35 Simple Ways to Cut Lots of Calories

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn.

However, reducing the amount of food you eat can be difficult in the long run.

Here are 35 simple but highly effective ways to cut lots of calories and lose weight.

1. Count Your Calories

Calories in Cookies vs. Calories in an Orange

One way to make sure you don’t eat too many calories is to count them.

In the past, logging calories was quite time-consuming. However, modern phone apps have made it quicker and easier than ever before to track what you eat (1).

Some apps, such as Noom Coach, also offer daily lifestyle tips to help keep you motivated. This may be more useful than just logging your intake as it could help you form long-term healthy habits (2, 3, 4).

This article here lists the 5 best calorie counters and nutrition trackers.

2. Use Less Sauce

Adding ketchup or mayonnaise to your food can add more calories than you think. In fact, only 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise will add an extra 57 calories to your meal (5).

If you use a lot of sauce, try eating a bit less (or not using it at all) to reduce the number of calories you’re eating.

3. Don’t Drink Your Calories

Sugar Cubes in a Glass

Drinks can be a forgotten source of calories in your diet.

Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, are high in calories. They’re also linked to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes (6, 7).

A single 16-ounce (half-liter) bottle of Coke can contain nearly 200 calories, including 44 grams of sugar (8).

One study suggests that drinking lots of sugar-sweetened beverages not only adds lots of unnecessary calories to your diet — it may also increase your hunger later on (9).

You might want to cut back on other high-sugar, high-calorie drinks as well. These include sugar-sweetened fruit juices and smoothies, some commercially produced coffees and alcohol.

4. Don’t Add Sugar to Tea and Coffee

Tea and coffee are healthy, low-calorie drinks.

However, adding just one teaspoon of sugar adds around 16 calories to your drink.

Although this might not sound like much, the calories in a few cups or glasses of sugar-sweetened tea a day can add up.

5. Cook Your Own Food

Stir Fry Pan With Vegetables

When you buy food prepared by someone else, you don’t always know what’s in it.

Even meals you think are healthy or low-calorie can contain hidden sugars and fats, bumping up their calorie content.

Cooking your own food will give you better control over the number of calories you’re eating.

6. Don’t Keep Junk Food in the House

If you keep junk food within easy reach, it’s much easier to eat.

It can be especially problematic if you’re the sort of person who eats when you’re stressed or bored.

To stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks, keep them out of the house.

7. Use Smaller Plates

Woman's Hands Holding a Stack of Plates

Today’s dinner plates are, on average, approximately 44% larger than they were in the 1980s (10).

Interestingly, larger plates have been linked with larger serving sizes, which means people are more likely to overeat (11,12, 13, 14, 15).

In fact, one study found that, at a buffet, people with larger dinner plates ate 45% more food than those who used the smaller plate size (16).

Choosing a smaller plate is a simple trick that could keep your portion sizes on track and curb overeating.

8. Bulk Up Meals With Vegetables

Most people don’t eat enough vegetables.

In fact, it’s estimated that around 87% of people in the United States don’t eat the recommended amount (17).

Filling half your plate with vegetables is an excellent way to increase your vegetable intake while cutting back on higher-calorie foods.

9. Drink Water Before Your Meal

Small Glass of Water

Drinking water before a meal could help you feel more satisfied, causing you to eat fewer calories (18, 19, 20, 21).

As an example, one study found that drinking just 2 cups (500 ml) of water before a meal lowered calorie intake by around 13% (22).

Drinking water could also help you lose weight (23, 24).

10. Have a Low-Calorie Starter

Studies show that choosing a low-calorie starter such as soup or salad can keep you from overeating (25, 26).

In fact, one study found that eating soup before a main meal could reduce the total amount of calories you eat by as much as 20% (27).

11. Eat Your Meals Slowly

Taking your time over a meal and chewing slowly may help you feel full more quickly. This can help you eat less (28, 29, 30, 31, 32).

If you’re prone to eating in a rush, try putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls or counting the number of times you chew your food.

12. Order High-Calorie Dressings on the Side

Salad with Dressing on the Side

Sometimes even healthy, low-calorie meal choices such as salads can be deceptively high in calories.

This is especially true when a salad comes with a large amount of high-calorie dressing poured over it.

If you like a dressing on your salad, order it on the side so you can control the amount you’re using.

13. Watch Your Portion Size

Confronted with large amounts of food, people are more likely to overeat (14, 33).

This is one problem people face at “all-you-can-eat” buffets, where it is easy to eat far more than you intended.

To avoid overeating, you can try weighing and measuring your portions — or using smaller plates, as suggested above.

14. Eat Without Distractions

The environment plays a huge role in how much people eat from day to day.

Studies show that if you’re distracted while you eat, you’re much more likely to overeat, even at later meals (34).

In fact, one recent review found people who were distracted while eating consumed 30% more snacks than those who were mindful about their meal (31).

Unhealthy distractions while you’re eating include watching TV, reading a book, using your mobile phone or sitting at your computer.

15. Don’t Clean Your Plate

Plate with Leftover Pasta

Most people are conditioned to eat everything put in front of them.

However, you don’t need to eat all the food on your plate if you’re not hungry.

Instead, try eating mindfully.

This means eating with attention to what you’re doing and how you feel. With this awareness, you can eat just until you’re full and not keep eating until you’ve cleaned your plate (35, 36).

16. Eat Mini Versions of Sweets and Desserts

Lots of popular brands of ice creams and chocolate come in small “kid’s” sizes, as well as full-size versions.

If you want a sweet treat, choosing a smaller version of your favorite dessert can give you the fix you want and save you a lot of calories.

