updated 10/27/2008 11:54:05 AM ET

Health

Best ways to cut 100, 250 and 500-plus calories
Simple, expert-tested tricks to drop the extra pounds — without dieting!
TODAY

Curious how to eliminate unnecessary calories without sacrificing your meals? Shape magazine shares smart and simple tips to trim the fat. You won't even taste the difference:

Save 100-plus calories

Add the olive oil last
We often think of sautéing as a lowfat cooking method, but some vegetables, such as eggplant, mushrooms, and greens, tend to soak up the majority of the fat that’s added to the pan. Dean Rucker, executive chef at the Golden Door Spa in Escondido, California, suggests steaming your veggies instead, then tossing them with a few teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of red pepper flakes and sea salt.
Calories saved per cup: 150

Ask for a “dry” bun
“Chefs and line cooks often swipe a knifeful of butter or mayo on a sandwich or burger before they hand it over to you,” says Devin Alexander, the host of "Healthy Decadence" on FitTV.
Calories saved: 120

Be picky about pie
Eat the filling but skip the bottom layer of crust, advises Lisa Sasson, R.D., a clinical associate professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University.
Calories saved: 150

Lighten your juice
Fill a water bottle with 6 ounces of juice and an equal amount of sparkling water, suggests Janel Ovrut, R.D., a nutritionist in Boston. Or make an Arnold Palmer by mixing 6 ounces of lemonade with an equal amount of unsweetened iced tea.  
Calories saved: 100

Make skinny mashed potatoes
Mix in half a cup of low-sodium chicken broth for every 3 pounds of potatoes instead of half a cup of butter or heavy cream, advises Hana A. Feeney, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist at Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona. If you still crave that rich flavor, top a small scoop of mashed potatoes with a pat of butter (that’s about a teaspoon) for just 36 extra calories.
Calories saved per cup: 150

Use half the beef in burgers
Mix 1½ cups of finely chopped mushrooms with half a pound of lean ground beef and serve it in place of an all-beef patty, suggests Andrea-Michelle Brekke, R.D., a New York City nutritionist.
Calories saved: 100

Switch your soup
“You can assume that varieties made with milk or cream — like clam chowder or cream of broccoli — contain 25 to 50 percent more calories than those made with a tomato base or clear broth, such as minestrone or vegetable soup,” says Brekke. When dining out, be sure to ask your waiter if the soup is dairy-free.
Calories saved per 12 oz.: 100 to 200

Trade in your wineglass
“Traditional red wine goblets are designed with a larger bowl to allow the liquid inside a chance to breathe,” says Brekke. “Fill it up and you may be getting 8 to 9 ounces of wine.” Using a champagne flute, which holds only about 5 ounces, guarantees automatic portion control. Calories saved: 100

Save 250-plus calories

Avoid salads with “crispy” in their name
Some options pack more than 500 calories and 25 grams of fat when tossed with regular dressing, says Molly Kimball, R.D., a nutritionist at Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. Order your greens with grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon and lowfat dressing on the side.
Calories saved: 250

Downsize your baked goods
You can automatically halve the calories in fresh-baked muffins by using a pan with a dozen slots rather than one with just six, says Kimball. And if you swap half a cup of applesauce for the half cup of butter or oil called for in your recipe, you can save an additional 75 calories per muffin.
Calories saved: 310 to 385

Get sandwich-savvy
A 6-inch tuna hero with lowfat chips may seem like a light meal, but it contains 700 calories and more than 30 grams of fat. “At ‘healthy’ restaurants, people tend to order extras and then underestimate how much they’re eating by about 35 percent,” says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the USDA. Opt for a small turkey sub without mayo or oil — and skip the soda, chips, and cookies.
Calories saved: 420

Top your tater the light way
Loading a large potato with the works can turn your meal into a fat and calorie minefield. Pick a small spud and fill it with a quarter cup each of salsa and lowfat Greek yogurt (or 1 tablespoon of reduced-fat sour cream), suggests Julie Bender, R.D., a dietitian with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
Calories saved: 412

