Tips to Cut 100 Calories -- or More -- to Keep Your Weight on Target

Simple 100-calorie cuts are easy changes you'll barely notice. Cut 500 calories a day and you're on your way to sensible weight loss. Here are some easy changes you can make today.
  • Cut Calories to Lose Weight

    Making big changes isn't necessarily the best way to lose weight. In fact, small, permanent changes may improve your long-term weight control.

    "If you save 100 calories a day for one month, you can lose one pound," says Judith Wylie-Rosett, Ed.D., R.D., professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, New York, and coauthor of The Complete Weight Loss Workbook (American Diabetes Association, 2007). That rate of weight loss may seem slow, but 100-calorie changes are easy to make and less likely to leave you feeling deprived -- which means you'll be more likely to stick with a lower-calorie eating plan. But if you want to lose weight faster, try cutting about 500 calories each day to lose 1 pound per week, a healthy weight-loss goal.

  • Easy Calorie Conversions

    We're often encouraged to be carb conscious, which can be helpful for blood sugar control but not necessarily good for your weight. Calories still count. Some foods can be low in carbohydrate and high in calories. For example, an 8-ounce steak and a 16-ounce steak both have 0 grams of carbohydrate. But you still need to count the calories that come from protein and fat; you may be consuming more calories than you realize.

    Here are some easy calorie conversions:
    1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
    1 gram of protein = 4 calories
    1 gram of fat = 9 calories

    Adopt one (or more) of the following tips to sensibly trim calories every day.

  • Make Your Sandwich Without Bread

    "I like an 'unwich' as much as I like a sandwich -- I love tuna salad stuffed inside crisp iceberg lettuce and rolled up instead of bread," says Joan Martin, 48 and PWD type 1, from Northbrook, Illinois. "That's one way to cut 100 calories. I would rather remove 100 calories than substitute with foods that I don't prefer." If you can't live without the bread, you can still save some calories by removing one slice or the bun top.

  • Use Nonfat or Skim Milk in Coffee

    "Look at what you drink every day," says Judi Wilcox, R.D., CDE, a diabetes nutrition specialist at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. "You could easily cut 100 calories by using nonfat milk in your specialty coffee rather than full-fat milk, half-and-half, or cream." If you like your coffee sweetened, consider a noncaloric sweetener.

    What to Know About Sweeteners

  • Use Light or Fat-Free Salad Dressings

    "Use lighter versions of full-fat salad dressings," says dietitian Judi Wilcox. "This alone can save 100 calories in a 2-tablespoon serving." Measure 2 tablespoons of light dressing before pouring it over your salad, and order dressing on the side when at a restaurant to limit the amount.

    Also don't overload on salad toppers: If you pile on croutons, cheese shavings, bacon bits, and hard-boiled eggs, you change your healthy choice into a high-calorie monster.

  • Fill Half Your Plate with Veggies

    "If you fill half your plate with vegetables, you can save more than 100 calories," says dietitian Judith Wylie-Rosett. Choose nonstarchy varieties, such as greens, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and sweet peppers. "Most people don't get enough vegetables anyway," Wylie-Rosett says. "Eat a salad and vegetables and less meat."

    Ways to Eat More Veggies

  • Switch to Diet Soda

    "Substitute diet soda for regular soda," says James O. Hill, Ph.D., cofounder of America On the Move and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Denver. "An average 12-ounce regular soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar."

    The calorie difference:
    Regular cola, 12 oz.: 136 calories
    Diet cola, 12 oz.: 0 calories

    The calorie counts may vary depending on the soda brand and serving size.

  • Choose Light or Reduced-Fat Mayonnaise

    "A tuna sandwich may sound healthy. Tuna by itself is a lean source of protein (and a great source of omega-3 fats -- the healthy kind). However, mixing the tuna with 2 tablespoons of mayo adds 200 calories," says Melinda Maryniuk, R.D., CDE, a dietitian at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "Substitute reduced-fat mayo for regular mayo. Or try mixing your tuna with low-fat cottage cheese. It's not only moist but gives you an extra boost of protein."

    The calorie difference:
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise: 200 calories
    2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise: 100 calories
    2 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese: 40 calories

  • Eat Slowly to Feel Full Faster

    "Be mindful that it takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you're starting to feel full," says Emily Smith, R.D., research coordinator and dietitian at the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "By this point, you may already have eaten your first and second helpings. By slowing down the fork-to-mouth motion and allowing your body's natural communication system to do its job, you could save 100-plus calories."

    One way to slow down while you eat: If you're used to a fork, use chopsticks to enjoy every bite.

