15 Simple Ways to Cut Calories and Lose Weight
We always hear that it is recommended to cut calories to lose weight but what are calories exactly and how do they affect our weight?
What is a Calorie?
Calorie is a unit that is used to measure the energy coming from food. Our bodies need it to function and stay alive. When we eat and drink, we put energy into our bodies and use that energy through daily activities such as breathing, walking, talking, eating, etc.
When we eat and drink more calories than we use up, our bodies store the excess as body fat. If this continues over time we may put on weight.
To stay the same weight, your energy in and energy out should be the same. So, to lose weight you have to eat less and use up more energy by being more physically active.
How Many Calories Should I Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?
An average man needs to eat around 2500 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, and 2000 to lose one pound of weight per week. An average woman needs about 2000 calories to maintain, and 1500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week.
However, this depends on numerous factors, including age, height, current weight, activity levels, metabolic health and several others.
How to Cut Calories to Lose Weight
Cutting calories can be easy. It’s a matter of making simple substitutions to your diet and routine. Here are some simple but effective ways to cut calories and help you achieve your weight loss goals.
1. Increase protein intake
Adding more protein to your diet is a simple and effective way to lose weight with minimal effort. This is because protein increases feelings of fullness, reduces food cravings, and boosts metabolisms.
One study showed that people who increased their protein intake to about 30 percent of their total daily calories, consumed an average of 441 fewer calories per day .
A recent study conducted by researcher of University of Missouri found that teenage girls who ate breakfasts with 40 percent protein compared to 15 percent protein had greater reductions in “savory and sweet” food cravings .
High protein intake has also been shown to boost metabolism and increase the amount of calories burned per day .
If you want to lose weight, sustainably, with minimal effort, then consider increasing your protein intake. Foods rich in protein include eggs, fish, poultry, meat, beans, nuts, and dairy products.
2. Avoid sugary soft drink
Beverages such as soft drinks, sport drinks, fruit juice drinks, all contain a lot of sugar.
Studies have shown that sugary drinks are strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity, with one study in children showing a 60 percent increased risk for each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage .
If you cannot give up on soft drinks, try switching to diet soda drinks as they are very low in calories. Eating whole fruit instead of fruit juice can also help because whole fruit contains both vitamins and fibre. So, when you eat whole fruits, you’re getting less calories, and at the same time, more nutritional benefit.
3. Prepare your own foods
When you buy food prepared by someone else, you don’t always know what’s in it.
Even meals you think are low-calorie can contain hidden sugars and fats, bumping up their calorie content. By preparing your own foods, you can control the type of ingredients in your food and the portion sizes of each meal.
4. Use less sauce
Adding sauce to your food can add more calories than you think. In fact, only 1 tbsp of mayonnaise will add an extra 56 calories to your meal.
If you use a lot of sauce, try eating a bit less or not using it at all to reduce the number of calories you’re eating.
5. Use smaller plate
Another simple way to cut calories is to use a smaller plate. In one study conducted by Brian Wansink from Cornell University and Koert van Ittersum from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that a shift from 12–inch plates to 10–inch plates resulted in a 22 percent decrease in calories.
If you put a small piece of food on a large plate, your mind will tell you that you are eating a small portion and you will automatically put more food on the plate. However, if you put that same piece of food on a small plate, your mind will tell you that you are eating a large portion and you’ll stop adding food.
6. Drink water before meals
Drinking water before meals may help you eat less and cut your calorie intake.
According to a study from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, researchers observed two groups of dieters – one drank two cups of water before meals three times a day, while the other group did not increase their water intake. The study found that water drinkers ate 75-90 fewer calories per meal and lost an average of 5 pounds more over 12 weeks.
7. Eat slowly
Studies show that when you eat more slowly, you will feel more full, which naturally decreases your calorie consumption.
In a 2018 study, subjects reported feeling fuller when they ate slowly. Interestingly, they also ended up consuming about 10 percent fewer calories when they ate at a slow pace as opposed to when they were rushing.
In another study, subjects given 300 ml (10 oz) of ice cream on two different occasions. During one session, each person consumed the ice cream within 5 minutes. At the other session, they ate it slowly over the course of 30 minutes.
The results showed that their satiety hormone levels increased significantly after eating the ice cream slowly, and they reported feeling more full after eating.
8. Eat enough fiber
If you want to eat less calories and feel full then aim for fiber (at least 25 gram a day). Fiber is not only good for your digestive system but is also good to give you a sense of fullness so you eat less.
Good sources of fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
9. Change your cooking methods
Changing your cooking methods is a great way to cut your calorie intake and keep you healthy. Instead of bathing your food with oil, try using a tablespoon of oil at a lower heat setting. Prefer healthy cooking oils like flaxseed oil, olive oil, etc, which provide fewer calories and more omega-3 fatty acids.
Another option is to use cooking spray. “This is one of the easiest ways to cut calories,” says Tara Harwood, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Just one tablespoon of oil has 120 calories.
10. Don’t eat the skin
Eating the skin on your meat adds extra calories to your meal. For example, a fried chicken breast without skin has around 160 calories. With the skin, it has 217 calories, or 57 extra calories.
Even if you have a fried chicken breast every day for a week, you can save up to 399 calories by just taking the skin off before cooking it.
11. Choose low-fat desserts
Cutting calories does not mean saying no to all dessert. You certainly can have them but make sure to choose the low-fat desserts.
For example, one-half cup (105 grams) of Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream has 260 calories. The same size serving of Häagen-Dazs chocolate sorbet has 130 calories. Switching from the first to the second is no sacrifice in satisfaction but save you a lot of calories.
12. Drink plain tea or coffee
Tea and coffee are healthy, low-calorie drinks. However, every teaspoon of sugar you stir into your drink adds around 16 calories. Although this might not sound like much, the calories in a few cups of sugar-sweetened tea or coffee a day can be overwhelming.
13. Limit alcohol intake
Most alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and cocktails, are high in calorie. In addition, alcoholic drinks have very little or even no nutritional benefit. If you must drink, choose the lower-calorie ones. For example, order a light beer instead of regular beer.
14. Learn to read food labels
If you’re trying to control your calorie intake, the nutrition label becomes a must-use tool for making better food choices. You should check the serving size on the food label because it will help you to eat correct portions and to count the right number of calories you eat each day.
15. Get enough sleep
If you’re looking to reduce the amounts of calorie you consume and lose weight, make sure you consistently get a good night’s sleep.
A study conducted by Columbia University found that when people are sleep-deprived they eat almost 300 calories more a day than when they have had adequate rest. This is probably because lack of sleep stimulates the production of hunger hormone, ghrelin, while also lowering levels of leptin – the hormone that makes you feel full.