If you’re a fan of Eat This, Not That!, you know that the clearest way you can lose weight is by curbing the number of calories you eat a day. Sounds simple, right? It can be. But simple doesn’t always mean easy. Week One, you’re doing fine, inspired by rapid weight loss. But by Week Two, you’re just left feeling restricted, exhausted, and yelling at the checkout guy in hanger.
That’s why when you’re looking to slim down, “low and slow” is the best way to banish those stubborn bat wings, and fat from your belly. By “low and slow,” we mean: Don’t cut too many calories too quickly. Instead, make simple, calorie-saving swaps throughout your day to easily help you shave hundreds of calories from your diet—which, over time, will equate to a lower number on the scale.
In fact, eating just 50 calories less than usual every day could result in a loss of 5 pounds over the course of one year! Below, we have some of the simplest tips and swaps you can seamlessly employ in your daily routine to reduce calories. And then to expedite the weight loss process, reach for these essential scientifically-proven 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles!
Buy Plain Yogurt
The benefits of yogurt are immense, but many of these bonuses are undone by cartons full of fruit-flavored, gummy messes. Grab a carton of Chobani’s non-fat plain yogurt, which rings in at 90 calories, over their fruit-on-the-bottom mango, a mix that serves up 140 calories and 12 extra grams of added sugar. Feel free to top off your plain cup with a sprinkling of nuts and oats to complement the protein-rich yogurt with some healthy fats and complex carbs.
Keep Dressings On The Side
When a restaurant dresses your salad for you, you’re apt to get at least four tablespoons of a fatty and calorie-laden sauce that suffocates your once-nutritious vegetables! That can equate to anywhere between 300 to 400 calories, depending on your dressing of choice. Ask for the dressing on the side and only use half of it to save more than 150 calories. But make sure you still use some! Adding fat to your salad will help your body absorb plenty of health-promoting nutrients.
Switch Your Cut of Meat
Next time you find yourself craving a cut of beef, ask your butcher for a sirloin tip side steak instead of the filet mignon. Although the former isn’t naturally as tender as the latter, it’s a very flavorful cut of protein that your taste buds will love. Plus, the swap saves you 132 calories every 3.5-ounce serving! Use a chef’s secret and salt your meat for an hour at room temperature before cooking it. The salt draws out the juices of the cut and tenderizes the protein, making it more flavorful and tender.
Eat Fresh— Not Juiced or Dehydrated— Fruit
Not only are fruit juices lacking in belly-filling fiber, they also are high in hunger-inducing simple sugars—which means you’re twice as likely to be left with a rumbling stomach after sipping a glass. Swap out fruit juices, like Evolution Fresh’s cold-pressed 228-calorie OJ bottle for a 60-calorie orange. It’s not just smart for your waistline: Harvard researchers found that swapping out three glasses of fruit juice with three servings of whole fruit a week was associated with a 7 percent reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes. As for dried, dehydrated, or pureed fruit? Fresh is still a better option. The off-the-tree variety may not be much higher in fiber, but it does have the benefit of water, which makes it more satiating.
Cook at Home
Here’s a simple fix. According to a 2014 study, people who cook dinner at home consume roughly 140 fewer calories than people who either ordered take-out, ate at a restaurant, or heated up a frozen entree. If you never have time to make dinner after work, these 25 Tips To Cook Once, and Eat For a Week may help.
Take Your Coffee Black
We get that Americans rely on their java on a daily basis, but dessert-like coffee creations have no place in a flat-belly diet. These frankencoffees—characterized by a combination of cream, sugar, and syrups—can contain as many as 600 calories and 88 grams of sugar when you order a large size (cough Starbucks S’mores Frappuccino). If you need a caffeine boost, order a cup of coffee black, which is a mere 5 calories. And if you really need that frap (you don’t), just leaving the whipped cream off your cup saves 70 calories. Not a fan of black coffee? Then brew up some green tea for a healthy buzz instead! You can make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, in which test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
And Order a Smaller Size
Sure, it’s not groundbreaking advice, but portion control can save you hundreds of calories in the long run. Simply ordering a tall latte (which isn’t even the smallest!) instead of a venti can save you 150 calories. Want more simple ways to stick to serving sizes? Check out these 18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes.
