3 steps to cut calories for weight loss

Simple ways to help balance your calorie intake for weight-loss success

The formula for weight loss sounds simple: You need to burn more calories than you take in. That usually means moving more and eating less.1 But does the thought of cutting back on what you eat leave you, well … hungry?

Here’s a secret: You may not have to do anything drastic. Consider this three-step, no-diet, no-denial approach. It may help you shave calories on your way to weight-control success:

Step 1: Examine and plan

Play detective. Record what you eat and drink every day — for about a week — in a food diary. You can make your own — or use an app.

Then look over your entries — and note essentials and extras. Essentials are foods that give your body energy and nutrients. These are healthy items such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean sources of protein. Extras are often sugary or fatty foods with few nutrients. You don’t have to give up these treats entirely. But ask yourself how you might cut back.

Rethink how you eat. Do you finish your child’s leftovers? Nibble nonstop at work? Overindulge when you’re stressed? Try to identify times you eat when you’re not truly hungry.

Think of ways you can switch up your behavior. Maybe that means having the kids clear the table, packing nutritious bites in small portions for work or making a cup of tea when you feel tension rising.

Shop smart. Head to the grocery store with a list of healthy foods in hand. And don’t go in hungry. Shop after a meal or hearty snack, when goodies are less likely to tempt you.

Step 2: Trim at the table

Downsize dishes. Dish up on small plates and bowls. You’ll still feel like you’re getting plenty. But the portions will stay modest. This trick can work for beverages too.

Savor the flavor. Enjoy every bite — and eat slowly. It gives your mind time to get the message that your stomach is full.

Step 3: Be a savvy snacker

Tap into water. Drink up throughout the day. Quenching your thirst first may help take the edge off hunger.

Ready yourself for snack attacks. You don’t have to give up between-meal munchies. Just have healthy options on hand, such as whole fruit, fresh veggies, or plain popcorn with a little garlic powder or your favorite salt-free seasoning.

Unpack your bags. Do you sometimes eat straight from a package of crackers, nuts or chips? Even if you make a healthy choice, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve had. So serve yourself a small portion — and put the package away. Or pack up single servings in small baggies or containers that you can grab on the go.


  1. For general good health, most people should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. But to lose pounds or maintain a weight loss, you may need more. Ask your doctor what your goals should be. For safety’s sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.


The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical or other advice. Talk to an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you.

Last reviewed June 2017