When it comes to our daily diets, we’re always looking for ways to dial back calories wherever we won’t miss them. After all, if you save 400 calories by skipping the creamy, calorie-packed dressing, that means you have a bit of room for dessert! It’s all about healthy options and having the power to decide what you want to splurge your calories on, and what really isn’t worth it.
There’s also endless research that gives us information not just about what we should eat, but how we should eat – more slowly, taking breaks, choosing smaller plates, eating in certain locations, etc. Our brains are funny things, and sometimes even the smallest changes that we don’t even think are noticeable can have a huge impact on how many calories we consume.
We all know it isn’t great for your health to eat junk food on the go – plus, how enjoyable is it to be scarfing down greasy fries in the drivers’ seat? It doesn’t make you feel good at all. But what are some good tips to make your meals a little longer so that you’re enjoying meal time and enjoying the benefits that come with making healthier options? If you’re willing to take a bit of extra time and do more than just open a package of pre-prepared food, how can you shave a couple calories off your meal? Well, let us fill you in!
Here are 15 ways to save calories and prolong your meals. Bon appetit!
15 Drink Lots of Water
Most people have experienced the liquid belly – when you accidentally fill up with a large amount of liquid before your meal and can’t quite stomach much food. Well, it’s great to purposefully incorporate this tactic into your meals – in moderation, that is. You certainly don’t want to be chugging a gallon of water before every meal! Most people will have some kind of beverage to go along with their food, and since water should be an important part of your day and contains zero calories, it’s a great drink option. While you’re eating, pause periodically and take a few sips of water. Not only will you be hydrating yourself, you’ll be slowing down and taking pauses during your meal, meaning you’ll be more mindful of how much you’re eating instead of just wolfing it down.
14 Zucchini Noodles
We’re all about the smart swaps, and this is the perfect example of a swap that might take a bit more effort but will pay off big time. When cutting back on calories, one of the first things to go is often foods like pasta, quite simply because it’s hard to scale back the portion sizes to a point where the meal will still be satisfying. No one wants a measly half cup of noodles. You may have seen those strange veggie spiralizers in stores, and we’re here to confirm that zucchini noodles are definitely on trend. Basically, the spiralizer tools allow you to take super low calorie veggies like zucchini and turn them into faux-pasta. You can top the zoodles with all your favorite sauces and toppings and have a much larger amount of ‘noodles’ for the same calories. Sure, it’s quicker to just open a box of noodles and toss them into the water, but wouldn’t you rather have four times the amount of noodles on your plate?
13 Bake, Don’t Fry
This tip is about cooking technique rather than what you’re actually cooking – when it comes to cutting calories, we’re all about baking. Let’s be honest – it takes mere moments to fry something. That’s one of the reasons that fast food restaurants can toss the food out so quickly. However, frying adds so, so many calories to the meal. If it’s just that crunch you want, you can easily accomplish the same thing with baking. Anything you can fry, you can toss onto a cookie sheet and bake it. Yes, even fried chicken – just coat that meat with crispy breadcrumbs and bake it until the exterior is browned and crunchy.
12 Turn It Into a Multi-Course Affair
How on earth can incorporating more than one course into your meal save you calories? Well, it definitely depends on what you’re starting out with. If you decide to begin your meal with half a loaf of bread topped with a thick layer of butter, that probably will just supersize your meal. However, if you start with a light salad or broth-based soup before moving onto the main course, you can start your meal off right. It allows you to stretch your meal out a bit, meaning you’ll start to realize when you’re full sooner and not just twenty minutes after dinner when you’re positively overstuffed. It also curbs your hunger so that by the time you get to the main dish, you’re not ravenous and inclined to devour the entire pot of pasta.
11 Turn Netflix Off
Okay, this tip is actually more along the lines of ‘don’t eat in front of the television,’ but let’s be serious – in the modern age, this more likely means you’ll have to pause the Orange Is The New Black for a little while. Research from the University of Massachusetts proved that if you chow down in front of the screen, you’ll eat up to 288 calories more than if you sat down at a table. Why? Simply put, mindfulness. If you’re engrossed in the lives of the characters on screen, you won’t be paying attention to how much you’re eating or whether your body is telling you that it’s full. Make the time to sit at the table.
10 Eat Out With A Friend
Eating at a restaurant can wreak absolute havoc on anyone’s diet. Even if you’re not looking to cut a lot of calories, a single entrée might very well be more than you normally eat in an entire day of healthy meals – or more! However, trying new restaurants can be fun, and eating out is often a big part of social life. So what’s a girl to do? Well – eat with your girls! Many fall into the mindset that everyone at a restaurant should order their own meal, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you think you should order a salad, but you’re absolutely dying to try the gnocchi in a buttery parmesan sauce, make it work! Order a big, leafy salad and the gnocchi, and play splits-ville with your friend. Best of both worlds!