If you’re eating out, cut your portion by sharing your dessert with a friend.

17. Take Half Home When Eating Out

To Go Food Box

Restaurants often serve huge portions that contain far more calories than you need in one sitting.

To avoid eating too much, ask your server to wrap up half of your meal before they serve it, so you can take it home.

Alternatively, you could share with a friend.

One study found people who successfully maintained weight loss often shared food or ordered half portions when they ate out (37).

18. Eat With Your Non-Dominant Hand

This might sound a little awkward, but if you’re prone to eating quickly, eating with your non-dominant hand could be helpful.

Eating with the “wrong” hand will slow you down, so you eat less.

19. Include Protein at Every Meal

Plate with Halibut and Some Vegetables

Eating more protein is considered a useful tool for weight loss and maintenance.

One reason for this is that protein can fill you up more than other nutrients, and feeling full can stop you from overeating.

To get these benefits, try including a high-protein food with most of your meals (38).

20. Don’t Touch the Bread Basket

When you’re hungry, it’s so easy to reach for the pre-dinner nibbles at a restaurant.

However, this habit can add hundreds of calories to your meal, especially if you’re eating pieces of bread and butter.

Send the bread basket back to avoid eating lots of calories before your main meal arrives.

21. Order Two Appetizers

Overly large portions are a primary reason that people end up overeating (14, 33).

If you’re eating out and know a restaurant serves big portions, you can avoid temptation by ordering two appetizers instead of an appetizer and a main course.

This way, you can enjoy two courses without overdoing it.

22. Make Healthy Swaps

Open Sandwich with Roast Beef

One way to cut a few calories is to adapt the meal you have chosen to eat.

For example, if you’re eating a burger, taking off the bun will save you around 160 calories — perhaps even more if the bun is really big (39).

You can even shave a few calories off your sandwich by removing one slice of bread to make your own “open” sandwich, even if it’s not on the menu.

Swapping fries or potatoes for extra vegetables will also give your vegetable intake a boost while cutting back on calories (40).

23. Choose Lower-Calorie Alcoholic Beverages

Lots of people are careful about what they eat during the week but then binge drink on weekends.

Choose clear alcohol with a low-calorie mixer over beer, wine or a cocktail. This will help you avoid excessive calories from the drinks.

24. Don’t Go Large

Sometimes, getting a larger drink or side for only a small increase in price may sound like a better deal.

However, most restaurants already serve oversized food and drink portions, so stick to the regular size.

25. Skip the Extra Cheese

Extra cheese is often an option in restaurants.

However, even a single slice of cheese can add around 100 calories to your meal (41).

26. Change Your Cooking Methods

Whole Vegetables in a Pot

Cooking your own meals is a great way to keep your meals healthy and your calorie intake under control.

However, if you’re trying to cut back on calories, then some cooking methods are better than others.

To cut back on the number of extra calories you’re adding to your food, choose grilling, steam frying, boiling or poaching over frying in oil.

27. Choose Tomato-Based Sauces Instead of Creamy Ones

Creamy sauces not only contain more calories — they usually contain fewer vegetables as well.

If you have a choice, choose a tomato-based sauce over a creamy one to get the double benefit of fewer calories and more healthy vegetables.

28. Learn to Read Food Labels

Not all convenience foods are unhealthy, but many contain hidden fats and sugars.

If you know how to read food labels, it’s much easier to spot the healthy options. You should also check the number of calories per serving and what the serving size is, so you know how many calories you’re actually consuming.

29. Eat Whole Fruits

Cut Oranges

Whole fruits contain lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so they’re a really healthy addition to your diet.

And, compared with fruit juice, fruits are difficult to overconsume because they fill you up (42, 43).

Whenever possible, choose whole fruits over fruit juice. They’re more filling and contain more nutrients with fewer calories.

30. Dip Vegetables, Not Chips

If you like eating snacks such as chips and dips while watching TV but want to cut back on calories, simply opt for healthy vegetables instead.

31. Don’t Eat the Skin

Two Grilled Chicken Breasts

Eating the skin on your meat adds extra calories to your meal.

For example, a skinless roasted chicken breast is around 142 calories. The same breast with skin contains 193 calories, or 50 extra calories (44, 45).

32. Skip Seconds

If a meal is delicious, you may be really tempted to go back for more.

However, indulging in seconds can make it difficult to assess how much you have eaten, and you can end up eating more than you intended.

Go for a reasonably sized portion the first time and skip seconds.

33. Choose Thin Crust

Pizza is a popular fast food that can be very high in calories.

If you want to enjoy some pizza, keep the calories to a minimum by choosing a thinner crust and lower-calorie toppings, such as vegetables.

34. Try Intermittent Fasting

Fork, Knife and Empty Plate

Intermittent fasting is a popular weight loss method that can help you cut calories.

This approach to dieting works by cycling your eating patterns between periods of fasting and periods of eating.

It is very effective for weight loss because it makes it easier to reduce the number of calories you eat over time (46, 47).

There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting. For full details on the potential health benefits and how to get started, read this article.

35. Get Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep has been linked with obesity (48).

In fact, people who don’t sleep well tend to weigh more than those who are regularly well-rested (49, 50).

One reason is that people who have poor sleep are likely to be hungrier and eat more calories (51, 52).

If you’re trying to cut calories and lose weight, make sure you consistently get a good night’s sleep.

The Bottom Line

Losing weight can be a challenge — in part because it’s so easy to consume more calories than you need to fuel your body.

These tips provide easy ways to cut out those extra calories, get the needle on your scales to budge and make real progress toward your weight goals.