll be surprised. To cut a large number of calories quickly, switch to water instead. If that thought is simply too much to bear, try working your way there gradually. Add a liquid or powdered flavor enhancer to your water bottle such as a Crystal Light packet or a squirt of Mio. Many brands are even available with added caffeine, so you can cut the calories without feeling like you’re going to doze off at your desk.
Avoid Fried Foods – Especially the Breaded Ones – Another easy way to cut calories from your diet is to avoid fried foods. Switch to grilled, baked, or poached meats instead. Breaded meats, such as chicken patties and fried shrimp, are especially bad. The breading absorbs more oil than the meat alone, so you’re likely getting more fat in your meal than you realize. Many restaurants are starting to list the calorie counts on their menus; take a look at what your daily lunch is adding to your waistline. That alone may be enough to convince you to skip the chicken strips!
Choose Pretzels Instead of Chips – If you’re picking up your lunch at a local deli or sub shop, opt for the snack sized bag of pretzels instead of chips. There’s a significant calorie difference, and the pretzels will also help you feel full longer. You still get the salty satisfaction of a snack with your sandwich, but you don’t have to feel like you’re blowing your diet completely.
Opt for a Skinnier Caffeine Fix – Coffee and tea are one really easy way to add calories to your day – a spoon full of sugar here, a dollop of half and half there. It all adds up, especially if you’re drinking multiple cups per day. Opt for an artificial sweetener in your warm drink of choice, instead, and choose a flavored nonfat creamer.
Avoid Heavy Sauces – Instead of pouring a sweet and sour sauce on your stir fry, try seasoning with soy sauce and ginger. Instead of barbecue sauce on your chicken, just sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. Sauces and gravies are usually wasted calories; by reducing or simplifying, you’ll not only cut calories, but actually be able to taste the food. (See more tips here.)
Replace Oil with Applesauce – You don’t have to swear off home baked goodies completely, but you can dramatically decrease the calorie count in cookies, bars, and quick breads by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the vegetable oil in your recipe. The taste and texture remain the same, but the calorie count is reduced.
Avoid Syrupy Canned Fruit – If possible, choose fresh fruit over canned. Canned fruits such as peaches, pineapple, and fruit cocktail are packed in a high sugar syrup. Some larger grocery stores are beginning to carry fruit packed in water, juice, or a syrup made with Splenda – a healthier option than heavy syrup. If these types of canned fruit are unavailable, consider rinsing the syrup off your canned fruit before you eat it.
Switch to Skim – If you’re a milk drinker, or regularly enjoy milk on cereal or in your coffee, consider making the switch to skim. You’ll be cutting the fat calories, and making your meal or drink a bit healthier.
Choose a Baked Potato Instead of French Fries – We all know a burger and fries isn’t the healthiest lunch. If fast food is your only option, however, opt for a restaurant that allows you to substitute your side dish. Many fast food restaurants are providing healthier options, such as baked potatoes, apple slices, or side salads instead of the fries that traditionally come with a meal.
Control Your Portion Sizes – If your goal is to lose weight, it’s essential that you read up on portion sizes. A serving of soda, for example, is 8 ounces. This means that the traditional 20 ounce soft drink you can buy at a convenience store or restaurant has nearly three times the calories of a single serving of soda – 600 to 800 calories, depending on the exact soda size and brand you choose. If you’re not careful, you can pack on the extra calories (and pounds) without even being aware that you’re overeating.
To combat this, read nutrition labels carefully, stick to healthy foods, and keep your portion sizes small. Some find that using a smaller dinner plate is very useful when adjusting portion sizes, as it provides the illusion of a full plate.
While these certainly aren’t the only ways to cut calories as you go throughout your day, they’re an easy way to get started. Weight loss, after all, is about a series of small changes that you make to your lifestyle — not just the number on the scale.