When you think of how to cut calories, you probably imagine an unpleasant exercise that involves sapping all the joy out of your meals. But it doesn’t need to be that way! Yes, it’s true that if you want to lose weight, cutting calories is usually part of the equation, along with eating healthier food and making sure to work in some exercise (strength training and cardio are your friends). But the key to long-lasting weight loss is making sustainable choices you can stick to, which is why cutting calories shouldn’t be a drastic overhaul of your diet—just little tweaks that give you a practically painless healthy upgrade.
Before jumping into these 18 easy tips for cutting 100 calories, a quick but vital note: Losing weight is different for every person. What works for your friend may not work for you and vice versa. And if you have a history of disordered eating, check in with your doctor before making any changes to your eating habits, just to be sure you’re being safe. Counting calories can be problematic for people who have struggled with eating disorders, and if it isn’t something you feel comfortable with, you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) do it. It’s also absolutely not the only way to lose weight (if that’s your goal), nor are calories the only factor that matters. Sustainable weight loss also requires getting good sleep, keeping active, managing stress, and factoring in any medical issues that may contribute to weight maintenance, such as hormones and medications. And whether your aim is to lose weight, maintain your weight, or adopt healthier eating habits, all those things are part of the bigger equation.
Now, with your intentions set—whatever they may be—here are 18 of the best, easiest ways to slash 100 calories without depriving your tastebuds.
1. Eat your eggs with hot sauce instead of cheese.
“Eggs are great for breakfast, but many people consider eggs and cheese to be BFFs,” Lauren Slayton, M.S., R.D., founder of Foodtrainers, tells SELF. “Instead of cheese—1 ounce of cheddar has 114 calories—top your eggs with hot sauce, which contains no calories and helps with satiety. Plus, you need a little spice in the new year!”
2. Top your toast, waffles, or pancakes with mashed berries instead of jelly or syrup.
“Half a cup of berries—fresh, frozen, or thawed—has about 40 calories, compared with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or jelly, which both have about 100 calories,” Kelly Hogan, M.S., R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at the Dubin Breast Cancer of the Tisch Cancer Institute of The Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. “Plus, who only uses 2 tablespoons of syrup? The berries will also give you a good punch of fiber, which helps keep you full and satisfied and won’t spike blood sugar quickly like the jelly or syrup.”
3. Swap the non-fat latte for black coffee with a splash of half-and-half.
A non-fat latte can have around 130 calories and 19 grams of carbohydrates per 16-ounce serving, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., creator of the F-Factor Diet. “Replacing that ‘light’ drinkable dessert with a black coffee with a splash of half-and-half saves you more than 100 calories per 16-ounce serving,” she tells SELF.
4. Sprinkle salads with freeze-dried raspberries instead of dried cranberries.
“If you want a sweet addition to your nutritious salad, stay away from dried cranberries,” Zuckerbrot says. “They have a whopping 130 calories per ¼ cup and 30 grams of carbohydrates.” Instead, add freeze-dried raspberries to your salad to save more than 100 calories per ¼ cup serving and get 3 grams of belly-filling fiber, to boot.
5. Go for mustard in place of mayo on your sandwich.
“Mustard can add really nice flavor to any sandwich, and there are tons of varieties,” says Hogan. “A serving of mayo is 95 calories, versus 10 calories in a serving of mustard.” To ensure this swap makes nutritional sense, avoid mustards with a ton of added sugar.
6. Choose a DIY salad dressing instead of the store-bought kind.
“Again, mustard is your friend,” says Hogan. “Mix Dijon or whole-grain mustard with kefir or red wine vinegar and garlic.”
7. Use hummus as a spread instead of a dip.
“With 70 calories in a 2-tablespoon serving, using hummus as a dip can turn healthy crudités into a high-calorie snack,” says Zuckerbrot. “Instead, use hummus as a spread on a high-fiber cracker or tortilla with a sandwich and save on calories without sacrificing taste.”