9 Put Away the Platters
What effect could plate size have on a meal – it’s just the thing that you put food on, right? Wrong. Turns out plate size has a huge psychological effect. According to researchers, if you swap a 12-inch plate for a slightly smaller 10-inch plate, you will consume 20-25% less. Depending on what you’re eating, that could save anywhere from 100 to 500 calories. That’s huge! And, lest you think it’s just because you fit less food on your plate and you’ll just be hungry sooner, researchers say that you’ll be as full and satisfied as with the larger plate. It’s such a simple swap, but it’s incredibly effective.
8 Measure Your Meals
Measuring your chicken breast to the ounce and your brown rice to the gram? That’s just for bikini competitors and bodybuilders, right? Well, not exactly – if you’re trying to make any kind of changes in your physique or even just trying to eat more healthily, one of the most important things is knowing how much you’re eating. Yes, it will take longer to carefully measure the components on your plate than it would to simply toss on whatever amount seems good, but you’ll know exactly how much you’re taking in. After all, knowledge is power. Whether you want to maintain your weight, add some muscle, or shave off a few pounds, knowing your intake is the first step.
7 Eat With Family – But Skip Family Style
It’s a familiar sight – all the bowls and platters of food on the table so that everyone can help themselves family-style. It’s one of the most common ways of dishing up meals, but turns out, it might not be the healthiest. The reason is pretty obvious – if the food is right in front of you, it’s so easy and so tempting to help yourself to a scoop more of this, or just a bit more of that, meaning you might be going back for seconds and thirds regardless of whether you’re even hungry. If you keep the food in the kitchen and fill up your plate before you sit down at the table, you’ll be less tempted to eat mindlessly. If you’re still hungry after your initial plate and want to go back for seconds, by all means do so – but needing to walk all the way back to the kitchen might cause you to think twice if it was just a few more mindless bites you wanted.
6 For Dessert, We Prescribe a Walk!
After a meal, many of us want a little something sweet, even if we’re not hungry. Who knows why – it’s just a nice way to finish off. However, if you’re reaching for calorie-packed desserts after every meal, even if you’re not hungry at all, that shows up on your waistline pretty quickly. So here’s an idea – after you’ve finished your meal, put on your walking shoes and go for a little stroll. After walking around the neighbourhood for a bit, you’ll feel better for yourself, you’ll get all those feel-good endorphins that chocolate would have given you, and you probably won’t feel the need to go and gorge on those cookies.
5 Avoid Super Sized Dinner Parties
It’s wonderful to share a meal with a few friends, but when the guest list stretches to seven or more, you should be extra cautious with how much you’re eating. Why, exactly? Well, according to Brian Wansink, the author of Mindless Eating, if you eat with seven or more guests you’ll consume up to 96% more food. You read that correctly – you’ll basically double your meal! It’s just another question of mindful eating – if you’re enthralled by your guests’ stories and paying attention to all the great conversations around the table, you won’t be as mindful of what you’re putting on your plate.
4 The Fruit Swap
Are you always trying to find ways to make your favorite muffins and loaf cakes healthier? Well, there’s an easy swap that will cut back on your calories drastically. When it comes to adding the butter or oil into your recipe, swap out about half the amount with applesauce or mashed bananas. You don’t want to swap out the entire amount in any recipe without testing, because it’ll affect the texture and how the recipe turns out. Generally, though, it’s totally safe to swap out half of it with a fruity alternative. You’ll save hundreds of calories, and honestly, you won’t even notice.
3 Unwrap Yourself
A lot of great meals – burritos, tacos, wraps – are nestled in between high-calorie tortillas or carb filled breads. Here’s some news – they’re just as delicious in a bowl form! Yes, it might take you a bit longer to eat a bowl full of fillings than to have a compact package to take on the go, but all the delicious flavors will be there. Turn your favorite wrapped up foods into bowls full of delicious ingredients that have the same taste for a fraction of the calories. If you really need some carb-y goodness to go along with all your veggies and protein, add in a scoop of brown rice to bulk things up.
2 Spray It!
Unless you’re drizzling a salad with flavorful oil or using it to accentuate certain flavors in a dish, oil just adds in hundreds of calories that you won’t even taste in the dish. Instead of pouring oil into the pan, use cooking spray when it comes to simple things like sauteeing veggies in a pan, or oiling up your roasted veggies and oven baked chicken. A couple sprays will usually have less than 100 total calories, whereas you can easily glug 500+ calories worth of oil into the pan if you’re a little too liberal with the olive oil. Save your calories for parts of the meal where you’ll actually notice and enjoy them.
1 Add In Foods That Aren’t Calorie Dense
Calorie dense foods are foods that pack a ton of calories into a small amount, as the name might imply – foods like nuts, for example. Yes, some calorie dense foods can be really beneficial, but sometimes when you’re hungry, it’s really the worst idea to try to limit yourself to just a few nuts when you could easily eat the whole bowl. You won’t feel as satisfied as if you had eaten a big plateful of food, but your body will have taken in the same amount of calories. The answer is to find foods that take awhile to work your way through – include some fresh, crunchy veggies alongside your meal, or make your own popsicles out of smoothies instead of chowing down on a pint of ice cream.