Cutting 100 Calories at a Time

Open-faced veg sandwichTrying to cut back on calories? If eating fewer calories is a challenge that seems too difficult, cutting 100 calories at a time might be an easier way to lose unwanted pounds for a healthier weight and cancer prevention.

Eating slightly more calories than you burn can pile on unwanted pounds over time. But the opposite is also true. Eating 100 fewer calories per day can help you maintain a healthier weight and lower risk of diseases like cancer.

Researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver investigated different ways study subjects chose to cut 100 calories a day from their diets. The most common methods included:

  • leaving 3-4 bites on the plate
  • switching to lower calorie drinks
  • switching from snack foods to fruits or vegetables.

Even though the subjects were asked to cut 100 calories a day, many ended up cutting more during the short two-week term of the dietary part of the study.

"The small change approach appears to have a better chance to be maintained, especially in regard to the prevention of weight gain," wrote the study authors, led by James O. Hill, PhD, director of the America On The Move Program.

Forbidding Foods May Backfire

The general idea is to cut back on foods that are more concentrated in calories foods that, bite for bite, contain more calories from fat and/or sugar (such as a piece of chocolate) than the same amount of a naturally low-calorie food (such as an apple).

Yet cutting calorie-dense foods out completely may backfire, says AICR Nutrition Advisor Karen Collins, MS, RD. "When you make a food forbidden, it can become all the harder to give it up on a long-term basis," Collins says. "That food often becomes the go-to food when you feel stressed.

"Instead, first figure out which particular foods you struggle with most in this way," she suggests. "Then be sure to include a little of them on a regular basis so you don't feel deprived. Eat these foods at normal, unemotional times. By making them 'regular' foods, we can reduce their emotional impact."

Lightly Trimming Your Calories

If you need to cut calories, try thinking a little smaller, Collins suggests. Here are a few examples of food amounts that have approximately 100 calories and substitutions you can make to cut 100 calories:

  • 1 medium slice of bread. Eat an open-faced sandwich using one slice of bread instead of two.
  • 1 Tbsp. oil or butter. Substitute half the oil in dressing with nonfat, reduced sodium chicken broth or 100 percent fruit juice.
  • 2 ounces low-fat cheddar cheese. Grate only 1 ounce of cheese to make it go further.
  • 1 cup vanilla nonfat yogurt (sweetened with sugar substitute). Switching to non- or low-fat versions of dairy foods can cut calories.
  • A "mini" bagel (1/3 the size of a standard 4-inch bagel). "Mini" sizes of items, including pre-measured 100-calorie packages of crackers or cookies, can satisfy your taste for the larger item.
  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn (without butter). Plain popcorn can be a great low-calorie snack that provides fiber and less fat than chips or popcorn with butter.

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