Sub a Side Salad
Bye bye, miss American fries. The small order of spuds that you grab with your burger at McDonald’s tacks on an extra 230 calories to your meal. Swap out a side salad dressed with Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette to save 180 calories. And if you really need those fries, you could even eat your salad and switch to the kid-sized version, and still save 140 calories—and that isn’t even including the dozens of calories spared from each ketchup packet.
Sip on Light Beers
Simply ordering a 96-calorie Miller Lite over a 145-calorie Budweiser saves you just under 50 calories every 12-ounce can or bottle of beer you order. And when you’re going for a second round with your boss—those calories sure add up.
Choose Thinner Foods
You’re trying to get thin, so why not eat thin as well? It’s the easiest way to eat your favorite indulgences without the calorie guilt. Sargento’s Ultra Thin Mild Cheddar slices are only 45 calories, whereas their classic slice is 80 calories. Combine that with a sandwich made from Arnold’s 100-calorie, Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins instead of two 110-calorie slices of their Extra Grainy 17-Grain bread, and you’ll save yourself 155 calories on one sandwich alone!
Say Arrivederci to Alfredo
Many canned pasta sauces are filled with excess calories, salt, and added sugar—nutrients you don’t want on your plate when you’re looking to get lean. Just look at Newman’s Own Alfredo, whose mere ½-cup serving has 180 calories, half a day’s recommended intake of saturated fat, and more than a third of the day’s sodium. Instead, make your own 80-calorie pasta topper by combining ½ cup fresh cherry tomatoes, a clove of garlic, ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, handful of chopped basil, and seasoning of freshly ground black pepper over a hot skillet. Or, if you’re short on time, opt for one of our favorite bottled varieties: Amy’s Light in Sodium Organic Family Marinara (also just 80 calories) or Cucina Antica’s Spicy Arrabbiata (40 calories and gives a kick to your metabolism).
Take Half To Go
Considering a recent study found that the average meal at an American, Chinese, or Italian sit-down restaurant contains a whopping 1,500 calories, you’ll save a cool 750 calories by simply asking your waiter to box up half the meal before it reaches the table.
Unplug Before You Chow Down
It might feel like the best time to check your email or familiarize yourself with current events, but there’s no place for distraction at the dinner table or cafe counter. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who eat while distracted can eat 288 calories more in one sitting than they would otherwise. Experts explain that keeping your mind busy while eating can prevent certain satiety cues from instructing your brain that you’ve had your fill. In fact, it’s also one the 20 Reasons You’re Always Hungry.
Invest in a Nonstick Pan
When you fry up an egg in a nonstick pan (rather than something like a cast-iron skillet), you’ll save no less than the 50 calories that come in half a tablespoon of butter.
Pregame Your Dinners
Penn State researchers found that when you eat an appetizer of a broth-based soup or an apple before your meal, you can reduce total calorie intake by up to 20 percent. If calculating that with a small 70-calorie apple and a 600-calorie dinner, you’d save yourself 50 calories in one sitting.
Bake With Applesauce
Whether it’s in cakes, brownies, or cookies—when you’re baking, just sub unsweetened applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio in your recipe. (Just reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by 1/4 cup). One cup of sugar has more than 770 calories while the same amount of unsweetened applesauce has only 100. Depending on the serving sizes of you’re making, you could easily save anywhere from 20 to 250 calories. For even more ways to trim down and improve your health, check out these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast!
Swap A Spoonful of SugarFor Cinnamon
When a recipe calls for sugar you have to think fast about how you can still get great flavor without all the belt-busting ingredients. Spices are a great way to do just that. Using spices like cinnamon or nutmeg instead of excessive amounts of unnecessary sugar is a great way to get tons of flavor without the extra calories (or the blood-sugar spike). For example, instead of the two 50-calorie tablespoons of sugar you add to your plain morning oats, add a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter of a banana to save 75 calories. That’s what we do in our Flat-Belly Meal Plan for a Healthy Week.