Treat yourself like a kid
When ordering ice cream, don’t assume you have to choose from the three cup sizes displayed at the register. Many shops also have a smaller option that they don’t typically advertise, says Molly Morgan, R.D., a nutritionist in Vestal, New York. Rather than ordering the medium, request the child-size version — and skip the hot fudge and chocolate chips.
Calories saved: 400

Bulk up your pasta — with veggies
If you’re making pasta at home, a 2-cup serving of noodles with a large ladle of meat, vodka, or Alfredo sauce can set you back 600 calories or more, says Joan Salge Blake, M.S., R.D., the author of "Nutrition & You"and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. To fill your plate — without breaking the calorie bank — she suggests mixing a cup of pasta with a cup of steamed veggies and topping the dish with half a cup of your favorite jarred marinara sauce. Calories saved: 250

Serve dessert in a shot glass
Can’t resist taking a slice of key lime pie or cheesecake at a buffet? Allow yourself to savor the amount that fits in a shot glass (that’s about 3 tablespoons) and you’ll save 80 percent of the calories you’d get in a full-size portion, suggests Brad Francis, executive chef at the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Resort and Spa in Florida.
Calories saved: 360

Choose wisely at breakfast meetings
When fresh fruit salad or lowfat yogurt isn’t an option, you can still slash hundreds of calories by savoring four powdered sugar or glazed doughnut holes rather than that nutritious-sounding but humongous banana-walnut muffin.
Calories saved: 280

Save 500-plus calories

Take your own popcorn to the movies A medium container from the theater has at least 900 calories — not including the “butter” topping, says Wansink. Pre-pop your lowfat favorite and stash the bag in your tote.
Calories saved: 600

Ditch designer cereals and granolas Multigrain and all-natural options can still be high in sugar and fat. “Pour a bowl with milk for breakfast and you can easily spoon up 700 calories before you even walk out the door,” says Jodi Greebel, R.D., a New York City dietitian and the author of "The Little Black Apron." Go for fiber-rich cereals that contain 200 or fewer calories per cup.
Calories saved: 500

Avoid meat lover’s pizza specials Order a fully loaded veggie pizza and “you’ll get half a serving of fiber-rich produce on every slice,” says Morgan. To cut calories further, request that your medium pie be made with a thin crust rather than deep dish–style and get “half cheese” rather than the full amount.
Calories saved per two slices: 500

Choose a leaner cut of meat When dining at a restaurant, order a 6-ounce filet mignon rather than the 10-ounce T-bone or prime rib, recommends Kimball. “Some chefs will brush the meat with butter or oil after cooking to make the steak look juicier, so ask that the kitchen skip this step to cut an extra 100 calories,” she says.
Calories saved: 500 to 600

Turn your back on the buffet table Pick a spot that’s at least 16 feet from the smorgasbord and face away from the food when eating, recommends Wansink. A study he conducted showed that people who did this ate several hundred fewer calories, on average, than those who sat just a few feet away.
Calories saved: 650

Nibble smarter at parties
Determine what’s being passed or served, then select two or three small bites you’d like to try, suggests Susan Burke March, R.D., author of "Naturally Thin? The Ultimate Guide to Making Weight Control and Healthy Living Second Nature." Here’s a guide to some calorie-shaving swaps.

Instead of: spinach and artichoke dip (1/2 cup)
Eat: ranch dip (1/2 cup)
Calories saved: 160

Instead of: mini cheeseburgers (2)
Eat: mini pizza bagels (2)
Calories Saved: 210

Instead of: blue cheese dip (4 tbsp.)
Eat: guacamole(4 tbsp.)
Calories Saved: 220

Instead of: cheese and crackers(6 pieces)
Eat: california roll (6 pieces)
Calories Saved: 309

Instead of: mini spring rolls with dipping sauce (3 pieces)
Eat: steamed shrimp dumplings (3 pieces)
Calories saved: 350

For more great tips on healthy eating and living, visit Shape magazine online.

 
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