Tips for Cutting Calories: Small changes, Big impact.

As a Dietitian, when I am trying to steer people in the right direction, it’s good to be flexible and work with people’s likes and dislikes. I don’t think it’s good practice to be very condemning and rigid, so if you have seen a Dietitian that only practices the “it’s my way or the highway” approach, you should seek the help of a Dietitian that has a more accomodating approach. I spend a lot of time coming up with ways that people can cut calories without giving up everything that they enjoy. Most of the time this means finding substitutions with less fat, sugar, salt, etc., but sometimes it’s as simple as eating less and practicing good portion control.  I am offering some suggestions that can really add up in terms of cutting calories and helping you to lose weight or at least prevent yearly weight gain. Small changes can lead to great gains. 

  1. Change from half and half or flavored creamer to lowfat milk in coffee. Either replace it or cut in half. Half and Half has 20 calories/1.7 gm fat per Tbsp versus 2% Milk, which has 7.6 calories/0.3gm fat per Tbsp. Also, Try flavored coffee versus flavored creamer or syrup in coffee. An 8 ounce cup of Vanilla coffee has about 5 calories , however 1 ounce of Vanilla syrup has between 70 and 80 calories. Sugar-free syrups have very few calories, however they do contain artificial sweeteners. 
  2. Dilute fruit juice with water - start with a 1:1 ratio (half juice, half water), and gradually reduce. This is what I have always done for my kids, so now 100% juice is too sweet. Every 8 ounces of juice has about 110-120 calories, so by cutting it in half, you can save 50-60 calories per cup! Eventually, I would recommend adding 1 ounce of juice for every 3 ounces of water, drinking no more than 4 ounces per day. 
  3. Love chocolate? Indulge in the miniature versions of your favorite chocolate bar versus the original size. Compare a regular Snickers bar with 250 calories/12gm fat to 2 Fun Size Snickers with 160 calories/8gm fat. An original Hershey’s Chocolate bar has 210 calories/13 gm fat, while 3 of the Hershey’s miniatures carry 126 calories and 7.8gm fat. Or, you can get a little oat fiber and less fat by having a dark chocolate covered granola bar, which has 140 calories and 5gm fat.  
  4. Switch from mayonnaise to mustard for a sandwich. Cut mayo in half in chicken/tuna/egg salads and replace with greek yogurt, mustard, or light sour cream. Mayonnaise provides a heavy calorie content of 90 calories per Tbsp (regular). Mayonnaise is oil- and egg-based, but Mustard is vinegar- and water-based, with only 5 calories per tsp. One serving of regular mayonnaise at Subway adds an extra 110 calories, whereas regular mustard adds less than calories. 1 Tbsp Light sour cream has about 20 calories, and 1 Tbsp Plain Greek Yogurt has 10-20 calories (non-fat and light). 
  5. Skip the heavier cocktail and have a spritzer drink with seltzer, a splash of fruit juice (and maybe even a splash of alcohol). The average 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories, a 5 ounce glass of wine has approximately 125 calories, and 1 ounce of liquor (vodka, tequila) has the most calories per ounce, at 64 calories. The specialty drinks like pina coladas, cosmopolitans, and daiquiris have even more calories, often ranging from 150-300 calories each. 
  6. Change a pound of ground beef in your chili or spaghetti sauce to a pound of lean ground bison/buffalo or lean ground turkey. They are lower in fat (calories) than beef, but I think that ground bison actually has a texture and feel closer to that of ground beef. For comparison: 1 ounce lean ground bison has 48 calories/3gm fat, 1 ounce ground turkey has 66 calories/4gm fat, 1 ounce 90% lean ground beef has 64 calories, 3gm fat, and 1 ounce ground chuck has 76 calories/5gm fat.  
  7. Instead of a meatless meal with cheese, consider using broiled, roasted or steamed seafood or beans or tofu as a protein. Some people actually increase their caloric intake when they prepare a meatless meal vs a meal with meat, vegetables and starch. I think people try to incorporate meatless meals to be healthier, but you shouldn't choose ones with a lot of cheese and other high-fat or high-sugar ingredients. . For comparison of meat-alternatives, 3 oz of steamed shrimp provides about 90 calories, 18 gm protein; 3 large boiled eggs have about 224 calories, 18 gm protein; 3 ounces of baked cod (no seasoning) has 90 calories, 20 gm protein; 3 ounces of tofu is comparable in calories (90 calories), but has approximately half the protein (10gm). 3 ounces of cheese has about 300 calories, 21 gm protein.   
  8. Skip the cheese on a sandwich – This applies more to the larger sandwiches and subs purchased at restaurants like Subway and Jimmy John’s. You save about 100 calories for every 1 ounce of cheese you don't eat. 
  9. Choose a regular or light vinaigrette salad dressing instead of a creamy dressing. Consider making your own with vinegar, olive oil, herbs and spices.  If you don’t eat the blue cheese dressing that comes with the wings, you save a bunch of calories! I looked at Kraft Salad dressings, since they are pretty popular, and did a comparison. 2 Tbsp of salad dressing provides: 120 calories/12 gm fat for Chunky Blue Cheese, 90 calories/8gm fat for Balsalmic Vinaigrette, and Zesty Italian is the lowest with 50 calories/4.5gm fat. . 
  10. Instead of pouring oil, use an oil mister! Pouring oil into a pan without measuring is dangerous for calories, even if it is “EVOO, once around the pan.” Every Tablespoon of Olive oil has about 119 calories, 13.5 gm fat, so unless you are cooking for at least 4 people, either use 1-2 tsp of oil per person, or MIST IT ON to spread it thinly and evenly. 
  11. Replace 1 cup of rice with 1 cup of spaghetti squash, butternut squash or riced cauliflower. 1 cup of steamed white rice contains about 190 calories, compared to 42 calories in spaghetti squash, 82 calories in butternut squash, and only 30-50 calories per cup in riced cauliflower! Even 1 cup of corn has 60 less calories than the rice. 
  12. Don't snack on nuts. I tell my weight loss clients that nuts are high in fat, therefore high in calories, and should be treated like butter, cheese, and other fats, I recommend using nuts as an "accent" to meals and snacks, rather than being a primary source. Sprinkle them on a salad or oatmeal, but don't eat them out of a bag. An appropriate portion of nuts is about 1/2 (83 calories) - 1 ounce (166 calories). Compare this to the 400 calories that are in only 1/2 cup of nuts! That's only a few handfuls! 

Please keep in mind that I tried to obtain nutritional information directly from labels or from the websites: (USDA Food Composition Database),, Information should be taken as approximate, not exact.