To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. However, reducing the amount of food you eat to cut calories can be difficult.
Here are 35 simple but highly effective ways to cut calories and lose weight.
One way to make sure you don’t eat too many calories is to count them.
In the past, logging calories was quite time-consuming. However, modern apps have made it quicker and easier than ever to track what you eat (
Some apps also offer daily lifestyle tips to help keep you motivated. This may be more useful than just logging your intake, as it could help you form healthy, long-term habits (
Adding ketchup or mayonnaise to your food can add more calories than you may realize. In fact, only 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of mayonnaise adds an extra 57 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.
Drinks can be a forgotten source of calories in your diet.
Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, are also linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes (
A single 16-ounce (475-ml) bottle of Coke packs nearly 200 calories and 44 grams of sugar (8).
One study suggests that drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages not only adds many unnecessary calories to your diet but may also increase your hunger later on (
You may want to cut back on other high-sugar, high-calorie drinks as well. These include alcohol, some commercially produced coffee drinks, and sugar-sweetened fruit juices and smoothies.
Tea and coffee are healthy, low-calorie drinks, but spooning in just 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of sugar adds around 16 calories to your drink.
Though this may not sound like much, the calories in a few cups or glasses of sugar-sweetened tea a day can add up.
When you buy food prepared by someone else, you don’t always know what’s in it.
Even meals you think are healthy or low-calorie can contain hidden sugars and fats, bumping up their calorie content.
Cooking your own meals gives you better control over the number of calories you eat.
If you keep junk food within easy reach, it’s much easier to eat.
It can be especially problematic if you tend to eat when you’re stressed or bored.
To stop the urge to reach for unhealthy snacks, keep them out of the house.
Today’s dinner plates are, on average, 44% larger than they were in the 1980s (
Larger plates have been linked to larger serving sizes, which means people are more likely to overeat (
In fact, one study found that people with larger dinner plates at a buffet ate 45% more food than those who used the smaller plate size (
Choosing a smaller plate is a simple trick that could keep your portion sizes on track and curb overeating.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables.
In fact, it’s estimated that around 87% of people in the United States don’t eat the recommended amount (
Filling half your plate with vegetables is an excellent way to increase your vegetable intake while cutting back on higher-calorie foods.
Drinking water before a meal may help you feel more satisfied, causing you to eat fewer calories (
As an example, one study found that drinking just 2 cups (500 ml) of water before a meal lowered calorie intake by around 13% (
Studies show that choosing a low-calorie starter, such as a light soup or salad, can keep you from overeating (
In fact, one study observed that eating soup before a main meal could reduce the total number of calories you eat by as much as 20% (
Taking your time with a meal and chewing slowly may help you feel full more quickly, which can help you eat less (
If you’re prone to eating in a rush, try putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls or counting the number of times you chew your food.
Sometimes even healthy, low-calorie meals like salads can be deceptively high in calories.
This is especially true when a salad comes with a large amount of high-calorie dressing poured over it.
If you like a dressing on your salad, order it on the side so you can control how much you’re using.
Confronted with large amounts of food, people are more likely to overeat (
This is one problem people face at all-you-can-eat buffets, at which it’s easy to eat far more than you intended.
To avoid overeating, you can try weighing and measuring your portions or using smaller plates, as suggested above.
Your environment plays a huge role in how much you eat from day to day.
Studies show that if you’re distracted while you eat, you’re much more likely to overeat, even at later meals (
In fact, one recent review found that people who were distracted while eating consumed 30% more snacks than those who were mindful about their meal (
Unhealthy distractions include watching TV, reading a book, using your mobile phone, or sitting at your computer while eating.
Most people are conditioned to eat everything put in front of them.
Still, you don’t need to eat all the food on your plate if you’re not hungry.
Instead, try eating mindfully.
This means eating with attention to what you’re doing and how you feel. With this awareness, you can eat just until you’re full, not until you’ve cleaned your plate (
Many popular brands of ice cream and chocolate come in small- as well as full-size versions.
If you want a sweet treat, choosing a smaller version of your favorite dessert can give you the fix you want and save you a lot of calories.
If you’re eating out, cut your portion by sharing your dessert with a friend.
