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How to reduce calories (without realising you're reducing calories).

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

When it comes to losing weight, there is no substitute for eating healthy, colourful foods, cooking from scratch and getting plenty of exercise. But the most important rule that we're all familiar with is that to lose weight we need to create a calorie deficit, or in other words we need to use more calories than we consume. This generally means eating less and moving more. But there are lots of little tricks you can try that can help reduce the number of calories you consume without you even realising it!

1. Use a smaller plate

There are many studies showing that using smaller plates and utensils at meal times can trick our brains into thinking that our portion size is bigger than it really is. We tend to fill our plates so that they are 70% full, which means that if you use a 10 inch plate you will be serving yourself 52% more food than if you use an 8 inch plate! As we tend to eat more if there is more food on our plate, it is easy to see how this trick reduces our portion size and therefore reduces our calorie intake without leaving us feeling that we haven't had enough to eat!

2. Eat slowly and mindfully

It should take you at least 20 minutes to eat a meal. Slowing down gives the brain time to register that the stomach is filling up and can help prevent us from over eating. Try chewing your food thoroughly before swallowing it. Not only can this help slow you down, but it is also really beneficial for the digestive system. Salivary enzymes start to break down the food from the very first chew so the longer you take the better!

It is also important to eat mindfully. Take time to really think about whether you are really hungry before you eat. Turn off the television and put your phone away while you eat meals. Without these distractions you are more likely to notice how hungry you are, really smell and taste your food and are less likely to overeat.

"Mindful eating is about awareness. When you eat mindfully, you slow down, pay attention to the food you're eating, and savour every bite." – Susan Albers, Psy.D

3. Start with a 100 calorie salad

Before your main meal of the day, start with a mixed salad containing 100 calories. Obviously this salad shouldn't have any dressing on it which would likely double the calories. It may sound boring but you can add whatever veg you like, and maybe throw a little fruit in too for a little sweetness. In fact, the more varied and colourful it is the better! Remember, we should be aiming to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg every day at an absolute minimum, here is an example of what 100 calories looks like, which also contains 5 portions of veg:

  • 60g lettuce

  • 80g tomato

  • 80g mixed bell peppers

  • 80g cucumber

  • 80g carrot

  • 10g spring onion

4. Make smart food swaps

Swapping foods for similar, but lower calorie foods can make a huge difference to your over all calorie intake. Have a look at the table below for some ideas of smart food swaps, and to see how small changes can add up to make a big difference!

1 Fried egg


1 Poached egg


1tbsp Mayonnaise


1tbsp Hummus


1 Latte


1 Flat white


1 Thin slice of bread


1 Thick slice of bread


1 Oat cake


1 Rice cake


1 Scoop of ice cream


1 Scoop of sorbet





5. Eat more protein

Studies show that protein is better at creating a feeling of fullness than fat or carbohydrate. By increasing the amount of protein in your meals and snacks you should feel fuller for longer. Protein also helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, reducing the chances that you will give into sugar cravings later in the day! Some good examples of healthy, lean proteins are eggs, white fish, chicken, dairy beans and lentils. Try adding a few spoons of Greek yogurt to your smoothie, or add a poached egg to your bowl of soup!

But don't deprive yourself!

One big mistake many of us make when trying to lose weight is being too restrictive! Consuming too few calories for prolonged periods of time is actually detrimental to long term weight loss. It can slow down the metabolism and cause muscle mass to diminish making it much harder to maintain weight loss. It's the reason why people who yo-yo diet actually find that their weight gradually increases over time. Instead, it is much more effective and easier to maintain your weight loss if you reduce calories little by little and lose weight slowly.

If you think you need some extra help, advice or support with your own weight loss, don't hesitate to get in touch -

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