There are countless fad diets out there that recommend you drastically slash your caloric intake in order to lose weight. But everyone is different, and the amount of calories you consume every day should be tailor-made to your specific fitness level, goals and personal needs.
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Maybe you’re consuming way above and beyond the number of calories per day that your doctor recommends. Maybe you’re testing the waters of intermittent fasting. Maybe you just want to see what cutting 500 calories a day looks like (and trust us — it’s a lot more than you think).
Also Read: Four Different Ways To Burn 700 Calories
We’ve rounded 10 ways to cut 500 calories from your diet, without a specific meal plan. Always consult your doctor or nutritionist before embarking on a new diet.
1. Recognize What 500 Calories Looks Like
How much is 500 calories anyway? It isn’t small. For some people, it’s an entire meal or one menu item off of a fast food menu. Check out lifehack.org‘s picks of 500 calorie foods. You might think of them as a snack or a quick bite, but if you’re grabbing an Arby’s Beef ‘n Cheddar Classic, a plain bagel with cream cheese, or a Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks, you’re adding 500 calories to your diet that you may not need.
2. Skip Dessert
One of the easiest ways to cut up to 500 calories from your diet is to simply skip dessert. Sweet, sugary, carb-laden treats are extremely dense and filled with empty calories — a slice of apple pie a la mode (with ice cream) can come in at nearly 620 calories! By cutting dessert from your diet, you’ll easily reduce the number of calories you eat daily.
3. Lay Off The Booze
A boozy night out with friends can really add up. Enjoy two fancy cocktails, or three pints of beer, and you’re looking at 500 calories or more. If you must indulge, enjoy just one of these low-calorie cocktails to have on a diet — or better yet, abstain altogether and be the designated driver for the evening.
4. Go For Black Coffee
That twice-a-day latte fix comes at a hefty price (and we don’t just mean for your bank account). A medium latte with one packet of sugar is about 250 calories. Enjoy two of these frothy treats every day, and you’re looking at an extra 500 calories without even realizing it. Compare that to one cup of black coffee, which has just two calories. If you need a caffeine fix, simply switch to black and save yourself a whopping 500 calories. (And if you brew your own at home, you’ll be saving nearly $10 a day, too.)
5. Cut Your Meat Intake (Sorry, Bacon Lovers)
Yes, we all love bacon. But did you know that four strips of bacon contains 500 calories!? The flexitarian diet has gained momentum as of late because meat, especially highly processed and fatty meats, can be high in calories and have negative health consequences. In one Johns Hopkins study, people who swapped red meat for mushrooms ate 444 fewer calories, even though they enjoyed their meal just as much and were just as full.
You don’t have to be fully vegetarian to make healthier food swaps, either. Eggs (at just 70 calories each) and legumes can provide your daily protein with half the calories. When you do eat meat, choose lean poultry and heart-healthy fish.
6. Stop Drinking Your Calories
You know the calories from coffee beverages can add up, but so can the calories from other drinks, too. The Star reports that energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced waters, vegetable and fruit-juice blends can add a huge caloric punch to your day. Swap your daily orange juice and lunchtime soda with water and lemon juice — you’ll save yourself nearly 200 calories for each sugary drink you don’t sip.
7. Watch Your Portion Sizes
Value sizing, supersizing and oversized portions have skewed our views on what a true portion size should be. Check the nutrition facts panel on packaged food and stick with one portion. When you prep your own food, consider this visual cheat for portion sizes from webmd.com:
- Vegetables or fruit = your fist
- Pasta = one scoop of ice cream
- Meat, fish, or poultry = deck of cards or the palm of your palm
- Snacks, like pretzels and chips = a handful
- Side dishes like potatoes = a computer mouse.
- Piece of cheese = a pair of dice or your thumb
As far as restaurants go, a good rule of thumb is to eat half your plate, and bring the other half home with you for a second meal.
8. Have Your Sandwich On A Salad
Two slices of bread with mayonnaise can easily equal 500 calories, especially if you’re a fan of ciabatta buns, focaccia or other rich breads. (A six-inch French baguette has nearly 410 calories!) Substitute your bread for leafy lettuce leaves and a homemade dressing for an easy swap that saves you a ton of calories.
9. Cook All Your Meals At Home
What’s the single most important thing you can do to lose weight? Stop eating out at restaurants. A 2014 study found that people who cooked dinner at home consumed about 140 fewer calories than those who ordered in, ate out at restaurants or ate pre-made meals. Make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you’ll easily cut nearly 500 calories each day.
10. Consider Cutting 100 Calories At Each Meal
Cutting 100 calories is much more doable than cutting 500 calories in one go, and it can be as simple as easy food swaps. Switch from mayo to mustard on your sandwich and cut 100 calories; skip the shredded cheddar cheese, and there’s another 100 calories off your plate. This Fitness Magazine article suggest how to cut 100 calories a day with simple food swaps, but why not do it with every meal and snack?