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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 04, 2007

10 Ways to Cut Calories

By Mark Sisson
23 Comments

Ultimately, optimal health is more about what you put in your body, not how much. But “how much” does matter to some extent, regardless of what you are eating. A grass-fed steak may be one of the most nutritious foods on earth (bring on that saturated fat), but it shouldn’t cause your grocery cart to list to one side.

I eat about 50% of my calories from fat these days, and I’ve never been healthier or leaner. Eating so much fat keeps me sated so I don’t crave huge portions or plates piled high with goodies. That’s a nice side effect of eating for my health first and foremost. If you’ve adopted the Primal Health philosophy of consuming plenty of natural fats, protein and produce, you’ve taken care of the “what” part of eating, and your body will benefit for years to come because you’re eating for your body’s blueprint.

However, if you are still carting around a spare tire or not-so-lovable handle the “how much” still matters. Back to that grass-fed steak. While it’s healthy, none of us needs more than a few juicy ounces of it at a time (jeez, I’m making myself hungry here). Eat as healthy as you want to eat, but to lose weight, the old rule is still true: you must cut calories. Of course, certain foods will optimize your metabolism. Carbohydrates are a recipe for metabolic and immune disaster. But at the end of the day, calories do count. Here are some easy ways to cut back if you’ve got a few clingers:

10. Cut meat portions in half.

I’m a huge proponent of plenty of protein – at a minimum, 100 grams daily. But often, meat portions are too big. This is especially true in restaurants, but Carrie and I have noticed the prevalence of gargantuan steaks and step-aside-turkey chicken breasts at the market these days, too. (Attack of the bionic meat?) 3-6 ounces is plenty. Focus on source, flavor, and quality, not quantity.

9. Cut out the (hefty) toppings.

I love loading up my daily salad with plenty of ingredients – usually at least a dozen. But I choose low-calorie vegetables, and a good source of protein, rather than fried, crunchy, caloric toppings. Top your salads with veggies, not cheeses and nuts, if you are trying to lose weight. Top ‘em even if you aren’t, in fact.

8. Eliminate starchy vegetables.

If you are lean and healthy, things like yams and carrots are fine. But they do tend to have more calories than greens and cruciferous vegetables, so mind those starchy squashes and tubers if you want to lose a few pounds.

7. Cut legume portions in half.

Peas and other legumes like chickpeas and kidney beans are rich in vitamins and fiber. They also contain good vegetarian protein and healthy fats. But they’re very caloric. If you want to lose weight, cut those lentil, pea, and bean portions in half.

6. Eat only one snack daily.

Snacks can often be as caloric as a meal, particularly things like cheese and nuts. A handful is fine; anything more is a meal. Pay attention to the small bites you take throughout the day because they do add up more than you think.

5. Replace a meal with a protein shake.

If you really want to drop some serious weight (more than those last 5 or 10), replace a meal with a quality, dense shake. Mine packs a generous serving of protein and fiber for minimal calories and virtually no sugar.

4. Replace fruits with vegetables.

Fruits contain sugar, which is fine in limited amounts. But fruits are simply higher in calories than vegetables, something many folks don’t know. Replace those fruit snacks with vegetable snacks for equal – or better – nutrition and fewer calories.

3. Use less oil in cooking.

Try using a tablespoon of oil on a lower heat setting instead of liberal pours. I personally don’t watch my fat portions much, but my metabolism is set at a high level through years of training and living the Primal lifestyle. As your body adjusts, you’ll be able to eat more calories.

2. Watch the nut portions.

Nuts are an amazing nutrient source – protein, fat, fiber, vitamins galore. But they are incredibly high in calories. A serving size is a handful, not a pack.

1. Drink only water.

To really lose weight, make sure you aren’t drinking your calories! (Unless those calories are replacing a bulk meal.) Limit alcohol and eliminate dairy and juices.

semuthutan Flickr pic (CC)

Further Reading:

How Our Eyes Deceive Our Appetites

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?

3 Delicious, Healthy Soups to Help You Lose Weight

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23 Comments on "10 Ways to Cut Calories"

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Dave C.
8 years 9 months ago

You’re timing couldn’t be better. After losing 30 pounds in three months, I’ve definitely hit a plateau. It’s been exacerbated by an injury (strained hip flexor) that has severely curtailed my ability to exercise. My daily intake normally includeds a big chunk of butternut squash and a lot of nuts. I guess I’m going to have to back off on those if I want to continue to lose weight. Plus I have to fend off the constant temptation of holiday cooking at work and home. It’s gonna be a tough month!!

McFly
McFly
8 years 9 months ago

What’s this “Only Water” business? Am I being controversial by thinking it’s okay to drink diet coke, or herbal tea? I’ve read something about diet coke tricking the brain into misreading a sweet taste and hindering weight loss, but I don’t believe it, bah!

John
John
5 years 2 months ago

Water is Great. Green Tea is too, but stay away from the diet drinks. Aspartame is poison!

billy
billy
8 years 9 months ago

I have a problem with cutting out the hefty toppings. I feel the same as that little boy in the chef boy-ar-dee commercial, “why does everything that’s good for me, taste so bad”. I like unhealthy food, it just tastes better. Not that I don’t enjoy the discussion, though.

Mark McManus
8 years 9 months ago

Nice post Mark.

I agree strongly with points 1, 4, and 8. Getting sugar intake down is absolutely critical. Thanks for this.

