25 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day
Finally a weight loss plan that really works! Find out how to drop two pounds a week by trimming 500 calories each day.
How many calories in a pound?
You don’t have to deprive yourself to cut calories. By making small, manageable changes to your lifestyle, you can achieve large health and weight loss goals. Watch the video to learn easy ways to tweak your routine to cut calories.
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).
In fact, do a couple of swaps a day and you can drop 10 pounds in 5 weeks! So try these 25 easy tweaks—and get the slim body you want in no time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter
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. Save what's remaining as leftovers for a yummy lunch the next day.
If you normally eat 2,000 calories or more each day, you’ll cut 500 calories.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Healthy Meal Plans – Personalized!
Get a delicious meal plan each week based on your weight loss goal and the foods you like to eat. With the Cooking Light Diet, you’ll enjoy restaurant-quality meals and a handy planning tool with access to thousands of recipes.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.