Don’t ever delude yourself, cutting calories isn’t fun. Almost all of us like to eat. But these tips can help you trim a few calories a day, without breaking the budget, or your lifestyle.
You need a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound. It’s really easy to pack the calories in, but really tough to eat that much less. An adult of about 150 pounds with a moderate activity level generally needs about 2000 calories a day to maintain his or her weight. If you are smaller you must eat much less, and less each year, as you age. Trust me, I know.
Perhaps one or more of these ideas will help you. They are all things that I do, either regularly, or most of the time.
1. Buy unsliced bread and cut it yourself, a little bit thinner than the norm.
Calories saved: if a normal slice of that type of bread is 100 calories, you may be able to drop it to 80. If you eat 3 slices of bread a day (one slice of toast at breakfast, and a sandwich at lunch), you can trim 1800 calories a month. That’s half a pound!
Expense: bakery bread may cost a bit more. Sometimes you can find day-old loaves that are inexpensive.
2. Use a smaller plate or bowl to serve yourself. This sounds hokey... just a mental trick. But studies prove that it works. We end up thinking we are fuller if we’ve eaten the same amount of food off a smaller plate, instead of a larger one.
Calories saved: this is hard to predict. But, as an example, let’s say a soup plate full of spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs holds 16 ounces, with a calorie count of 1100. Use a smaller bowl that is filled at 14 ounces, and the calories drop to 1000. Savings: 100 calories
Expense: none. You will save money since you are eating less.
3. Ask for a to-go box WITH your order at a restaurant. Almost all restaurant portions are too large. But we usually eat it anyway because it is there. As soon as the order comes decide how much you should eat, whether half or 3/4, whatever. Immediately package the rest of it and take it home for another day.
Calories saved: this is hard to predict. But, as an example, let’s use the Oriental Chicken Salad from Applebees. It’s a very large dinner salad, with 709 calories. If you take even 1/4 of it home, you’ve just saved 177 calories.
Expense: none. You will save money because you will already have part of another meal at home.
The myth of the healthy salad:
The next three tips concern the green salad, which we all think is the dieter’s staple. If you can stick to raw produce alone, with a reduced amount of dressing, this is true. But, all too often, salads are just loaded with calorie time bombs.
4. Skip the croutons on salad. Croutons are just bread, usually toasted with some fatty spread on them. It’s easy to toss on a half-cup at a time.
Calories saved: 60 per half cup. Let’s say you have 15 salads a month... you could cut 900 calories right there.
Expense: none. You will save money by not buying croutons.
5. Watch the toppings you use on salad. A sliced egg adds 80 calories. A tablespoon of bacon bits adds 25-40, whether real or fake. A quarter-cup of cheese shreds adds 140 calories. A tablespoon of roasted sunflower seeds has 50 calories. A quarter-cup of dried sweetened cranberries is another 100. This all adds up.
Calories saved: this will totally depend on what you decide you can live without. But if you routinely add everything I’ve listed above, except the egg, you are dumping a whopping 330-calorie pile on that salad.
Expense: none. You will save money by cutting back on the toppings. If you eat out, it makes no difference.
6. Use low-cal salad dressings, and less of them. This is an amazingly easy way to save calories. Two tablespoons (considered one serving) of regular dressings have about 110-150 calories. The low-cal versions run in the 45-60 calorie range.
Calories saved: 65-90 per salad. At a rate of 15 salads a month that’s another 975-2700 calories fewer, right there. And I’ve watched people at restaurants. Many people easily use double the two-tablespoon serving. You can enhance this savings by weaning yourself back from using so much dressing. Buy mixed greens, which have a lot more flavor than plain iceberg lettuce, and add more interesting things than a few carrot shreds and an occasional slice of radish.
Expense: none for cutting back on use. Sometimes low-cal dressings cost a bit more, but not always. Buying better greens may cost more, but they are also much better for you. Iceberg lettuce has the nutritional value of a piece of wood. (OK, I exaggerate, but not by much.)
7. Eat more often. What? Yes, it’s true. If you eat 6 smaller portions of food per day, your blood sugar level will fluctuate less and you will not fall into the “hungries, ” where you just go ransack the kitchen for something, anything, to eat.
Calories saved: hard to predict. But lets say you can eliminate one eating binge per month. For me, that would mean an entire box of crackers, with a calorie count around 1500. What would your binge be?
Expense: no monetary one. This might cost you a bit of time to figure out what types of smaller menus would satisfy you throughout a typical day.
8. Eliminate one beverage with calories per day. If you generally drink two cans of soda pop, switching one of those for a glass of water will eliminate 150 calories. Or switch to diet pop (once you re-train your taste buds, they aren’t bad). Or switch to low/no-cal beverages. Many people object to artificial sweeteners, but one has to make choices. Personally, I think the health risks of being overweight are greater than the risks of ingesting a couple spoonfuls of aspartame (Nutra-sweet) per day. Other options are to look for Splenda, or Stevia, sweeteners with less controversy associated with them.
Calories saved: assuming 150 calories/day, that is 4500 calories a month. You’ve just lost over a pound without doing anything!
Expense: switch to water- none. Brands like Crystal Light are not cheap, but they are cheaper than soda pop. Store brand low-cal drinks may be just as good.
9. Replace one sweet snack a day with a piece of fruit. Instead of two cookies eat an apple, banana, orange, kiwi, pear, some grapes, melon chunks... whatever you like.
Calories saved: this will vary, but less than you might think. Two 3-inch cookies from the bakery will have roughly 300 calories. Most fruits are in the 80-120 calorie range. Subtract, and you’ve saved 180-220 calories each time you can do this. If you could do this 15 times a month, you’ve saved at least 2700 calories. Do this a few more times per month, and there’s another pound gone.
Expense: possibly a toss-up. Good fruits can be as expensive as cookies, but you’re also choosing something that is better for you.
10. Use less butter/oleo. Pay attention to how much spread you are using on bread, vegetables, potatoes, etc. I see people smearing two pats (about 1/3 tablespoon each) on a dinner roll. Wow! If it’s real butter, that’s 72 calories. If it’s a low-fat spread, it will be more like 40 calories. But, either way, if you can use about half as much that, the savings will add up.
Calories saved: If you eat at home and have a slice of toast each day, cutting butter use in half could add up to 1000 or more calories a month, just on the toast. It will be less, of course, if you already use a low-fat spread.
Expense: none. You will save money by using less.
It would be easy to implement just one or two of these ideas, without even feeling like you were on a diet. Do you see one that might help you?