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10 Tips to Cut Calories

Use these “small-changes” tips to get back on track for the new year.

Woman using tips to cut calories by eating a healthy breakfast in the kitchen

Did you eat more than you wanted to during the holidays? Is your goal to lose weight this year? One way to do it is to use the small-changes approach and consume fewer calories with using some helpful tips to cut calories.

Len Kravitz, PhD, program coordinator and professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, offers 10 tips for making small changes and making for smart substitutions.

The Small-Changes Approach to Combating Obesity

The small-changes approach was originally designed to support easier-to-incorporate lifestyle changes and prevent gradual weight gain (Hill 2009). It has evolved to be a wide-ranging strategy that incorporates minor changes in diet and physical activity to combat overweight and obesity. The concept is that small changes, such as cutting calories or making food substitutions, are much easier to implement and maintain than many traditional dietary interventions.

See also: A Handy Way to Count Calories

Try These 10 Tips to Cut Calories

Use these ideas as a springboard to cut calories and start making positive changes. You’ll likely come up with more on your own as well. (Or you can contact a registered dietitian for help. See eatright.org.)

Tip #1: Control Triggers

For some people, certain foods trigger overeating. Be aware of these foods and find ways to avoid them by substituting satisfying, nontriggering foods.

Tip #2: Avoid Breakfast Starch Overload

Many people treat themselves to a special bagel for breakfast, along with cream cheese, coffee and juice. Since a bagel today is equivalent to about five slices of bread, try a breakfast of egg whites, fruit and a quarter bagel instead.

Tip #3: Look Out for Added Sugars (and Their Extra Calories)

Many packaged foods, including frozen dinners, salad dressings, breads and pasta sauce, contain sugar. Buy unsweetened oatmeal, cereal and yogurt, and sweeten them yourself with a tad bit of sugar or honey.

Tip #4: Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a drink from time to time, but be aware of the calories you are consuming.

Tip #5: Skip Fast-Food Drinks

Order small sizes of all food options and enjoy the meal with a seltzer, sparkling water, iced green tea or water with lemon. Sweet drinks are a major source of added sugars. Plus, the verdict is still out on the health consequences of diet beverages.

Tip #6: Check Your Personal Hunger Meter

Stop eating when you feel comfortable, not full.

Tip #7: Use Smaller Plates

To minimize overeating, serve the main dish on a salad or bread plate. Also, don’t leave food sitting on the counter (too tempting to eat more).

Tip #8: Follow the “Rule of One”

Eat only one helping of each food group. The exception to this is vegetables.

Tip #9: Plan for Parties

Before attending social events, dinner parties of catered occasions where there will be rich, high-calorie foods, eat a light protein-based snack (i.e., bean salad or yogurt).

Tip #10: Don’t Eat Anything out of a Bag or Container

Place the food on a plate or in a bowl so you see precisely how much you are eating.

See also: A Mindful Trick Could Trim Calories

Attention Fitness Pros

Please share this page with your clients. And let us know what other topics would be most valuable to them. Contact Judy Minich at [email protected]

Smart Swaps

Try these simple substitutions!

  • Avoid the oversized portions that most restaurants serve; stick to regular-sized portions or order off the children’s menu, if there is one.
  • De-fat your cafe latte. A medium 18-ounce latte made with whole milk has 265 calories. A small 12-ounce latte made with fat-free milk has 125 calories.
  • Switch from a 1.5-ounce serving of cheese to an 8-ounce yogurt.
  • Choose the grilled fish or chicken over fried options.
  • Switch from a 6-ounce glass of orange juice to a cup of cantaloupe.
  • Switch from a 3-ounce serving of meat to the equivalent of a meat alternative, such as lentils.
  • Smart-swap tomato-based sauces for creamy ones.


Hill, J.O. 2009. Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the Joint Task Force on the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89, 477-484.

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