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  • Scripps Health

Six ways to cut 500 calories a day

Tips to tweak your daily routine and lose weight

Shedding pounds means burning more calories than you are consuming, but losing extra weight does not have to be arduous. Trimming a mere 500 calories a day or burning the same amount through exercise will help you slim down without feeling deprived. Try these tips to get started.

1. Swap Food

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 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 in

“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.

4. Work out while watching TV

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

Sitting at your desk burns an average of about 60 calories an hour, but standing to do your work will burn twice that. You can also try replacing your chair with a stability ball, which will force you to use your core muscles and burn more calories.

6. Relax

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.”

Healthy Life is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps Health. For more information, or for a physician referral, visit or call 1-800-Scripps.

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