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Easy Ways to Trim Calories

It’s simpler than you may think!

woman holding fruit on one hand and cake in the other hand

We all know it’s important to eat well and exercise. It can help us get to and stay at a healthy body weight, increase our energy and decrease our risk of chronic disease. But making healthy changes to our lives can feel overwhelming — especially if we don’t know where to start. Instead of tackling everything at once, try taking small steps toward change. Your gradual strides can pay off in a big way.

One of those small steps — make a choice each day that reduces your calories just a little. It’s all about good nutrition and calorie balance. If you consume more calories than your body uses, you gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than your body uses, you lose weight. So a step toward balancing what you take in and what you use is a step toward a healthy weight.

If you’re looking to shave calories from your diet, try eating just 100 fewer calories each day. Here are some quick hit ideas that are easy to do. Choose one or two today based on your eating habits. Then try a different one another day to see what works for you.

Cheesy ideas

We get important vitamins and minerals from dairy. But a lot of the dairy we consume is high in saturated fat or sugar. Here are some ideas to cut some dairy calories.

  • Use milk, not cream, when you whip up mashed potatoes.
  • Switch from whole milk to low-fat or fat-free milk in your cereal.
  • When you cook, use cooking spray instead of butter.
  • Skip the cheese on your sandwich or burger.
  • Order pasta with red sauce rather than creamy alfredo.

Sweet ideas

Healthy eating patterns have room for us to enjoy some sweet goodness. But too much added sugar can often take us over a healthy calorie limit. Check out these ideas for reducing sugar calories.

  • Instead of regular ice cream, try a half-cup of sugar-free, fat-free pudding or slow-churned, reduced-calorie ice cream.
  • Swap out that sugary dessert for fresh, seasonal fruit.
  • If you really want a chocolate bar, go for a fun-sized one instead of a regular or king-sized one.
  • Enjoy peaches in 100% fruit juice instead of heavy syrup.

Liquid ideas

Did you know that in the U.S. we actually drink a lot of the added sugars we consume? You could try changing up what you drink. It may be a good way to get rid of some extra calories.

  • Treat yourself to sparkling water or a low-calorie drink in place of sugary beverages like soda or sports drinks.
  • Have an unsweetened iced tea instead of a glass of orange juice or lemonade.
  • Drink your coffee black instead of adding anything. Or switch to a fat-free milk or sugar-free syrup.

Salty ideas

Whether it’s your favorite savory entrée or salty snack, you can make some small changes that still leave you satisfied.

  • Take the skin off poultry. Trim fat from beef, pork and chicken.
  • Do you like bacon? Try turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.
  • Dip raw vegetables instead of chips in your salsa or fat-free ranch.
  • Snack on air-popped popcorn instead of the oil-popped kind.

Big ideas

One step to healthier eating patterns for most Americans is to eat smaller amounts. These are some things you can try to make changes for yourself.

  • Downsize your serving of fries from a large to a small.
  • Check the serving size printed on your favorite snack. Put that much in a bowl instead of grabbing the whole bag.
  • When eating out, split a meal with a friend or take home half and enjoy it another day.
  • When eating at home, use a smaller plate so you don’t overfill a large one.

Pretty simple. Remember, you don’t have to do it all. Pick something that works for you. It can be something from this list, or you can get creative and choose a different way to cut just a few calories today. Then give it a shot. Each step to balancing your nutritional calorie intake with how much energy your body uses is a step in the right direction. And each of those little steps can add up to healthier habits over time.

By Molly Oberstar, Contributing Writer and Michael Phillips, Contributing Writer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Finding a balance. Accessed: November 4, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cutting calories. Accessed: November 8, 2021.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accessed: November 8, 2021.

Last Updated: November 10, 2021