If you’ve spent any time on this blog then you probably have heard me say at least once or twice that weight loss happens in the kitchen just as much as it does in the gym (or at home with BionicGym). You can work out for hours and hours and it won’t make any difference if you are shoving empty calories into your body. And although I don’t really buy into any “diet” I do believe in smart eating and moderation in everything. So how can you lose weight without changing your whole life? Read on to find out my 5 easy ways to cut calories in the kitchen.
Spend Time In The Kitchen
The best advice I can give anyone who wants to lose weight is to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen. Weight loss doesn’t happen by osmosis, so I don’t mean just standing in the kitchen will inspire you to lose weight, but if you spend your time wisely in the kitchen doing things that will actually help you lose weight. So what are those things?
Cook At Home
Going out to eat can be convenient and fun, but if you do it often, you are likely eating upwards of triple the amount of calories that you should be getting each day. Many restaurants are trying to be more transparent with how many calories each plate has, but even with the calorie notifications, there aren’t many options that are less than 800 calories.
Although daily value charts on every carton of food are based on a 2000 calorie diet, most people actually aren’t supposed to be eating exactly that amount of calories each day. If you want to find out how many calories you should be eating, check out this Calorie calculator from Mayo Clinic.
Restaurants include high fats, sugars, and oils that you might not include in your cooking, so the very act of cooking at home will save you calories. It will also save a lot of money, even if you purchase all organic and whole foods!
One of the biggest reasons why people eat food that is bad for them is because they are looking for something fast and convenient. Prepackaged foods are full of empty calories and you won’t feel full for long after eating them. But they do taste delicious. A hot pocket seems really appealing when you are on the go, and although scrambled eggs take about the same amount of time to prepare, they do require a bit more work and mess.
So instead of just crossing your fingers and saying you’ll do better to eat healthily, take your future into your own hands by preparing healthy food ahead of time. You can make several meals ahead of time by just taking an hour or two of time on a weekend to make all the meals and snacks for the rest of your week.
When you have your meals prepped ahead of time, you don’t sit there scratching your head wondering what to have for breakfast and then deciding on a toaster tart. Instead, you know exactly what you are going to eat and when. This will keep you eating healthier food and probably more filling food as well.
Dress Salads Smart
Do you eat salads endlessly and wonder why the pounds are staying put on your body? Well, guess what, salads aren’t always super healthy. I know it may be surprising that anything with that many vegetables would be anything but uber nutritious, but it’s true. The dressings are what take salads from being healthy to almost being a treat. So how do you combat this?
When you’re out shopping for salad dressing make sure you check the nutrition facts and the ingredients! Many salad dressings have some kind of sugar high in the ingredient lists. Make sure you compare one dressing against others and look at the serving size. There are a lot of dressings out there, but you want to get the one that will take you the furthest for the least amount of calories, so be aware of all of these things as you are selecting the perfect dressing.
And don’t be afraid to try the fat-free options. There are a lot of salad dressings that taste great without all the sugars and fats.
If you can’t find a store-bought salad dressing option, never fear! Salad dressing is very easy to make from home, and you can make one in minutes. What’s more is vinaigrettes are very shelf-stable because they are made from vinegar and oil, both components are very long-lasting. So even after you make a batch, you can keep them in the fridge for several weeks at a time. It’s always nice to have some great dressings on hand that you know are healthy.
You can also just opt for some olive oil and your favorite vinegar–mine is red wine vinegar. This will be the healthiest option because it doesn’t include any added sugars. Even if you use this option, feel free to add some zest to your dressing by adding some citrus juice, spices, garlic, or salt and pepper.
Homemade Creamy Dressing
Creamy dressings are typically more fattening than oil-based dressings, however, sometimes you just have a craving for a good creamy dressing. The absolute best trick to having a creamy dressing is using blended avocado with spices, oil, and vinegar. This will give you that creamy feel without the calories of a creamy dressing.
It might be hard to love the avocado taste and texture if you’re not a natural fan, but there are still some great options for a creamy dressing even if you don’t go the most healthy route. One of the things that people who are trying to be calorie conscious do is to make their own creamy dressings like Ranch with a seasoning packet from the store and opt for a Greek yogurt base instead of the sour cream and mayonnaise base. The flavors between the yogurt and sour cream are so similar you might not even notice.
With all these great options, there is no reason for your salads to be deceptively fattening ever again. So figure out some of your favorite recipes and whip up some in bulk to enjoy them for several weeks. This way you aren’t reaching for the fattening salad dressings in a pinch. As I always say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Use Whole Grains
People are always talking about cutting out carbs from their diet. I say this a lot on this blog, but I am a big believer in eating foods in moderation and I try to avoid cutting out whole food groups. Carbohydrates are not bad for you. If you eat too many of them, then they will be, but if you can eat them in moderation, then they are actually a very helpful tool to keep you full longer and give you the stores of energy that you need throughout the day.
