Cut Calories Safely — And Easily

Want to drop a pound or two in the next week? The possibility is real, simply by understanding the role calories play in weight gain and loss.

Those aiming to lose weight should seek to drop no more than two pounds per week, says Emily Bailey, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Memorial Medical Center. Here’s what you need to know to achieve that:

One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. To lose one pound in a week’s time, you need to eat 500 calories less per day than usual. Cutting 1,000 calories out of your daily meals is likely too extreme for most people, but if you incorporate exercise into your day, you’ll burn additional calories to get you close to a 1.5 or 2-pound weekly loss.

Bailey said cutting calories out of your daily diet can be as easy as:

  • Choosing skinless, grilled poultry and lean cuts of meat over fried, fatty versions;
  • Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables instead of caloric snack foods;
  • Avoiding excess cheese (do you really need a slice on that sandwich?), butter and gravy;
  • Choosing low-fat dairy products;
  • Limiting consumption of sugary beverages;
  • Practicing good portion control – use a smaller plate for your meals, or force yourself to wait 30 minutes after your first serving to be sure you really are hungry for seconds.

Other healthy substitution ideas:

  • When baking, substitute applesauce for oil at a one-to-one ratio to cut both calories and fat.
  • Instead of butter or stick margarine, try reduced-fat, whipped or liquid spreads.
  • Choose egg whites and egg substitutes over egg yolks and skim and 1% milk in place of 2% and whole milk to decrease your fat intake from proteins.
  • Choose spinach, instead of lettuce, for your salad. Its levels of magnesium, potassium and calcium help lower blood pressure.
  • Cut fat by using ground turkey or meatless crumbles in place of ground beef.
  • Add salt-free blends and fresh herbs instead of seasoning salt  to enhance the flavor of your dish.

Oftentimes, tracking calories is the best way to keep you aware of just how much you are eating, and lets you find ways to cut excess calories out of your diet. Bailey suggests websites such as,, and to help you better understand where your calories are coming from.