Despite the type of diet you follow, to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in each day. For most people, cutting about 500 calories per day is an excellent place to start. If you eat 500 calories less daily, you should lose about one pound per week.
Of course, always consult with your health care provider to determine a healthy weight for you before starting a weight loss diet.
Try these 10 ways to cut 500 calories a day. It's a lot easier than you think.
- Exchange your snack. Most people grab a bite or two in between meals. Snacking is okay; make sure to choose low-calorie options. The key is to have healthy snacks on-hand when the craving hits. Instead of a 3 oz bag of flavored tortilla chips (425 calories), grab a cup of air-popped popcorn (31 calories), a low-fat cheese stick (180 calories) and a cup of grapes or 12 almonds (160 calories) and a small apple. Choosing healthy snack alternatives twice a day can save you 500 calories.
- Nix one high-calorie treat. Try to cut one high-calorie food item each day. Whether it is a donut at breakfast, a brownie or chips at lunch, or cake after dinner, you can save 250 calories or more. What's more, burn an extra 150 calories by taking a 40-minute brisk walk after lunch or dinner.
- DON'T drink your calories. One 12 oz regular soda can has about 150 calories, and a 16 oz flavored latte can pack more than 250 calories. Fruit smoothies have tons of calories, up to 400 in a 16 oz serving. Sweet drinks throughout the day can quickly add up to 500 calories or more. Choose water, sparkling water, black coffee, or tea instead and save your calories for foods that will make you feel full.
- Pass on the seconds. It's no secret; opting for that second helping can add unwanted calories. It's easy to keep filling your plate when you serve the food family-style on the table. Alternatively, prepare plate once and keep the dishes in the kitchen. If you still do not feel full, add a second helping of vegetables, fruit, or salad instead.
- Make low-calorie substitutes. Substitute low-calorie options for some of your higher calorie favorites. Such as, if a recipe calls for a cup of sour cream (444 calories), use plain Greek yogurt instead (154 calories).
- Ask for a to-go box. The portions at most restaurants are much bigger than recommended serving sizes. Instead of clearing your whole plate, ask your server to put half in a container for you to take home for another meal. You can also share an entree or make your meal out of a large salad and an appetizer. Just make sure to go easy on the fried toppings and dressing.
- Say "NO" to fried food. Frying food adds a lot of saturated fat and unhealthy calories to any dish. Instead of fried chicken, choose broiled, grilled, or poached instead. And skip the fries, a large serving of fries alone adds almost 500 calories. Alternatively, see if you can substitute for a side salad or the vegetable of the day.
- Build a thin pizza. Skip the extra cheese, meat toppings, and deep-dish crust, and have a couple slices of thin-crust vegetable pizza instead. You will save just over 500 calories.
- Use a plate. Eat all food from a bowl or plate, even snacks. When you snack out of a box or bag, it is easy to eat more than you wanted to, especially if you are watching TV. It shouldn't be a surprise that a large bag of chips has more than 1000 calories. So, it's good practice to place a portion in a bowl and put the rest away.
- Avoid alcohol. Cutting down on alcohol is a sure-fast way for people to trim daily calories. Alcohol has no nutritional value, so when you drink alcohol, you're getting empty calories, up to 500 for mixed drinks made with fruit juices, syrups, and heavy cream or ice cream. If you do order a drink, go for a 12 oz light beer (103 calories) or a 5 oz glass of wine (120 calories) instead.