Losing weight is often viewed as a difficult chore, but there are several ways to reduce your calorie consumption that are so easy, you’ll barely notice the changes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that childhood obesity has tripled since 1980. Since overweight children are more likely to grow into overweight adults, the health risks associated with obesity can plague a person their entire life. Balancing the amount of calories consumed with the amount burned is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
It may seem counterintuitive to reduce your calorie consumption by eating more food, but if you’re willing to eat the right things, you can consume fewer calories without ever being hungry. Instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t eat, incorporate more fresh vegetables, whole grains and legumes into your diet. For example, start dinner with green salad tossed with chopped, raw veggies, a serving of chickpeas and a teaspoon of low-fat dressing. The bulk of the raw vegetables and the protein from the chickpeas will curb hunger and help you to eat less of the main meal without going hungry.
Small changes do add up. Substituting just one cup of whole milk with skim milk saves 63 calories. Switching full-fat products for low- or non-fat products can save hundreds of calories a week. Use reduced-calorie margarine instead of butter, fat-free sour cream and fat-free cream cheese instead of the full-fat versions and low-fat salad dressings instead of your usual favorites. Look for reduced-calorie versions of your favorite canned soups, mayonnaise, chips and other snacks.
Portion sizes have increased dramatically over the last 30 years in the U.S., and many people have little or no idea what a healthy portion is even supposed to look like. Reading labels is a great crash course in portion awareness; you may be surprised to learn that many of the foods you consume in entirety are intended to serve two or more people. The latest version of the USDA food pyramid is called “MyPlate” and advises people to visualize their plate divided into quarters – with two of the quarters being slightly larger. One of the large quarters should be filled with vegetables and the other with whole grains, while one of the smaller quarters hold fruit and the other protein. Keeping your portions in check will not only help you consume fewer calories at each meal, but will also make sure you’re eating a healthy variety of foods every day.
Perhaps the easiest way to reduce calorie consumption is to rethink the way you prepare your favorite recipes. Reduce the amount of sugar in baked goods by half, and substitute half of the butter or oil in baked goods with a mashed banana or unsweetened applesauce; it won’t affect the baking process and chances are you won’t notice a difference in the taste. Use non-stick cooking spray instead of butter or shortening for sautéing and frying. Apply some culinary creativity in your everyday cooking and you'll cut hundreds of calories without cutting the favorite foods from your diet.