Turn Your Sandwich into a Salad
Two, 110-calorie big slices of bread with a two tablespoons of mayo—totaling a surprising 200 calories—easily puts you back over 400 calories in one sandwich. And we haven’t even gotten to the meat of it, yet! Either swap your tablespoon of mayo for dijon mustard to save 85 calories, simply roll up your turkey and swiss with some mustard into bite-size roll-ups to save 305 calories, or throw your slices of meat and cheese on a bed of lettuce to create a chef’s salad and top with a couple tablespoons of shallot vinaigrette to save 240 calories.
Use Cauliflower Instead of Rice
One of the perks of being a cauliflower is being super low-carb and low-calorie! This trending crucifer is making its way into all of your favorite recipes: pizza, mashed potatoes, and even fried rice like blogger Pinch of Yum does in the photo above. Grating a cup of cauliflower to use in your rice recipe instead of using highly-refined and nutrient-deficient white rice will save you 145 calories per cup.
Use a Misto
Most recipes call for oil, and we typically don’t think twice about it. Why? Many of us have heard the results from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found a correlation between consuming olive oil and a healthy heart, and we know the benefits of coconut oil include ramping up your metabolism and lowering bad cholesterol. But the key to using any oil well is moderation—especially since a tablespoon is around 120 calories. Avoid the “just a drizzle” mentality, and break out a spritzer. This tool makes it easy to mist your favorite oil on an entire dish without overdoing it. A simple spray of the pan with a misto can easily save you 50 calories compared to pouring out of the bottle.
Saute With Broth
When you’re whipping up a stir-fry or sauteing veggies, leave the 120-calorie-a-tablespoon EVOO on the counter. Instead, add a couple of tablespoons of low-sodium chicken broth to your skillet and get it nice and hot. Add veggies and stir—it’s that easy. You’ll save 119 calories in the process!
Poach Your Eggs
You’ll save calories while extracting the most nutrients from your food. The fat-free cooking method (which saves at least 50 calories compared to using half a tablespoon of butter) of poaching your eggs in a pot of simmering water will cook the whites while leaving the yolk runny—the perfect method for easiest digestion of the egg-white protein and best absorption of the vitamins in the yolk.
Swap Crackers to Apples
For your next wine and cheese with the girls, pair your cheddar cheese cubes with slices of apples sprinkled with a little lemon (to keep them from going brown) instead of crackers. Not only does this swap replace refined carbs with slow-digesting complex carbs, you also get extra vitamins, fiber, a sweet complement to your cheese, and you can eat an entire cup of apple slices for the same number of calories as 4 crackers. Comparing apples to apples—sorry, grams to grams—you’d save 300 calories by subbing apples for Carr’s Original Table Water Crackers.
Skinny Up Your Cocktails
We all know frozen margs aren’t the healthiest drink in the bar, but that typically doesn’t stop us from ordering them. Maybe this will: Did you realize that the average serving has a whopping 401 calories and 72 grams of sugar per glass? That’s more sweet stuff than you’d find in 18—yes, 18!—Dunkin’ Donuts Sugared Raised Donuts! Order a mojito or a glass of Chianti to save between 266 and 289 calories per drink. Obviously, margs aren’t healthy, but have you heard of these 14 ‘Health’ Foods Worse Than a Donut?
Squash Your Spaghetti
Instead of pouring a box of highly-refined spaghetti into a pot of boiling water, bake up a spaghetti squash. You’ll up the number of veggies you eat and slash calories in the process. The string-like squash has only 31 calories per cup, which is 169 calories fewer than a cup of semolina spaghetti!
Or Spiralize It!
If you like more versatility in your pasta choice, why not try a spiralizer? This hip cooking appliance turns almost any veggie into faux noodles with just the crank of a handle. Similar to spaghetti squash, a cup of spiralized zoodles has only 25 calories and a cup of carrots 50. And once you toss it with sauce and toppings, you’ll never know the difference. We like mixing our zoodles with pesto, blistered tomatoes, and chopped grilled chicken, and our spiralized carrots with a spicy sriracha and soy peanut sauce.
