Twelve tips for cutting calories without eating less, from sipping healthful broths to loading up on veggies.
There’s no way around it: To lose weight, you need to cut calories. But eating less is a surefire way to feel dissatisfied after every meal. Instead of shrinking your portions, bulk up meals with foods that will fill you up without weighing you down, like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, suggests Barbara Rolls, author of “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet” and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State University. These healthy eats pack fewer calories per bite than higher-fat fare.
Add veggies to everything
Load your meals with vegetables so there’s less room for higher-calorie meat and grains. At lunch, you can stuff a wrap with lettuce, tomato, grated carrots, sprouts, bell peppers and sliced cucumber, suggest registered dietitians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, authors of “Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.” At dinner, you can still enjoy carb-heavy favorites like casseroles and pasta by bulking them up with more veggies.
Fill up on fruit
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Select fruits that contain the most water, and make plenty of room for them on your plate. Opt for watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, oranges, raspberries, apples and blueberries over higher-calorie bananas and plantains, advises Rolls. A cup of sliced banana contains 133 calories, but you’d have to eat more than two cups of strawberries or peaches to take in the same number of calories.
Start with soup or salad
Starting your meal with a broth-based soup or a salad with light dressing can help you eat less over the course of a meal, according to researchers at Penn State University. “It fills you up with fluid (or veggies) without giving you a ton of calories, and helps you feel more satisfied,” explains registered dietitian Andrea Giancoli, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Eat flaked or puffed cereal
Ready-to-eat cereal can help you slim down when you stick to a single serving and use it to replace a higher-calorie meal, according to a Purdue University study. To stretch out that serving, choose your brand wisely. You can help yourself to a generous bowl of a flaked or puffed cereal, while for the same amount of calories you’d get only a skimpy serving of a more compact cereal like granola, says Rolls.
Opt for egg whites
Science also suggests that eating eggs can help you keep your weight in check. Overweight adults who ate two eggs for breakfast (as part of a low-calorie diet) consumed fewer calories later in the day, compared with those who ate the same calories’ worth of bagels, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity. Cut calories — and cholesterol — using egg whites or egg substitute in place of whole eggs, adds Rolls. A large egg is about 80 calories, the whites from two large eggs contain 34 calories.
Switch to low-fat dairy
When you make the switch from whole milk to fat-free milk, you can drink almost twice as much for the same number of calories, says Rolls. A 5.3-ounce glass of whole milk weighs in at 100 calories, while 9.3 ounces of fat-free milk equals 100 calories.
Look for leaner sources of protein
Shrimp, tilapia, light tuna in water and roasted turkey breast are packed with protein but not fat and calories, says Rolls. For 150 calories, you can eat 44 grams of sausage, 68 grams of 80 percent lean ground beef, 77 grams of London Broil, 91 grams of chicken breast or 119 grams of snapper.
Select less-dense desserts
A half-cup of frozen yogurt contains about 110 calories, while a half-cup of premium ice cream weighs in at 290 calories. Or pick fruit instead of cake or cookies to fill up on water and fiber, suggest Lakatos and Shames.
Buy it whipped
Whipped cream cheese and butter come with added air and contain fewer calories than regular spreads. For example, 28 grams of Philadelphia Original cream cheese contain 100 calories, while the whipped variety contains 80 calories. Just don’t think that buying the lighter item gives you license to eat more.
Pick a puffy snack
If you want a salty snack that you can eat more than one handful of, opt for popcorn. “That way you get to indulge in the whole bag,” said Giancoli. She recommends popping kernels on the stove with a small amount of oil or buying 94 percent fat-free 100-calorie bags.
You don’t get much food for your calories when you munch on crackers, cookies and cereal bars — even ones with dried fruit and whole grains, says Rolls. That’s because they contain very little water. A quarter-cup of raisins contains 54 calories, but you can enjoy an entire cup of grapes for 62 calories.
Dilute dressings and dips
Topping your salad with a creamy dressing can add hundreds of calories. You can cut calories and fat by “extending” the dressing, says registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of “Read It Before You Eat It.” “Try mixing your dressing with lemon juice, a mashed avocado or plain, no-fat Greek yogurt,” she suggested.