Ericka McConnell

By Shaun Chavis
From Health magazine

The most basic way to lose weight is to slash calories. That’s Diet 101. But how many do you really have to cut or burn to see results? It’s simple: You can drop a pound a week by trimming 500 calories each day. (Calories burned are based on a 150-pound woman.)

In fact, do a couple of swaps a day and you can drop 10 pounds in 5 weeks! So try these 50 easy tweaks—and get the slim body you want in no time.

1. Shake your groove thing. Dance for just 2 hours and torch 500 calories. (A little air guitar will burn a few extra calories, too.)

2. Get enough sleep. A lack of shut-eye can make you snack, new research from the University of Chicago shows. People who got only 5 1/2 hours of sleep noshed more during the day. Snooze more and save about 1,087 calories.

3. Don’t eat in front of the TV. You’ll eat up to 288 calories more, according to research from the University of Massachusetts. Instead, eat at the table, and trade 1 hour of TV for a casual walk. Together, that’s 527 calories burned.

4. Get in tune with your tummy. Pay attention to how full you feel, and put down your fork when you’re satisfied. Listen to your body’s cues—instead of looking at whether the plate is clean—and save up to 500 calories a day.

5. Limit dinner guests. Eating with seven or more other guests can make you eat 96% more food, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. That’s like doubling your dinner! Dine with fewer guests to save 500 or more calories.


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Slim your habits

6. Simple tricks to fill up (with less!). For breakfast, eat 2 boiled or poached eggs. (You’ll feel fuller and eat about 416 fewer calories the rest of the day.) Before lunch and dinner, enjoy 1 cup low-cal soup. (You’ll eat about 134 calories less at each meal.) And save a total of 684 calories for the day.

7. Limit salad toppings. A big salad might seem healthy, but all those goodies on top can make it more calorie-laden than lasagna or fettuccine Alfredo. Cheese crumbles, caramelized nuts, bacon, avocado, dried fruit, croutons, and vinaigrettes can add lots of calories. Save 500 or more calories by having just one topping, adding flavorful but lower-cal veggies (roasted bell peppers, grilled onions, or mushrooms), and using half the dressing.

8. Don’t clean your plate. Leave 25% of your food on the plate at every meal, says weight-loss expert James O. Hill, PhD, author of The Step Diet. If you normally eat 2,000 calories or more each day, you’ll cut 500 calories.

9. Use smaller plates. Swap your 12-inch plate for a 10-inch one. You’ll eat 20 to 25% less—and save up to 500 calories. You won’t feel any less full, either, researchers say.

10. Serve and sit. Family-style meals, with platters and bowls of food on the table, invite people to go back for seconds and thirds. Cut hundreds of calories by filling plates before bringing them to the table; leave serving dishes in the kitchen, too.

11. Make a swap. Use 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt instead of 1 cup heavy cream in a favorite baking recipe. Save 684 calories.


Ericka McConnell

Lighten treats

12. Make mine a mini. Check out menus for small versions of great desserts, so you can dodge calo­ries and end your meal on a sweet note. P.F. Chang’s Great Wall of Chocolate (designed for one diner!) is 1,440 calories. The Mini Great Wall? A chocolatey yet svelte 150 calories. You’ll save 1,290-calories.

13. Ditch that buttered movie popcorn. Yes, the large popcorn at the concession stand weighs in at a whopping 1,005 calories. Smuggle in your own (microwave-popped, 94% fat-free, of course) and save more than 700 calories.

14. Count your chips (and crackers). No, you can’t eat your snacks from a large bag or box because it’s waaaay too tempting to eat until the bag is empty. (Remember Oprah’s blue corn–tortilla chip confession?) A chip-bender to the bottom of a 9-ounce bag is 1,260 calories sans the dip. So stick to 1 serving, about 15 chips—that’s 140 calories—or pick up some 100-calorie snack packs and save 1,120 calories.

15. Step away from the nuts, especially if they’re in a big bowl. The bigger the serving bowl, the more you’ll eat, Cornell University researchers say. Nuts have heart-healthy fats, but they’re also high in calories: 1 handful (about 1 ounce) of oil-roasted mixed nuts has 175 calories; 3 handfuls have 525. Cut out nuts altogether and save more than 500 calories. Can’t resist ’em? Eat pistachios: 2 handfuls are just 159 calories, and the shelling will slow down your munching.


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Slim down your drinks

16. Skip the whip—or at least size it down. Dessert-like coffee creations can contain as many as 670 calories, with large sizes and options like whipped cream, whole milk, and syrups. Craving whipped cream? Try it on a shot of espresso for a total of just 30 calories. You save 640 calories!

17. Kick the soda habit. A 12-ounce soft drink has about 150 to 180 calories. If you down two or three a day, you’re getting lots of extra calories. Quench your thirst with water and save as many as 540 calories.

18. Drink sugar-free. A 20-ounce tea with added fruit juices can have 400-plus calories. And Southern-style sweet tea isn’t much better than soda: a 16-ounce bottle of syrupy sweet tea has 180 calories; three of those are 540 calories. Choose sugar-free sips and save more than 400 calories.

