Cutting calories can be a right bore after the novelty wears off. At first, you point MyFitnessPal’s barcode scanner at everything and marvel at how technology makes everything so easy, but after months of doing it its just another annoyance that you have to do every day, like brushing your teeth or sitting in traffic.
Cutting your cals can also feel like a huge sacrifice if you’re a drama queen like I am, which is why I like these easy ways to cut calories – they’re so easy to do that you’ll cut calories without realising. Nice.
How to cut calories without realising it
Skip the butter
Yes, buttery toast really is one of life’s little joys, but you don’t need it on everything. There are so many times when butter is completely masked by other flavours, so what’s the point of having it? For example, a jacket potato with beans and cheese really doesn’t miss butter on the potato, and although packets of couscous suggest adding butter, it’s really not essential and adds nothing to the flavour. As a tbsp of butter is 100 calories, that’s a significant saving for something that doesn’t even add anything. Continue to slather it on toast, though.
…Or find an alternative
Alright, so we’ll concede that sometimes, yes, butter is needed. Your sandwiches are going to be pretty dry without it, so why not try using mashed avocado for a creamy alternative? The calories in avocado can be high depending on how much of it you use, but avocados are high in omega-3, monounsaturated fatty acids (aka ‘good’ fats), potassium and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Plus half an avocado counts as one of your 5 a day, so it might be worth making the switch anyway. Other ideas for alternatives for butter as a spread include hummus, coconut oil and nut butter. Although I’m not sure I’d like to have peanut butter on my ham sandwich.
Ditch the lattes
As a latte is made of espresso and hot steamed milk, it’s fairly high in calories, if a delicious milky way to get your caffeine fix. So if your default order at Starbucks or Costa is a latte, try switching to an Americano with milk or similar. In Starbucks, our barista insider suggests trying a skinny misto, which is half Americano with two shots of espresso and half latte-style steamed milk. A tall misto is 47 calories, whereas a tall skinny latte is 102 cals.
…and stop drinking your calories
If you’re trying to lose weight it’s likely that you’ve already eliminated calories from drinks, but if you haven’t it’s an incredibly easy way of cutting cals. Stop drinking fruit juices – if you’re partial to a glass of orange juice, have an actual orange instead and get some fibre in you as a bonus, and cut down on alcohol, which is very high in calories (see our pick of the best low-cal low-alcohol beer here).
If you’re still partial to a bottle of Coke, make the switch to Coke Zero. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not bad – and you’d save 210 calories and 54g sugar for every 500ml bottle you drink. If Coke Zero isn’t your thing, there are loads of ‘diet’ drinks on the market these days thanks to the introduction of the sugar tax in April 2018, and you can get sugar-free versions of Dr. Pepper (saving 100 calories and 24g sugar per 500ml bottle), Fanta (saving 96 calories and 24g sugar per 500ml bottle) and even Mountin Dew (saving 120 calories and 33g sugar per 500ml bottle).
Spray your oil
Yep, oil is very high in calories and you’re probably already mindful of it. But sometimes you do just need oil – to stop things from sticking, or to crisp things up when oven-cooked (looking at you, potatoes). This is where spray oil comes in handy as a way of cutting cals. You can buy something like Frylight, often hailed as a must-have for Slimming Worlders, or you could buy your own sprayer (like this one) and fill it up with your oil of choice if you want to dodge the emulsifiers, Xantham gum and water in Frylight.
Make your own sauces
If you’re still buying jarred pasta sauces, you’re wasting money and calories. Dolmio’s bolognese pasta sauce is literally just tomatoes, tomato puree, onion, sugar, garlic, salt, sunflower oil, basil and parsley (plus things like modified maize starch and acidity regulators), so easy peasy to make from scratch with stuff you can keep in the cupboard. You can get rid of the sugar and control exactly how much sunflower oil you use too, bringing the calorie count down further.
Follow this BBC recipe for easy spaghetti bolognese and all you’ll need is chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic and a stock cube to replace your Dolmio and you’ll get both the satisfaction of cooking from scratch and a calorie saving.
Make vegetables the star of the show
No, we’re not saying to replace all your spaghetti with ‘zoodles’ (that’s zucchini/courgette noodles if you were absent during the great spiralizerthon of 2015) or to start grating cauliflower to use in place of rice. But one way of cutting calories without realising it is to make the most of your vegetables – make sure every meal involves vegetables and fill your plate with veggies first, this way you can cut down on starchy carbs. A hefty portion of roasted broccoli is delicious with fish and if you keep a few bags of frozen stir-fry veg in the freezer, it’ll be easy to bulk out stir-frys and cut down a bit on the egg noodles.