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Losing weight is hard. For many people, the thought of cutting daily calories is accompanied with thoughts of deprivation and difficulty.
Sticking with a reduced calorie plan is definitely challenging, and getting started is often the hardest part. It takes about 3,500 extra calories of any kind to gain a pound. Trimming just 100 calories every day can result in a 10-pound loss in a year.
There are many small, simple swaps to be made in everyday eating that can help you drop more weight — up to 5 pounds in a month — without the deprivation of giving up your favorite foods.
Check out some of the best food swaps to cut calories and still maintain taste and flavor. If you make three of these swaps a day consistently, you can lose up to 5 pounds in a month. Even one swap will boost a monthly 1-2 pound loss. Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race.
Swap a large blueberry muffin (about 450 calories) for two slices of rye toast with one tablespoon of blueberry jam (about 200 calories)
SAVE: 250 calories.
Swap a 5-ounce ground chuck (fatty cut) burger with cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a bun (about 650 calories) for the same burger made with ground sirloin (lean cut) (about 400 calories).
SAVE: 250 calories.
Swap a large 16-ounce mocha Frappuccino (about 410 calories) for a skim milk latte. Add sugar-free syrup or low-calorie sweetener if you choose (about 110 calories).
SAVE: 300 calories.
Swap a 20-ounce cola (about 230 calories) for an unsweetened iced tea (0 calories). Add low-calorie sweetener to the tea if you choose.
SAVE: 230 calories.
Swap three large handfuls of potato chips (about 400 calories) for the same serving of air-popped popcorn (about 90 calories).
SAVE: 310 calories.
Swap one cup of premium cookie dough ice cream (about 540 calories) for two Greek yogurt cookie dough frozen pops (about 200 calories).
SAVE: 340 calories.
One of the easiest ways to cut calories is to simply downsize the serving of your favorite foods. At home, use smaller plates to fool your eye to see a "full plate". In a restaurant, order an appetizer or small plate for your meal, or split an entree with someone. And remember to check out the kids menu, often the perfect and easiest solution to cut calories.
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.