19. Skinny up cocktails. Syrups, sour mix, sugary fruit juices, and creamy additions turn drinks into desserts: an indulgent Mudslide can have more than 800 calories. Order drinks mixed with club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice, or a squeeze of citrus; or try distilled liquors on the rocks. You’ll save up to 800 calories.


Ericka McConnell

Eat out smarter

20. Eat less pasta. One cup of pasta is just 220 calories. But typical dinner portions at restaurants can be as much as 480% larger than that 1 cup, according to New York University research. That’s 1,056 calories. Even if you eat 2 whole cups of noodles, you’ll still save 616 calories.

21. Get out your knitting needles. An afternoon of knitting can burn more than 500 calories (at a rate of about 100 an hour).

22. Clean house. Tidy up for 2 1/2 hours and burn 510 calories.

23. Check the number of servings in a dish. The calorie count on the menu for Shrimp Fried Rice may say 350 calories per serving, but what’s set in front of you may actually contain 4 servings. Split it with three friends, and save 1,050 calories.

24. Beware the healthy-food trap. People let their guard down when the menu is full of healthy fare, underestimating calories by as much as 35%, research by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab shows. You’re also more likely to order drinks, sides, and desserts with up to 131% more calories when you have a healthy entrée. Skip caloric sides—a cookie, chips—to save 500-plus calories.

25. Build a lean burrito—and you’ll save 630 calories.

Instead of this:
Order this:

Flour tortilla Lettuce
Cheese Guacamole
Ground beef Shredded pork
Black beans Pinto beans
Rice Corn salsa
Salsa Pico de gallo
1,120 calories 490 calories


Ericka McConnell

26. Think small at the ice cream shop. Even if you indulge in your favorite full-fat flavor, you’ll save as many as 550 calories with a 5-ounce size instead of a 12-ounce.

27. Think thin when it comes to pizza. Eat 2 slices of a medium thin-crust veggie pizza (360 calories) instead of 2 slices of a large, meaty deep-dish pizza (940 calories) and save 580 calories.

28. Beware hidden oils. Ask to have your food cooked with a little stock instead of oil, or order steamed or poached entrées: you’ll save 124 calories per tablespoon of oil. Also, have the kitchen skip oils added at the last minute like basil oil or chive oil, and save another 40 calories per teaspoon.


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29. Order spaghetti with meat sauce instead of spaghetti with Italian sausage and save 560 calories. Even better: Order mushroom ravioli (670 calories) or pasta marinara (430 calories).

30. Nix that smoothie a day. A large 32-ounce smoothie can have 800 or more calories. That really adds up if you’re having on-the-go breakfast several times a week. Instead, try a filling lower-calorie starter of oatmeal with brown sugar and banana slices, and a cup of black coffee. You’ll save 518 calories.


Ericka McConnell

Move this way

31. Help a friend move. You’ll burn more than 600 calories in 1 hour of carrying boxes and furniture up and down the stairs.

32. Shovel snow. Clearing the driveway and sidewalks for 1 hour and 15 minutes will torch 510 calories.

33. Ice-skate for 1 hour and 5 minutes and burn 516 calories. (Or go inline skating and slash 562.)

34. Tap your foot. Your skinnier friends are probably fidgeters, who burn up to 350 calories a day just by tapping their feet or being restless. Try it for a few days. Walk around while you’re on the phone, or tap out a tune with your hands or feet (in the privacy of your own office, of course).

35. Be the hostess with the mostest. Go grocery shopping for 1 hour, put away your groceries, spend 2 hours cooking a fabulous holiday feast, set the table, and serve. Then toast yourself for the awesome 640 calorie-burn. (A glass of Champagne is only about 106 calories, so you’re still ahead.)

36. Go window-shopping. Whether you buy anything or not, an afternoon of walking around and trying on clothes can torch 548 calories.

37. Hit the pool. Do 1 hour of laps or 55 minutes of jogging in the water to burn 500 calories.

38. Stroll your way slim. Spend an afternoon pushing junior from the giraffes to the sea lions at the zoo (or around the aquarium or museum) and burn 523 calories.

39. Head to a county fair or amusement park. You’ll slash 612 calories in 3 hours from the casual walking and standing in lines. (Subtract 105 calories if you have cotton candy.)

40. Play a game of touch football or basketball with your kids for 1 hour and burn 500 calories.

41. Head for the nearest hill. Go sledding with the kiddos for 1 hour and 5 minutes. You’ll burn 500-plus calories.

42. Do an hour of circuit training and you’ll burn 544 calories.

43. Tackle the garage. Clearing out junk for 1 hour and 30 minutes will burn 510 calories.

44. Rake the leaves. Do yard work for 1 hour and 45 minutes and burn 512 calories. (Jumping in the leaf pile won’t hurt, either.)

45. Kickbox. Sign up for kickboxing and burn 510 calories in a 45-minute class.

46. Go cross-country skiing for 1 hour and 5 minutes and sizzle off 516 calories.

47. Exercise at home. Pop in a 1-hour aerobics DVD, and finish with 20 minutes of yoga—500 calories, gone.

48. Walk or run a 10K and you’ll burn up to 680 calories.

49. Go hiking. Just 1 hour and 15 minutes will burn 510 calories.

50. Cut down your own Christmas tree. Hike out, find the perfect tree, cut it, and take it home. Put it up and decorate it for 1 hour to burn 519 calories.