Nutrition for Dummies: 10 Easy Ways to Cut Calories

I sat down to write a little blurb on probiotics – inspired by Shape Magazine article Win the Cold War– but instead came across something more interesting out of my Nutrition for Dummies book….

10 Easy Ways to Cut Calories

(according to Nutrition for Dummies, followed by my opinion)

  1. Switching to Low-Fat or Non- Fat Dairy Products.  Milk and milk products are the best source of calcium that keeps bones strong.But these same products may also be high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories. You can reduce all three by choosing low- or non-fat milk products. For example, one cup of whole milk has 150 calories, but a cup of skim milk as only 85-90.  Well, yes obviously skim milk is going to be the lower calorie option (which is essentially what this article is pointing out) but I don’t agree with everything said here. First of all, as a disclaimer, I am pro-milk, BUT, I think it is fair to point out some other things to think about. While milk is probably the best source of calcium as far as the highest milligram (mg) per serving (300 mg per cup), it may not be the best option for us. Think of our paleolithic ancestors. They had no milk or dairy in their diets, did cows even live back then? They lived as hunter-gatherers; eating meat, fruit, veggies, and nuts. And if you compare their calcium intakes (or total storage found in fossils) compared to humans today…shocking difference. Try 1580 mg/day compared to the now 740 mg/day (260 mg short of minimum recommended amount). So it seems to me that eating 12-15 servings of leafy greens is a better way to protect our bones, rather than eating 3 cups a milk per day (albeit- this is a far reaching goal). High calcium/ non-dairy options include: 3 oz sardines (420 mg), 3 oz salmon (75 mg), 1/2 cup broccoli (50 mg) 1/2 cup bok choy (75 mg), 1 0z almonds(60 mg), and 1/2 cup tofu (130mg). All these options are incredibly low calorie as well. So if you are lactose intolerant, good news you can still get your calcium! Also, one more note to this incredibly long section, try almond, rice, hemp, or soy milk as an alternative. All are under 90 calories per serving and you don’t have to deal with the cholesterol, fat, hormones, etc.
  2. Substituting Sugar Substitutes. Coffee has no calories, but every teaspoon of sugar you stir into your cup has 15 big ones. Say you drink 4 cups of coffee a day, times 7 days a week, equals an extra 420 calories a week! So is it good to mention that one packet of sugar substitute has absolutely zero calories?  Sure it’s good to mention that, but is it also good to mention that sugar substitutes haven’t been officially proven to be safe? Sure the FDA has “approved them” but it doesn’t make me feel to good that saccharin was banned in the 80’s for causing cancer in lab rats, but is now back on the market with the exact same formula! Sugar substitutes are another grey area for me. I did a lot of experimenting with sugar-free ice creams a few years ago and thought I came up with a great way to cut calories and sugar. But I always felt weird about them. When we talk about sugar substitutes I am talking about Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, Asulfame-K, etc,  or you might know them as Sweet-n-Low® or Splenda®. I just don’t think there is enough evidence to know that they are safe and therefore a better option than the real thing. Stevia (as I learned from my naturopathic hippie job) is very safe because it is “natural”, but who really knows? Plus, a lot of people can get stomach aches and have digestive problems from sugar sweeteners and may not even pin point that as the culprit. In my opinion, it might be better to skip the diet or sugar-free options, and instead treat yourself to the real thing on an occasional basis, a sometimes treat. Sorry all you Diet Coke addicts, I just crushed your fantasy that you can drink all the diet soda you want without consequences.
  3. Serving Stew Instead of Steak. No matter how you slice it, red meat is read meat-cholesterol, saturated fats, and all. But if you stew your beef or lamb or pork rather than broiling or roasting it, you can skim off a bunch of high-calorie fat. Just make the stew and then stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours until a layer of fat hardens on top. Spoon it off; every tablespoon of pure fat subtracts 100 calories from dinner. I actually totally agree with this. You can also skim fat off ground meat this same way (see number 10). So keep that in mind next time it’s taco night at your house.
