While dieting can often be a difficult venture, finding small ways to reduce calories with minimal effort is essential for rapid fat loss and longer-term success.
In this article, I’ll discuss 6 of my favorite ways to reduce calorie intake by making small changes to your diet so you don’t even feel like you are making sacrifices.
In no time, you’ll find yourself in a great weight loss position without having to completely revamp your life and diet – the best and most sustainable way to do so!
Tip #1: Drink Beverages Before Your Meals
One of the best ways to reduce calorie intake actually starts before your meals by drinking a full calorie-free beverage before eating.
The hormone Ghrelin, (known as the hunger hormone), is the reason why having something to drink before your meal has a great appetite reducing effect. This hormone is released prior to the times you normally eat and causes feelings of hunger. This results in searching for food to eat.
Interestingly, ghrelin is actually secreted from within the digestive system such as the small intestine and in particular, the stomach (1).
In fact, these cells are also sensitive to being stretched, as when food has been eaten and the stomach has been filled. When this occurs, ghrelin secretion stops and you no longer feel hungry (1, 2).
When you consume a beverage prior to meals, the liquid in essence stretches these cells, which reduces their output of ghrelin. As a result, ghrelin is unable to make you feel hungry which can result in fewer calories consumed.
I suggest drinking a full 8 fl.oz. glass of virtually any low calorie or calorie free beverage such as water, a sugar free soda, calorie free flavored water, a protein shake or skimmed milk.
After doing this, you will likely consume fewer total calories during your whole meal – this small change adds up over months and years.
Tip #2: Eat More Protein
Eating more protein is a golden suggestion offering numerous unique benefits, beyond just consuming fewer calories.
In addition to its ability to help improve lean muscle tone or add muscle mass, protein can help to reduce appetite, optimize your hormones, aid in heart and metabolic health and even increase your metabolism (3, 4, 5).
Proteins have a complex structure. Due to their complexity the body actually has difficulty digesting them, just like it’s difficult (and would take longer!) to untangle multiple wires vs just two.
During digestion, these 3 dimensional structures of proteins require extra time and energy to breakdown and digest, meaning you actually burn more calories when eating them.
Since proteins take longer to digest than the other macronutrients, it slows down the speed at which foods exit the stomach, which, in turn, reduces secretion of hunger hormones like ghrelin and so helps keep you feeling full for longer.
By consuming more protein in your diet, you’ll slow down the speed of food moving through the digestive tract, allowing for a reduction in hunger and thus calorie/food intake.
Tip #3: Eat More Fibrous Veggies
The suggestion to eat more fibrous veggies has a similar benefit to that of protein, helping reduce hunger and easily reduce more calories.
Vegetables are high in fiber, which is key for weight loss. Fiber is typically known for its potent effect on slowing digestion and aiding in gut health; additionally it luckily plays a primary role in reducing hunger (6, 7, 8).
After consumption, fiber actually absorbs water, which then forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. While doing so adds bulk (the digestive benefit), it also slows down the speed at which food moves through the body.
As mentioned prior, when food motility through the digestive tract is slowed, it results in a reduction in hunger and a natural reduction in calories.
I always recommend adding 2-3 portions of fibrous vegetables to all meals. Doing so provides more food for virtually no calories and should allow for a reduction in hunger and thus, calories without you even knowing.
Tip #4: Opt For Zero Calorie Sweeteners
Opting for zero calorie sweeteners is probably the easiest suggestion on this list.
Often times, I see people cutting flavored beverages out of their diet entirely, in the hope of getting in better shape. While doing so is certainly acceptable and a good idea, opting for diet versions would do the same without feeling cravings or feeling like you are overly restricted.
Just think of all of the different ways that opting for a zero calorie sweetener could help reduce significant amounts of calories in your diet.
Some of the most glaring options include:
- Switch full calorie soda to sugar free alternatives.
- Use zero calorie sweeteners in coffee rather than sugar.
- Use Splenda/Stevia in place of sugar in baked goods.
- Replace sugar with zero calorie sweeteners in all recipes.
As you can see, there are many different ways to begin reducing calories while still enjoying certain foods and beverages by simply opting for sugar free alternatives.
