Calorie-Cutting Tricks

How to scale back without feeling deprived

4 min read

When you think about going on a diet, the first word that jumps into your head is probably "deprivation." That's because most weight-loss plans are based on depriving you of your favorite foods, counting calories, and ultimately, leaving you hungry. Sooner or later -- usually sooner -- you get tired of feeling hungry all the time, say "to heck with this diet," and go back to your old habits. What follows is a vicious cycle: you gain weight, become disgusted with yourself, feel miserable, and make yet another commitment to find the right diet once and for all.

Well, you are in luck. The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic can show you the right way to tackle weight loss, a way that will free you from diets forever. And by losing weight, you will also get healthier. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can significantly improve your health, especially if you have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

First, you need to be committed to making minor changes in your lifestyle. Second, give up the guilt! It's not a good motivator and has no place in weight management. Equipped with a positive attitude, you can follow a few easy steps to cut calories and win the battle of the bulge.

We aim to teach you to make small changes in the amounts and types of foods you enjoy without asking you to give any food up completely. Forbidding foods creates incredible cravings! Instead of asking you to eliminate your favorite foods, we want you to enjoy them with these modifications:

  • Reduce the portion size. Anything less than you were eating is a step in the right direction. Increase your portions of heart-healthy vegetables, and try a meatless meal each week.
  • Indulge occasionally in those rich and decadent foods you love. If we said you could never have another piece of cheesecake, you would think and dream about it, perhaps even become obsessed with the restriction. It's better to satisfy your urges with small portions of what you crave. Just knowing you can have that hot fudge sundae once in a while is empowering, and helps keep your resolve strong.
  • Modify the food. If you love super-premium ice cream, try low-fat frozen yogurt. You may be surprised how a healthier alternative can satisfy your cravings. Using smart substitutes like those listed below is another way to modify your family favorites to make them healthier. Don't forget to visit our own Recipe Doctor message board for Elaine Magee's great suggestions on making food nutritious and delicious.
  • Cut the fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrates have only 4. If you simply reduce the fat content of your diet, you can cut calories while eating about the same amount of food. Also, eating a lower-fat diet makes you feel better and will improve your health.
  • Pump up the fiber. Eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes is a great way to feel satisfied on fewer calories. These foods are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals, both of which have been shown to lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.

You can save even more calories by making some smart substitutions when you are in the kitchen. Here are a few modifications you can use to "healthy up" your cooking. Be adventurous, and you'll be surprised to see how delicious a food can be without all those extra calories.

Smart Substitutions to Help Cut Calories
Instead of using:Try:
CreamFat-free evaporated milk or fat-free half & half.
Fat to thicken sauces, soups, stewsPureed, cooked potatoes or roasted veggies.
Oil in marinadesCitrus juices or flavored vinegars.
Stick margarineTub margarine, vegetable oil, or flavored broth.
All the cheese in a recipeHalf the amount of extra-sharp cheese or an equal amount of low-fat cheese.
Wine or alcohol in cookingFlavored broth or apple juice.
Ground beefHalf the amount of lean ground meat, and half beans or tofu.
High-fat saucesFruit or vegetable salsa, or vegetable purees thinned with added broth.
Whole eggsTwo egg whites for each egg, or egg substitute.
Oil or butter in baked goodsUnsweetened applesauce, baby-food prunes, or fat-free sour cream.

If cutting calories is not your thing, you may prefer to burn extra calories. We all know how easy it is to eat extra calories. How easy is it to burn them?

A 150-pound person can burn 100 calories by:

  • Pedaling an exercise bike for 13 minutes
  • Climbing up and down stairs for 16 minutes
  • Gardening for 18 minutes
  • Walking briskly for 22 minutes
  • House cleaning for 25 minutes

Rich Weil, our fitness guru, has all kinds of fun and exciting tips to help you learn to love physical activity. Drop in on his Exercise and Fitness message board for some new ideas.

The bottom line is to find simple ways to incorporate calorie-burning or calorie-saving steps into your activities of daily living. If they become habitual, you will be successful at losing weight -- once and for all.