  4. Choosing Low- Fat Desserts. Who says you have to suffer to cut calories? One half cup of Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream has 270 calories. One half cup of Haagen-Dazs no-fat chocolate sorbet has 140 calories. Switching the first to the second should not be a problem. I agree with this but I think some more clarification is needed. Substituting rich chocolatey desserts for lighter sorbets, fruit tarts, or angel food cakes is a great idea. I am pro-dessert as well and I have a hard time passing them up, so when there are options I try to go for the ones I know will be lighter and maybe provide me a vitamin or two. Be cautious though choosing foods that are the low-fat or sugar-free versions of your favorite decadent treat. Those foods, or what I like to call science experiments, are loaded with artificial and unnatural ingredients and flavors, and are essentially the outcome of a food scientists project, not a nutritionist’s.
  5. Peeling the Poultry. Most of the fat in poultry is in the skin. A fried chicken breast with skin has 217 calories; without the skin, it has only 160. Half a roasted duck (with the skin) has a whopping 1,287 calories; without the skin, it’s only 444. This needs no explanation. Take the skin off! No matter how tasty it is, it’s going to do nothing for your body other than add some pounds.
  6. Not Oiling the Salad. Salads can be a great low-fat low-calorie meal, but then the dressing happens. For example, two tablespoons of Wishbone Italian Dressing or one tablespoon of Hellmann’s regular “real mayonnaise” have 100 calories. What to do? Switch! Two tablespoons of Wish bone Fat Free Italian dressing adds just 15 calories to your salad. Also consider not oiling your pots and pans for cooking. Bake with parchment paper instead of greasing the pan. Saute with natural juices in nonstick pans. Every tablespoon adds up pretty quick. Gah, here I go again, back to the natural thing. The nice thing about light salad dressings, less calories, the bad thing, dangerous “other ingredients.” The biggest thing to look out for with salad dressings whether it is regular or light, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OILS! AKA trans-fats in disguise. These are the real bad guys when it comes to fats and heart disease. Please please please learn to read food labels and look out for this word! It’s very common on foods like dressings. But if you find a brand that you like, doesn’t have this word, try it out. I personally like Nuemann’s and Annie’s. But I have to also recommend using balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Can’t got wrong with either of those options for tossing your salad. 
  7. Making One-Slice Sandwiches. Depending on the brand, one slice of bread in your daily luncheon sandwich  may have anywhere from 65-120 calories. Eliminating one slice and serving your sandwich open-faced can cut up to 840 calories from your weekly total. Or I say, wrap it in lettuce to make a wrap, or ditch the bread completely. You can have a complete meal with all the sandwich insides without even needing the bread.
  8. Eliminating the High-Fat Ingredient. Here are ways to eliminate the fat calories: Make spaghetti sauce without oil (minus 100 calories, but you are also loosing the heart benefits from keeping it), Make split pea soup without ham (minus 55 to 90 calories per oz), make cream sauces with skim milk instead of cream (470 calories per cup cream vs. 85-90 for skim milk).
  9. Seasoning the Veggies instead of Drowning Them in Butter. This one’s a no-brainer. Season your vegetables with herbs instead of greasing them, and you save 1– calories for every unused tablespoon of butter, margarine, or oil. Think dill on potatoes, chives on the corn, oregano on green beans, or whatever catches your imagination. I love this advice. I love spices. They are my art medium for my creations I call vegetable and salad dishes. I think I put cayenne, garlic, and oregano on everything. Don’t worry I brush my teeth often.
  10. Washing the Chopped Meat. Heat a pot of water. Put the chopped meat in a pan and cook it until it browns. Pour off the fat, turn the meat into a strainer, and pout a cup of hot water over it. Repeat two times. Every tablespoon of fat that melts or drains from the meat save you 100 calories, plus cholesterol and saturated fat. Use the defatted meat in spaghetti sauce and such. I already told you I agreed with this.

Stay tuned for the probiotic bit.

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