  • Skip the Cheese

    Order breakfast sandwiches and burgers without cheese and you can save up to 100 calories. Many restaurants don't offer reduced-fat cheese, so skipping the stuff altogether helps calorie savings add up.

    You can avoid these extra calories at home when you're making a sandwich for lunch or burgers for dinner.

  • Eat Only Half of the Food

    We often think of food in pairs: two halves of an English muffin, two pieces of bread for a sandwich, two slices of toast. Consider eating just half of such pairs. "I used to eat two sandwiches for lunch; now I eat one," says Roland Bienvenu, 75 and PWD type 2, from River Ridge, Louisiana. "I still eat cookies, just not as many. I don't deprive myself. I just eat less." Depending on the type of food you eat, you can easily save 100 calories or more by cutting it in half and saving the rest for another day.

  • Stick to Your Grocery List

    "Sometimes not doing something is as big a step as doing something," says Dori Khakpour, R.D., CDE, research dietitian at the University of Washington Medical Center's Diabetes Care Center in Seattle. Before every trip to the grocery store, make a list of only the things you need and that are healthy for you. Bring it with you and avoid buying anything not on that list.

    Remember that the samples in the store have calories, too. If you pass on the free treat, even if it's a sugar-free cookie, you'll easily avoid 100 calories or more.

  • Choose a Lower-Calorie Breakfast

    Enjoy a bowl of lower-calorie cereal instead of a bagel and cream cheese to cut calories big-time. Some choices are obvious (you can enjoy 1 cup of Kellogg's Special K cereal for just 120 calories in a serving plus 80 calories for 1 cup of nonfat milk), some are more surprising.

    Sometimes cereals that seem healthier are higher in sugar and calories (a serving of Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size cereal has 200 calories and 12 grams of sugar). Be sure to read the label and stick to the serving size so unplanned calories don't sneak in.

    Our Best Breakfast Recipes

  • Avoid Added Sugar

    Adding a spoonful of sugar may sweeten things up, but by doing so you're adapting your taste buds to high-sugar fare -- making you want to add a little sugar to every meal. Each spoonful of sugar you add could increase your calorie count by 15 calories or more. If you drink two cups of coffee with sugar, add sugar to your breakfast cereal, sweeten your tea, and toss some sugar over fruit for dessert, you've packed on around 100 sneaky sugar calories.

    If you feel you need to add a sweetener, try using a no-calorie sugar substitute.

    Be Sugar-Substitute Savvy

  • Opt for Fresh Fruit as Dessert

    See fresh fruit for more than it's nutritional value -- it can be a delectable dessert! Think of a bowl of strawberries with a light drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, a sliced papaya with light whipped topping, or a juicy orange sprinkled with cinnamon instead of a chocolate cake or other traditional sugar- and calorie-filled treats.

    There are about 40 calories in one chocolate-covered strawberry; 350 calories in a standard slice of chocolate cake.

    Choose Fruits from These Top 20 Power Foods

  • Make Desserts Healthier

    Can't dream of finishing a meal without dessert? Instead of a full-fat, high-calorie cake or cookies from a mix, make your dessert from scratch. This will allow you to opt for ingredients with fewer calories, fewer carbs, and less sugar.

    Our Favorite Cookie Recipes

    Our Best Cake Recipes

  • Buy Healthier Soups

    The type of soup you sip can make a big impact on the day's calorie count. In general, broth-base soups are lower in calories than cream-base ones.

    Choose these:
    Chicken and vegetable (80 calories)
    Fish cioppino (133 calories)
    Vegetable (120 calories)

    Instead of these:
    Cream of chicken soup (191 calories)
    New England clam chowder (304 calories)
    Chicken, broccoli, cheese, and potato (200 calories)

    Soup and Stew Recipes

  • Order a Lower-Calorie Appetizer

    Appetizer selections can be tricky to navigate, but some obvious choices can help you through: raw vegetable and fruit platters are A-OK. Just go light on any dips. Enjoy fresh large cocktail shrimp with a bit of cocktail sauce. Boiled shrimp (without breading or deep frying) have less than 10 calories each, and 1 tablespoon of cocktail sauce adds 15 calories. (Go easy on the cocktail sauce. It may be low in calories and fat, but it's often loaded with sodium.)

  • Get Your Popcorn Without Butter

    Hot buttered popcorn may smell delicious, but the high calorie count that comes along isn't worth it. Look for lighter versions of your buttery favorites to save about half the calories.

    At the movies, holding the butter on that small popcorn will save you 180 calories.

    Flavorful and Butter-Free Popcorn Snack Mix
  • Buy Smaller Tortillas

    Buying smaller tortillas or taco shells will automatically save calories on wraps. But you'll also cut calories because you won't be able to fill the small tortilla with as much meat, sauce, and other toppings.

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