6 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

Tweak your daily routine with these weight-loss tips

An African-American woman exercises while watching a TV program on her laptop.

Tweak your daily routine with these weight-loss tips

Shedding pounds means burning more calories than you are consuming but losing extra weight does not have to be arduous.

For many people, trimming 500 calories a day from their diet or burning the same amount through exercise — or doing a combination of both — will help them lose weight without feeling deprived.

The 500-calorie deficit approach is a good starting point, especially for overweight people, plus it has gotten easier to count calories with the help of websites and apps. Some experts say cutting 500 calories daily appears to work well in the short term for moderate weight loss for overweight and obese people. But everyone is different. Talk to your doctor to determine a healthy weight for you before starting a weight-loss diet. 

Once you’re ready to start, try these six tips to help you meet your desired weight goal:

1. Swap high-calorie foods for lower-calorie options

Cutting calories is as easy as swapping out one food for another. Making these lower calorie food swaps will reduce calories by at least 100 calories per serving, so if you combine five, you’ve shaved off 500 calories.

  • Greek yogurt for sour cream
  • Oatmeal for granola
  • Café Americano or black coffee for a latte
  • Hummus and red pepper for hummus and toasted pita
  • Popcorn for trail mix
  • Cheese and apple slices for cheese and crackers
  • Chicken sausage for beef sausage
  • Frozen banana for regular ice cream
  • Sparkling water for soda
  • Grapes for dried fruit
  • Zucchini noodles for angel hair pasta
  • Mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes
  • Kale chips for potato chips
  • Broth for oil when sautéing

“Thinking carefully about what you eat and making relatively small exchanges can help you eat a healthier diet,” says Dana Vaccari, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines.

2. Get moving on your lunch hour

“The more active you are, the fewer calories you’ll need to cut from your daily food intake,” says Dr. Vaccari. “In addition, using your lunch hour to exercise can help you return to work with more energy and the ability to concentrate and focus better on the tasks at hand.”

If you walk during your lunch for five days, you can burn 500 extra calories. An easy way to keep track is to wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day, or about five miles, and you will burn 500 calories.

3. Sleep better, feel better

“Lack of sleep triggers the production of the so-called hunger hormone — ghrelin,” says Dr. Vaccari. Secreted primarily in the stomach lining, ghrelin signals to your brain that you are hungry and is usually high before you eat and low after you eat. People who sleep less than 6 hours at night eat up to 300 calories more during the day.

If you have trouble sleeping, limit use of electronic devices, caffeine and other stimulants to help you fall asleep.

Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Well-rested people are also more likely to exercise.

4. Work out, not eat, while watching TV

Studies show we tend to eat more when we do it in front of the TV. Eat at the table and if you want to do anything fun in front of the TV, enjoy a little workout. Doing some squats and sit-ups while catching up on your favorite show can help you burn calories and prevent mindless munching.

5. Stand when you can

If you have a way to transform your workspace into a standing desk for at least part of the day, consider doing it. Studies show that sitting for too long is not good for your health.

Standing desks are adjustable desks that allow you to stand up while working. They’re also known as height-adjustable desks or sit-stand desks. They not only offset the harmful effects of sitting too much but also promote good health.

6. Relax and manage your stress

Released during stress, the hormone cortisol signals your body to replenish your nutritional stores, which means your appetite may increase. Activities that make you feel relaxed and calm trigger your brain to produce chemicals that counter the biochemical effects of stress, thus reducing cortisol levels.

Relaxation techniques are as individual as they are varied, but some tried-and-true methods are meditation, deep breathing, yoga or reading a good book or magazine.

“Over time, these healthy choices can become second nature,” says Dr. Vaccari. “Start small and incorporate these changes one at a time. While it may be tempting to try everything at once, that may be overwhelming.”

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