Use a Smaller Plate
One of our 15 Ways to Break Your Bad Eating Habits is by merely swapping your standard 12-inch plate for a 10-inch one. A study by Eat This, Not That! magazine advisor Brian Wansink, the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, discovered that this trick could help you eat 20 percent less each meal—which, for a 500-calorie dinner, could save you 100 calories. And don’t worry, the study found this tip won’t make you feel any less full!
Dab Your Pizza
Did you know the average American consumes 744 calories during a typical pizza-eating session? That’s certainly more than two slices. Since that’s the case, this simple trick will make your pie a little more waistline-friendly: a recent study found that dabbing the oil from the surface of your slice with a paper towel or napkin can wipe away 40 calories compared to an un-dabbed one. Have two slices and you’ve saved 80 calories.
Get Some Shut-Eye
It’ll make you less irritable and help you drop that spare tire. A growing body of research has connected short-term sleep deprivation with a preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods, a greater likelihood of choosing unhealthy foods when shopping for groceries, and even a greater likelihood of serving yourself bigger portions. That directly translates to adding pounds to your frame: Back in 2012, when researchers examined the sleeping habits of adult men and women over the course of a week, they found that those who were instructed to cut a mere hour and 20 minutes from their typical sleep time consumed, on average, a whopping 559 extra calories each day compared to those who slept the extra 80 minutes.
Crack A Can of Seltzer
Rather than soda, and save yourself roughly 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. Curious as to which alternatives are out there? Here are 15 New Drinks That Make It Easy To Quit Soda.
Make a “Nice Cream”
“Nice cream”—a creamy dessert that resembles ice cream but is made entirely with frozen bananas and any added toppings—is the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth while you slim down. To make it, add two frozen bananas to a blender with a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and blend until you reach that creamy consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Spoon into a bowl and freeze for about 15 more minutes. Half of this recipe serves up 110 calories whereas 1/2 cup of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate therapy ice cream is 250 calories.
Go Meatless for Lunch
Not only will swapping out a 288-calorie, 80/20 beef burger for a 24-calorie portabella mushroom save you 264 calories on the spot, a study conducted by Penn State researchers suggests that you may save 350 calories more throughout the course of the day! That’s because their study found that those who consume main dishes with veggies consume that many fewer calories daily than those who eat their produce as a side dish, likely because vegan foods boost the amount of satiating fiber on your plate while also adding bulk. That way you feel just as satisfied while taking in fewer calories.
Break a Sweat Before Breakfast
Everyone knows switching to a healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, but so is exercise! And it doesn’t only matter that you exercise, it also matters when: According to a recent Japanese study, when you exercise before your morning meal, you’ll metabolize about 280 more calories throughout the day compared to doing the same workout in the evening.
Add Fruit & Veggies To Your Guac
Sure the fats in avocado are the healthy, monounsaturated kind, but they still pack a calorie punch. In fact, an entire avocado is 322 calories! Puree that up in guacamole, and a half-cup serving is around 184 calories. Displace some of the green fruit with a cup of tomatoes (only 27 calories), and your half cup serving goes down by 85 calories! Feeling inspired? Check out these 20 Guacamole Recipes for the Avocado Obsessed.
Wrap BurgersIn Lettuce
Considering the average burger bun has about 130 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates, wrapping your BBQ-staple in a lettuce leaf can save you 126 calories and 23 grams of carbs. Since Americans eat, on average, three hamburgers a week, this simple swap can leave you over 6 pounds lighter at the end of the year!
Make Meatballs with Lean Turkey
No pasta dish is complete without some hearty, protein-packed meatballs. So if you’re looking to slim down, make this simple swap: If you sub out your usual 80/20 ground beef for 93 percent lean turkey, you’ll save 464 calories per pound of meat, which translates to around 116 calories per quarter-pound serving. To up the savings even more, add some sauteed spinach to your mix to bulk it up, add moisture, flavor, and that all-important vitamin C necessary for facilitating your body’s absorption of the iron from the meat. Do you know which foods have to pair together to reap the most nutritional benefits? Find out in these 32 Food Pairings that Dial Up Your Weight Loss!
Image #19 courtesy of Pinch of Yum