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Healthy eating and exercise for life

Tips for Trimming Extra Calories

Lesson OnePeriodically during weight loss, you’ll reach a point when the scale doesn’t budge. These “plateaus” are normal, so don’t get discouraged. Instead, return to four tried-and-true strategies for weight loss success:

  1. Start keeping a food diary again every day. When you don’t keep track of what you eat, it’s easy to consume more calories than you intend. Food records will help you identify those unrealized extras.
  2. Go back to measuring what you eat whenever you’re at home. Downsizing your portions is an easy way to reduce calories, and if you haven’t been measuring for a while, it’s time for a refresher course.
  3. Crank up your physical activity. If you’re currently aiming for 30 minutes of exercise, build your time to 45 minutes. If you’ve been exercising five days a week, add some form of activity on the other two days. If you’re using a pedometer, walk an extra mile (about 2000 steps).
  4.  Use the Modify My Calorie Plan tool  to revise your "daily calories to lose weight" goal.

Here are some additional tips for trimming extra calories:

  • Use skim milk, fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free yogurt, and low-fat cheese instead of full-fat dairy products.
  • Choose light flavored yogurts with calorie-free sweetener.
  • Eat whole fruits or fruit salad instead of sweet desserts.
  • Use mustard or reduced-fat mayonnaise on sandwiches instead of regular mayonnaise or sandwich spread.
  • Use fat-free or light mayonnaise in tuna and chicken salad.
  • Use a small bowl for your morning cereal.
  • Eat bread and rolls without added butter.
  • Try sugar-free fruit spread on toast.
  • Split a bagel or save half for the next morning.
  • Spread your bagel with fat-free cream cheese.
  • Season cooked vegetables with lemon and herbs, butter-flavored sprinkles, or low-fat salad dressing.
  • Top a small baked potato with fat-free Ranch dressing, fat-free sour cream, low-fat cheese, or salsa.
  • Eliminate gravy on mashed potatoes.
  • Trim all fat from meats, fish, and poultry, and prepare without added fat (by grilling, baking, broiling, or poaching).
  • Remove the skin from chicken, turkey, and duck.
  • Eat Canadian bacon instead of bacon or sausage.
  • For sandwiches, choose turkey, chicken, lean roast beef, or lean ham instead of bologna or salami.
  • Buy tuna packed in water, rather than oil.
  • Limit meat portions to 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards).
  • Top a small serving of whole wheat pasta with meatless spaghetti sauce, fresh zucchini, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
  • Use a nonstick skillet and nonstick cooking spray to prepare eggs and fried foods.
  • Make an omelet with two egg whites and one egg yolk. Fill with sautéed onions, spinach, peppers, and mushrooms (cooked with nonstick cooking spray).
  • Use light whipped butter or a reduced-calorie spread in place of regular butter.
  • Eat sorbet instead of ice cream.
  • Order a skinny latte made with skim milk.
  • Make dips, casseroles, and appetizers with fat-free sour cream and low-fat cheese.
  • Make a main dish salad by mixing spinach leaves with grilled chicken, fresh fruit (such as apples, blueberries, or strawberries), and a sprinkling of almonds.
  • Order a thin crust pizza with vegetable toppings.
  • Have salad dressing on the side, and dip your fork into the dressing before taking a bite of salad.
  • Use whole wheat bread for sandwiches instead of a croissant or bagel.
  • Keep track of the chips, crackers, or bread that you eat while waiting to be served in a restaurant.
  • Order broth-based soups, rather than soups with a cream base.
  • If a sandwich comes with French fries or potato chips, request extra lettuce and tomatoes instead.
  • Order burgers and sandwiches without cheese.
  • Choose pasta with red sauce, rather than cream-based sauce.
  • Instead of ordering a full entrée at a restaurant, consider an appetizer with soup or salad.
  • Use half the amount of butter or oil specified for boxed side dishes (such as rice or pasta mixes, macaroni and cheese, or stuffing)—or omit the fat completely.
  • Grill a sandwich with non-stick cooking spray, rather than butter or oil.
  • As soon as your restaurant entrée is served, set aside half to take home (or split the meal with a companion).
  • Leave two bites on your plate at each meal.
  • Order taco salad without cheese or sour cream, and leave the shell uneaten.
  • Spoon less rice on your plate when dining at a Chinese restaurant.
  • Eat half a sandwich at lunch with a hard-cooked egg, carrot sticks, and fresh fruit.
  • Eat a few bites of good chocolate instead of an entire candy bar.
  • Have a sliver or a taste of dessert instead of a full serving.
  • Make a sundae with fresh berries and banana slices on a small scoop of low-fat ice cream.
  • Have a single dip ice cream cone instead of a double dip.
  • Use a custard dish or tea cup to limit your serving of ice cream.
  • Have a slice of angel food cake topped with fresh fruit in place of regular cake with frosting (or eat a cupcake instead of a slice of cake).
  • Choose fruit pie over other varieties, and leave part of the crust uneaten.
  • Eat canned fruit packed in water or natural juice, rather than heavy syrup.
  • Bake a cored apple in the microwave, filled with cinnamon and a few raisins.
  • Eat baked tortilla chips dipped in salsa, rather than regular tortilla chips with melted cheese (and keep track of the number you eat).
  • Sprinkle granola sparingly on yogurt or whole grain cereal, rather than eating an entire bowl of granola for breakfast.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit yourself to one light beer, a five-ounce glass or wine, or a wine spritzer.