Not to mention, there are even studies indicating that subjects who use zero calorie sweeteners may have better weight loss results than simply consuming water. This is likely because you can still enjoy certain foods, but significantly reduce calories; a winning combination in my book.
If you still think sweeteners are bad for you or dangerous, you should read this blog post which breaks down the science: Artificial Sweeteners – Here’s The Truth
Tip #5: Eat Whole Fruits And Vegetables
Unfortunately, a first step taken by many people hoping to become healthier is that they mistakenly think it is a good idea to start drinking fruit juice. It therefore comes as a surprise to some people to find that drinking juice is one of the worst possible things you can do while dieting.
The reason for this is that juices contain all of the sugar normally found in fruits and vegetables but is 10x more dense and contains none of the appetite suppressing, beneficial fiber.
In essence, you’re consuming a glass full of sugar with no significant benefit on appetite.
Rather than consuming fruit juices that will do nothing other than provide you with sugar, stick with whole fruits and vegetables that have a much lower calorie density.
Doing so will help you quickly cut calories, provide fiber and also stretch cells in the stomach to inhibit ghrelin release, reducing hunger.
Tip #6: Avoid Calorie Dense Foods
Much like the juicing movement, there are other foods, which are often considered to be healthy, yet contain very high amounts of calories for very little actual food.
Nuts, nut butters, butter, healthy natural cereal bars are some of most obvious problem food items in this category.
Nuts, seeds and nut butter are often considered to be great diet foods since many of them contain healthy fats and even moderate amounts of protein. Now, while they are in fact healthy, the issue with these foods however is that they are extremely dense.
This means that you should only consume a small quantity of these foods, which is often easier said than done – who can stop at just a few nuts? Even when you do, you’ve just taken in a bulk of your daily calories but do not feel full or satiated.
Walnuts for instance, often considered to be heart healthy, contain around 200 calories per ¼ cup. That’s around 5-10 nuts. Consider that when the serving size is increased to 1 cup (which is easily accomplished) you’d be consuming upwards of 800 calories.
Likewise, peanut butter contains upwards of 200 calories and 16 grams of fat within only two tablespoons! As you can see, it is quite easy to consume upwards of 500 – 1000 calories with minimal effort.
I suggest either removing these “health foods” from your diet in the short term, or ensure that you are weighing and sticking to single servings. Otherwise, it’s likely you are consuming large amounts of calories without even realizing it.
Remember, while they are healthy, there are also dozens of other healthy foods and healthy fat sources that have far fewer calories. Just because something is healthy it doesn’t mean it won’t make you fat, your diet must always reflect your short term goals as well.
6 Simple Ways To Reduce Calories Immediately (With Minimal Effort)
While these are certainly not the only ways that calories can be reduced, they are among the simplest to get you started, which, when combined, can have considerable and noticeable benefits!
Remember, it’s key to find sustainable habits you can stick with. I love these tips as they don’t actually feel like you are on a hardcore diet. They are simple yet effective changes you and your family should make for the long term, which can really help over months and years.
Lastly, numerous studies show that obesity is caused by just a daily 50-100 calorie excess over a period of years; so, these small changes detailed above, which can drop 100 calories per day from your normal routine, may well be all it takes to eliminate future weight gain.
Once these are in place, you can get more creative with your workouts, supplements and a more advanced or strict diet plan!
- Sakata, I., & Sakai, T. (2010). Ghrelin cells in the gastrointestinal tract. International journal of peptides, 2010.
- Cummings, D. E., Purnell, J. Q., Frayo, R. S., Schmidova, K., Wisse, B. E., & Weigle, D. S. (2001). A preprandial rise in plasma ghrelin levels suggests a role in meal initiation in humans. Diabetes, 50(8), 1714-1719.
- Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A. J. P. G., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., … & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300-307.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
- Tieland, M., Dirks, M. L., van der Zwaluw, N., Verdijk, L. B., van de Rest, O., de Groot, L. C., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail elderly people: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 13(8), 713-719.
- Bolton, R. P., Heaton, K. W., & Burroughs, L. F. (1981). The role of dietary fiber in satiety, glucose, and insulin: studies with fruit and fruit juice. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 34(2), 211-217.
- Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.