Cutting calories doesn’t have to be tedious. Instead, just make a few tiny tweaks and reap major benefits.
1. Eat your eggs with hot sauce instead of cheese.
“Eggs are great for breakfast, but many people consider eggs and cheese to be BFFs,” says Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, founder of Foodtrainers. “Instead of cheese—1 oz. of cheddar has 114 calories—top your eggs with hot sauce, which contains no calories and helps with satiety and metabolism. Plus, you need a little spice in the new year!”
2. Top your toast, waffles or pancakes with mashed berries instead of jelly or syrup.
“Half a cup of berries—fresh, frozen or thawed—has about 40 calories, compared with 2 tbsp. of maple syrup or jelly, which both have about 100 calories,” says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, Clinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Dubin Breast Cancer of the Tisch Cancer Institute of The Mount Sinai Hospital. “Plus, who only uses 2 tbsp. of syrup? The berries will also give you a good punch of fiber, which helps keep you full and satisfied and won’t spike blood sugar quickly like the jelly or syrup.”
3. Swap the non-fat latte for black coffee with a splash of half-and-half.
“Contrary to its name, that non-fat latte has 130 calories and a startling 19g of carbohydrates per 16 oz. serving,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, creator of the F-Factor Diet. “Replacing that ‘light’ drinkable dessert with a black coffee with a splash of half-and-half saves you more than 100 calories per 16 oz. serving.”
4. Sprinkle salads with freeze-dried raspberries instead of dried cranberries.
“If you want a sweet addition to your nutritious salad, stay away from dried cranberries,” cautions Zuckerbrot. “They have a whopping 130 calories per ¼ cup and 30g carbohydrates. Instead, sprinkle freeze-dried raspberries guilt-free and save more than 100 calories per ¼ cup serving, adding 3g of belly-filling fiber.”
5. Go for mustard in place of mayo on your sandwich.
“Mustard can add really nice flavor to any sandwich, and there are tons of varieties, from spicy to honey,” says Hogan. “A serving of mayo is 95 calories, versus 10 calories in a serving of mustard.”
6. Choose a DIY salad dressing instead of the store-bought kind.
“Again, mustard is your friend,” says Hogan. “Mix Dijon or whole grain mustard with low-fat Kefir or red wine vinegar and garlic.”
7. Use hummus as a spread instead of a dip.
“With 70 calories in a 2 tbsp. serving, using hummus as a dip can turn healthy crudités into a high-calorie snack,” says Zuckerbrot. “Instead, use hummus as a spread on a high-fiber cracker or tortilla with a sandwich and save on calories without sacrificing taste.”
8. Pick just one salad “accessory.”
“Salad isn’t automatically a calorie winner,” says Slayton. “It’s easy to over-accessorize with toppings. Instead of topping your salad with nuts, avocado and cranberries (all three will clock in at 313 calories), just pick one. The next day, choose a different accessory, which will also keep your salad interesting. You don’t wear all your jewelry every day, right?”
9. Ditch the white pasta in favor of spaghetti squash.
“One cup of cooked spaghetti squash has about 40 calories, compared with traditional spaghetti, which comes with more than 200,” says Hogan. “Spaghetti squash is also nutrient-dense. It’s a good source of fiber and Vitamins A and C, and it can be eaten just like you would eat pasta—with a great tomato sauce and turkey meatballs or with pesto, tofu and spinach, for example.”
10. Dress up your chili, soups and stews with non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
“Just a ‘dollop’ of sour cream can set you back 115 calories and a whopping 12g of fat—seven of which are of the artery-clogging variety,” says Zuckerbrot. “Added bonus: Greek yogurt is packed with muscle-building protein, calcium and B Vitamins.”
11. Mash cauliflower instead of potatoes.
“One cup of traditional mashed potatoes—in all their creamy goodness—has more than 200 calories, compared to mashed cauliflower, which you can typically eat for less than 100 calories per 1 cup serving,” says Hogan. “Cauliflower is a great source of the antioxidant indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which may help reduce the risk of some cancers, like breast cancer.”
12. Ditch the ice cream sundae in favor of a Greek yogurt parfait.
“Instead of a cup of ice cream or fro-yo for dessert, try 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs,” says Hogan. “Both toppings are packed with antioxidants, which can help reduce cellular inflammation and oxidative damage. And the comparison is a no-brainer: One cup of ice cream has about 275 calories; one cup of frozen yogurt has about 230; and a cup of Greek yogurt has just 130, plus twice the protein, so you’re less likely to return to the freezer for a second helping.”
13. Put olive oil in a spray container instead of using it directly from the bottle.
“Each tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories and 15g of fat,” says Zuckerbrot. “Use a mister instead of pouring it straight into the pan or onto a salad. This allows for portion control and will save you more than 100 calories.”
14. When baking, substitute canned pumpkin for butter or oil.
“Canned pumpkin—not pumpkin pie mix—is loaded with Vitamin A, which is important for skin and eye health, as well as immunity,” says Hogan. “And the comparisons are pretty crazy: ½ cup of canned pumpkin has about 40 calories, compared to butter or oil, which has more than 800 calories. Yes, 800 calories. Applesauce and mashed banana can also serve as good substitutions for butter or oil, usually in a 1:1 ratio.”
15. Top casseroles with high-fiber cereal instead of breadcrumbs.
“Breadcrumbs are typically made with white bread, while breakfast cereals contain 5–9g of fiber per serving,” says Zuckerbrot. “Not only will you save more than 150 calories per ½ cup serving, the swap will also keep you more full and you’ll get a metabolism boost from the added fiber.”
16. Snack on pistachios instead of macadamia nuts.
“Believe it or not, you get the same amount of calories from 35 pistachios (100 calories) as you would from only five macadamia nuts,” says Zuckerbrot.
17. Chow down on kale chips rather than potato chips.
“This is my favorite ‘don’t knock it ’till you try it’ swap,” says Hogan. “Kale chips are so easy to make at home, and you can spice them up with a little grated parmesan or chili powder. Plus, they’re a mere fraction of the calories of potato chips, but with the same crunch factor we crave so often.”
18. Add seltzer and some fruit slices to your cocktail instead of soda or fruit juice.
“One cup of soda or fruit juice can pack on as much as 140 calories,” says Zuckerbrot. “Instead, use seltzer and fruit slices. The fruit provides valuable phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and anthocyanins, which help to combat cancer and stave off the aging process.”
—by Alison Feller