Mark from http://www.MuscleHack.com

Abel
Abel
2 years 8 months ago

Great to see you here Mark (another Mark, there you go:))

Mike
Mike
8 years 9 months ago
Billy: It is possible that in changing your diet, your tastes will change as well. I still struggle with eating junk food, but I also like to snack on raw veggies while at work. I’m slowly adding healthier foods to my diet, and in doing so, find that the junk foods just naturally stop having the same appeal they once did. Concentrating on adding healthy food instead of focusing on what I’m losing has helped me quit a bit. Of course, if you put a Reeses in front of me, I’m probably going to eat it. Nobody is perfect 🙂
Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 9 months ago
“If you are lean and healthy, things like yams and carrots are fine. But they do tend to have more calories than greens and cruciferous vegetables, so mind those starchy squashes and tubers if you want to lose a few pounds.” Don’t be fooled by the color. Carrots are orange like high starch vegetables sweet potato and winter squash and thus loaded with beta carotene; however, while one cup of cooked sweet potato and squash clock in at 95 and 79 calories respectively, the humble carrot is a mere 50 calories, just seven more than a cup of broccoli. I… Read more »
Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 9 months ago
‘Am I being controversial by thinking it’s okay to drink diet coke, or herbal tea? I’ve read something about diet coke tricking the brain into misreading a sweet taste and hindering weight loss, but I don’t believe it, bah!” A number of studies have linked high consumption of artificial sweeteners to weight gain. Much of the correlation is probably psychological: because diet drinks typically contain less than 25 calories, people reward themselves by eating more. Even if you’re not one of the those people, it’s still a good idea to avoid soft drinks as they rob the body of minerals.… Read more »
kathryn
8 years 9 months ago

Both for myself and also clients, I’ve found using smaller plates really useful for cutting calories. While I know it’s an optical illusion, smaller plates and bowls encourages smaller portions.

Mark
Mark
8 years 9 months ago

When my wife and I go out to dinner, we’ll often agree on what we both want and then share them. Maybe split a salad and an order of fish. Invariably we will ask each other how a normal person could have consumed both and not felt uncomfortably full. Alternatively, I have discovered that it’s OK to simply take a few bites and push the plate away (that was a tough one when I can still hear my mother bringing up all those kids starving in [insert third world country here]).

Migraineur
8 years 9 months ago
Sonagi, A clarification – there is no RDA for beta carotene. There is an RDA for vitamin A. Food manufacturers are allowed to include carotenes in the vitamin A count of food labels, even though carotenes is not vitamin A and must be converted to vitamin A by the body, and not all people can perform the conversion effectively. People with endocrine disorders (diabetes, thyroid problems) have an especially difficult time making vitamin A out of carotenes. And even those with optimal conversion abilities need 4 units of carotenes to produce one unit of vitamin A. Here’s some interesting info… Read more »
Bad Breath Remedy
8 years 9 months ago

“It is possible that in changing your diet, your tastes will change as well.”

Not only that, changing your diet can sometimes cause you to taste differently and even have bad breath.

This is especially so for those who are on high in protein and low in carbo diet. When the body is lacking in carbohydrates, it begins to use its own stored up fats in order to get energy and when such fat is burnt it causes the release of chemical known as ketones which also causes bad breath.

leosatter
leosatter
8 years 9 months ago
this makes me want to start cooking right now! LOL! Maybe you can help me out with something…? I want to order all of my food online from now on because of various reasons, but I don’t know where to go for quality food. I have tried 2 companies so far, Fresh Dining, and and Celebrity Foods, but I wanna get others I can try out. Do you know of any? The main thing I’ve ordered so far is steak. I guess you can say, I’m a steak junkie. LOL!!! From what I have found out (from what I have… Read more »
Aaron
8 years 9 months ago
Leosatter- I would contact your favorite local grocery store to see if they deliver. I wouldn’t suggest ordering from an internet grocer as they typically only carry frozen, packaged, preserved foods with little nutritional value. Sometimes it is difficult to find quality grass fed organic beef. As you say, mail order is a good option for a good steak. This goes for other specialty foods as well. I always suggest buying locally from a farmer’s market if there is one close by, but if you must have your food delivered I would go with online specialty shops like those that… Read more »
leosatter
leosatter
8 years 9 months ago
Maybe you can help me out with something…? I want to order all of my food online from now on because of various reasons, but I don’t know where to go for quality food. I have tried 2 companies so far, Fresh Dining, and and Celebrity Foods, but I wanna get others I can try out. Do you know of any? The main thing I’ve ordered so far is steak. I guess you can say, I’m a steak junkie. LOL!!! From what I have found out (from what I have ordered so far) I think I am able to regulate… Read more »
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jeffrey
8 years 7 months ago

what are best to eat while dieting i have read u cant eat fruits but what about melons green apple and pears are those still have to be replace for viggies or are just the ones in high sugar content.

Mark Sisson
8 years 6 months ago

Jeffrey,

here’s a link to an earlier piece we did that discussed just that:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/best-and-worst-fruits/

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Kim
Kim
4 years 9 months ago
“Carbs are a recipe for immune disaster” Tell a guy who just had a heart attack or whos arteries are hardening to eat either plenty of fruits & vegetables(which are carbs) or fatty meats,bacon & steak.Not u Mark or anybody here could live without carbs.Try it,eat nothing but fat & protein for a year,see what happens.Look at the eskimoes of yesteryear they have to eat raw animal organs to get their vitamin C & they seek out as much as possible plant foo(carbs) because the body desperately needs it.I^m a meat lover but I know when it comes to anti-ageing,anti-cancer,anti-heart… Read more »
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