Restaurants often serve huge portions that contain far more calories than you need in one sitting.
To avoid eating too much, ask your server to wrap up half of your meal before they serve it so you can take it home.
Alternatively, you could share with a friend.
One study found that people who successfully maintained weight loss often shared food or ordered half portions when they ate out (
This might sound a little awkward, but if you’re prone to eating quickly, eating with your non-dominant hand could be helpful.
It will slow you down so you eat less.
Eating more protein is considered a useful tool for weight loss and maintenance.
One reason for this is that protein can fill you up more than other nutrients, and feeling full can stop you from overeating.
To get these benefits, try including a high-protein food with most of your meals (
When you’re hungry, it’s tempting to reach for the pre-dinner nibbles at a restaurant.
However, this habit can add hundreds of calories to your meal, especially if you’re eating pieces of bread and butter.
Send the bread basket back to avoid eating a lot of calories before your main meal arrives.
Overly large portions are a primary reason for people overeating (
If you’re eating out and know a restaurant serves big portions, you can order two appetizers instead of an appetizer and a main course.
This way, you can enjoy two courses without overdoing it.
One way to cut a few calories is to adapt the meal you have chosen to eat.
For example, if you’re eating a burger, taking off the bun will save you around 160 calories — perhaps even more if the bun is really big (39).
You can even shave a few calories off your sandwich by removing one slice of bread to make your own open-faced sandwich, even if it’s not on the menu.
What’s more, swapping fries or potatoes for extra vegetables will boost your vegetable intake while cutting back on calories (
Many people are careful about what they eat during the week but then binge drink on weekends.
Choose clear alcohol with a low-calorie mixer over beer, wine, or a cocktail. This will help you avoid excessive calories from the drinks.
Sometimes, getting a larger drink or side for only a small increase in price may sound like a better deal.
However, most restaurants already serve oversized food and drink portions, so stick to the regular size.
Extra cheese is often an option in restaurants.
Still, even a single slice of cheese can add around 100 calories to your meal (41).
Cooking your own meals is a great way to keep your meals healthy and your calorie intake under control.
Nonetheless, some cooking methods are better than others if you’re trying to cut back on calories.
Grilling, air-frying, steaming, stewing, boiling or poaching are healthier options than frying in oil.
Creamy sauces not only have more calories but usually also include fewer vegetables.
If you have a choice, select a tomato-based sauce over a creamy one to get the double benefit of fewer calories and more healthy vegetables.
Not all convenience foods are unhealthy, but many contain hidden fats and sugars.
It’s much easier to spot healthy options if you know how to read food labels. You should also check the serving size and number of calories, so you know how many calories you’re really consuming.
Whole fruits pack fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them an excellent addition to your diet.
Additionally, compared to fruit juice, fruits are difficult to overeat, as they fill you up (
Whenever possible, choose whole fruits over fruit juice. They’re more filling and contain more nutrients with fewer calories.
If you like eating snacks, such as chips and dips, while watching TV but want to cut back on calories, simply opt for healthy vegetables instead.
Eating the skin on your meat adds extra calories to your meal.
For example, a skinless roasted chicken breast is around 142 calories. The same breast with skin contains 193 calories (44, 45).
If a meal is delicious, you may be tempted to go back for more.
However, indulging in a second serving can make it difficult to assess how much you’ve eaten, which may make you consume more than you intended.
Go for a reasonably sized portion the first time and skip seconds.
Pizza is a popular fast food that can be very high in calories.
If you want to enjoy some pizza, keep the calories to a minimum by choosing a thinner crust and lower-calorie toppings, such as vegetables.
Intermittent fasting is a popular weight loss method that can help you cut calories.
This approach to dieting works by cycling your eating patterns between periods of fasting and eating.
It’s very effective for weight loss, as it makes it easier to reduce the number of calories you eat over time (
There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting, so it’s easy to find a method that works for you.
Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity (
In fact, people who don’t sleep well tend to weigh more than those who are regularly well rested (
One reason is that sleepless people are likely to be hungrier and eat more calories (
If you’re trying to cut calories and lose weight, make sure you consistently get a good night’s sleep.