6 Painless Ways to Cut Calories
If going without isn't on your list of things to try this month, consider these six painless strategies for shaving calories where you won't even notice they're gone. (See also: 10 Healthy Things to Eat and Drink in the New Year)
Make Open-Faced Sandwiches
These are exceptionally fun at home, fresh out of the toaster oven for a quick lunch break, with half the carbs and all the flavor. A few suggestions would be tuna melts, shrimp toast, and leftover roast and gravy over toasted wheat bread. And of course, there's always the eternally popular English muffin pizzas in both the breakfast and lunch varieties. Here are more sandwich ideas if you need them. Pick something yummy, and skip the top slice of bread. You won't even miss it.
I'm sure you're expecting me to point out the need for hydration and suggest the standard DIY flavored water options. While those are valid points, they are not what I'm advising here. This tip relates to reducing fat in cooking and celebrating the power of steam. Here's what I'm talking about: When stir-frying some shrimp and snow peas or a batch of haricot vert in a couple of tablespoons of oil, we often find we need a bit more moisture before the job is done. Rather than immediately grabbing the oil to add more, first see if a few drops of tap water will do the trick. I'm not talking about pouring so much in that your side veggies get soggy; just a spritz or a drizzle will often get the job done. It releases loads of moist heat up through the veggies or whatever else is cooking in the pan, finishing up the job in record time.
Make It a Spritzer
This not only works well with wine, but is great for stretching juices as well. We are always deeply stocked with generic Hannaford-brand flavored and plain seltzer (about 89 cents for a two-liter bottle). One batch of frozen orange juice concentrate can last forever if you are just flavoring the seltzer a bit. Even healthy juices have a high natural sugar content, and a personal trainer and health coach told me once that if you are going for nutritional power and metabolism boosting, you're better off to go with the full fruit anyway. The fiber content helps slow down the conversion to blood sugar in your body, apparently. So when we do have juices, or cocktails that contain them, we try to include seltzer to balance things out. For example, today for lunch we had a little bit of grapefruit juice left in the fridge. There was enough to put in the bottom of each of our drinking glasses, so I added ice and straws, topping the rest off with plain seltzer. We felt like we were having something to drink with lunch that wasn't completely boring, but didn't have a whole lot of calorie guilt. Check out other lower-calorie cocktail ideas.
Try More Veggie Juice
This is a follow-up on the natural sugars point made above. If you can embrace the flavors, tomato, clamato (which you can make yourself using leftover juice from canned clams), and Spicy Hot V8 can all be incorporated in a healthy way.
Go Miniature on Dessert
If you're having people over for dinner and really want to offer that extra dessert course, consider serving smaller fruit tarts, individual portions of biscotti, or a little Caffe Vergnano with individually wrapped chocolates such as Ghirardelli squares or Andes mints.
Skip the Prepackaged Lunch Meat
This tip comes from women's health writer Amy Capetta. She warns of all the “hidden fats” and other no-nos such as sodium that often come in prepared lunch meats. She recommends going for deli meats if you really feel you need the sliced meat option in your daily brown bag lunch. If you are worried about the extra cost per pound, consider trying out my “shaved, not sliced” strategy from this meat money article.
Out of many other ideas out there, these seemed the least painful to me for maintaining lifestyle and not feeling exceptionally deprived. If you have other suggestions or tips, I'd love to hear about them. Sound off below.