8. Pick just one salad “accessory.”
“Salad isn’t automatically a calorie winner,” says Slayton. “It’s easy to over-accessorize with toppings. Instead of topping your salad with nuts, avocado, and cranberries ([regular servings of] all three will clock in at 313 calories), just pick one. The next day, choose a different accessory, which will also keep your salad interesting. You don’t wear all your jewelry every day, right?”
9. Ditch the white pasta in favor of spaghetti squash.
“One cup of cooked spaghetti squash has about 40 calories, compared with traditional spaghetti, which comes with more than 200,” says Hogan. “Spaghetti squash is also nutrient-dense. It’s a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C, and it can be eaten just like you would eat pasta—with a great tomato sauce and turkey meatballs or with pesto, tofu, and spinach, for example.”
10. Dress up your chili, soups and stews with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
“Just a ‘dollop’ of sour cream can set you back 115 calories and 12 grams of fat—7 of which are of the artery-clogging variety,” says Zuckerbrot. “Added bonus: Greek yogurt is packed with muscle-building protein, calcium, and B vitamins.”
11. Mash cauliflower instead of potatoes.
“One cup of traditional mashed potatoes—in all their creamy goodness—has more than 200 calories, compared to mashed cauliflower, which you can typically eat for less than 100 calories per 1-cup serving,” says Hogan. No wonder people often rely on cauliflower when trying to cut carbs in a healthy way!
12. Ditch the ice cream sundae in favor of a Greek yogurt parfait.
“Instead of a cup of ice cream or fro-yo for dessert, try 1 cup of Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs,” says Hogan. “Both toppings are packed with antioxidants, which can help reduce cellular inflammation. And the comparison is a no-brainer: 1 cup of ice cream has about 275 calories, 1 cup of frozen yogurt has about 230, and 1 cup of Greek yogurt has just 130, plus twice the protein,” which will help keep you full.
13. Put olive oil in a spray container instead of using it directly from the bottle.
“Each tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories and 15 grams of fat,” says Zuckerbrot. “Use a mister instead of pouring it straight into the pan or onto a salad. This allows for portion control and will save you more than 100 calories.”
14. When baking, substitute canned pumpkin for butter or oil.
“Canned pumpkin—not pumpkin pie mix—is loaded with vitamin A, which is important for skin and eye health, as well as immunity,” says Hogan. “And the comparisons are pretty crazy: ½ cup of canned pumpkin has about 40 calories, compared to butter or oil, which can have over 800 calories per ½ cup. Yes, 800 calories. Applesauce and mashed banana can also serve as good substitutions for butter or oil, usually in a 1:1 ratio.”
15. Top casseroles with high-fiber cereal instead of breadcrumbs.
“Breadcrumbs are typically made with white bread, while breakfast cereals contain 5-9 grams of fiber per serving,” says Zuckerbrot. “Not only will you save more than 150 calories per ½ cup serving, the swap will also keep you fuller longer.” Thank the fiber for that added benefit.
16. Snack on pistachios instead of macadamia nuts.
“Believe it or not, you get the same amount of calories from 35 pistachios (100 calories) as you would from only five macadamia nuts,” says Zuckerbrot. And the act of shelling the pistachios requires you to slow down, an essential part of mindful eating, a collection of helpful habits that can help you lose weight.
17. Chow down on kale chips rather than potato chips.
“This is my favorite ‘don’t knock it till you try it’ swap,” says Hogan. “Kale chips are so easy to make at home, and you can spice them up with a little grated parmesan or chili powder. Plus, they’re a mere fraction of the calories of potato chips, but with the same crunch factor we crave so often.”
18. Add seltzer and some fruit slices to your cocktail instead of soda or fruit juice.
“A cup of soda or fruit juice can pack on as many as 140 calories,” says Zuckerbrot. “Instead, use seltzer and fruit slices.” The fruit provides valuable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and you still get some delicious flavor without accidentally going overboard on calories (a very easy thing to do when it comes to cocktails).
You may also like: A Total-Body At-Home Workout For Weight Loss