So how can you use carbohydrates better? Eat whole grains.
Pasta is one of my absolute favorite ways to get whole grains in. Sure, it is an entirely different taste than regular pasta made with semolina or with white flour, but it is much more fulfilling, and honestly a richer taste. Some people don’t quite like it at first, but I rather enjoy the different texture and the nutty flavor that comes with the whole grains. It’s definitely worth a try.
You can also swap brown rice for your regular white easily as well. This one was a little tougher for me to appreciate than the pasta, but now I’m used to it and like the brown rice as well. The thing about brown rice is that it requires a bit more cooking time and more water than typical white rice. So this might need a little bit of playing with before you get it quite right. Just don’t give up on it the first time you attempt making it and it turns out a bit hard.
One thing I like to do is to add a bit of chicken broth or bouillon to the water that I cook it in to give it a lot more flavor with minimal calories. You can of course add whatever spices you want. I think a lot of people forget that spices have an inconsequential amount of calories and they don’t take advantage of them as they could.
There are so many kinds of bread out there and a lot of people with some pretty strong opinions about bread. When it comes to bread, just try to make a smarter choice. Everyone has their own opinion about what kind of bread is the best for you, or if you should even have bread. But what it really comes down to is if you are making a choice in a positive direction.
So if you are a white bread lover, try whole wheat. If you eat whole wheat, try whole grain. And if you already eat whole grains, you could try some sprouted Ezekiel bread, which is apparently easier on the gut. Whatever you do, just try to make some good choices for your body.
And honestly, if you can’t find a bread that you really like, or if you find, like I have that nutritious bread is very expensive, consider making your own! You can almost always find excellent bread makers at thrift stores for really cheap, and making bread with a bread maker is surprisingly cheap and easy.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
All my friends have their little beverage addiction, whether it’s milk or soda pop, it’s not a great habit it gets into. Drinking your calories, even if you think it’s a healthy drink isn’t something you should indulge in often unless you’re having some meal replacement smoothies. Many drinks, even milk, and juice are packed with sugar and they aren’t what you should rely on most for your hydration during the day.
If you are one of those people who hate water, then it’s probably the first habit I would try to break. Water has amazing benefits for your body. It reduces swelling and water weight (crazy right?). Water will reduce or eliminate acne. It flushes out toxins and waste. You lose weight through sweat and pee, and you need water to do either of those things. It reduces your risk of headaches and migraines. All this and zero calories–is this a dream?
There is no magic pill, but if there was anything close to one, it would be water.
Some people think that because they are drinking a sports drink, they are being healthy, but these drinks are packed with sugar as well. They can do that because it is assuming that you are working out when you are drinking these and that you will be using the shot of energy from the sugar right away. If you don’t use the calories in the sports drink, then your body just stores them until you need them for later as–you guessed it–fat.
Make Healthy Snacks
Many people neglect to plan ahead for snacking, which is about as important as planning your meals. If you have your meals planned out, but not your snacks, then what is stopping you from eating a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting? There are a lot of ways to prepare your snacks ahead of time.
Not everyone likes to cook, and that’s okay! You can still be successful without even going into your kitchen. The secret is to do a bit of research when you’re scanning the aisles in the grocery store. Look at the nutrition facts on some of your favorite snacks and figure out which ones will give you the most for the number of calories.
You might crave a crunch, so consider getting some healthy popsicles, whole grain crackers, or unseasoned popcorn.
Or you might be someone who wants to get full quick. In this case, find snacks high in protein like roasted peanuts, jerky, or nut butter pouches.
Or if you are someone who likes sweet treats, then consider getting some fruit–fresh or dried. You can even pair this with some dark chocolate chips.
Make Your Own
If you do happen to be someone who enjoys making your snacks, then spend some time in the kitchen doing some freezer snacks that you can grab on the go. Again, a great option for this is to make your own popsicles, you literally just have to make a smoothie and put it in a popsicle mold. This can be a great way to get your smoothies in if you start to get tired of them. Or this is also a great way to make your smoothie seem much bigger than it is.
Some people love to make protein balls and you can freeze these ahead of time and pull out one or two balls at a time. These are amazing because they taste just like cookie dough!
I’ve really only reached the very top of the iceberg of easy ways to cut calories in your diet. There are so many options available out there and you are sure to be successful if you only make a few different smart choices each day. Especially if you are regular with your use of BionicGym. Remember, every time you grab an apple instead of a cookie, that is a success! Each choice makes a big difference.