If you can’t seem to get yourself to the gym, pavement, or trail, there’s still hope for you to lose weight before summer hits. But it’s not found in a pill you saw in a late-night infomercial. At the most basic level, dieting to lose weight means cutting calories. Maintaining protein intake helps spare lean muscle mass, too. What’s left? Cutting out added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed and saturated fats. Here are 10 swaps you can make every day that, when tallied weekly, may help you lose up to four pounds per week.
1 of 10
Go a la Carte
Calories Saved: 620
Instead of ordering the “number 3” on the value menu, you can satisfy your hunger and on-the-run schedule without resorting to a fast food salad. Ask for a regular burger, small fry, and unsweetened iced tea or diet soda. The same goes for sub sandwich shops (skip the chips) and taco bars, since meal combos fill you with way more food than most people need. When you reduce your portions of restaurant foods, you’re slashing sodium, too, which may help you retain less water and appear less bloated if you’re salt sensitive. Note: Calories savings based on switching from a quarter pounder with cheese, medium fry, and 32-ounce regular soda.
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2 of 10
Dump Sports Drinks
Calories Saved: 130
The average gym rat working out for an hour does not need sports drinks, period. Sports drinks are filled with sugar, some sodium, and a bit of potassium. Most Americans already get more sodium than they need, so you’re probably better off getting sodium and potassium from food that fills you up. Go for a satisfying post-workout meal or snack with protein and carbs that include fruits and vegetables. Chug some water, too. Note: Calorie savings based on a 20-ounce bottle of the leading brand of sports drink.
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3 of 10
Calories Saved: 150
While it’s totally fine to eat pasta, especially whole-grain, it’s the sheer volume of a bowl of it that can get you into trouble. To solve that, for every cup of pasta you dish out, make sure there’s at least a cup of cooked non-starchy vegetables, like asparagus, onions, spinach, and broccoli. Apply this same principle to stir-fries and any meal you put on your plate, for that matter. Vegetables add fiber, which may keep you satisfied longer, and are an added coup when you’re trying to cut calories.
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4 of 10
Get the Thin Crust
Calories Saved: 180
Just because you want to lose weight doesn’t mean you have to stop eating pizza. Go with the thin crust instead of the original and get chicken instead of pepperoni. While you’re at it, add on vegetable toppings and have a mostly vegetable salad alongside and you’ll probably need fewer slices of ‘za to feel satisfied. Apply this principle to your sub sandwich, too, opting for a six-inch rather than a 12-inch. Note: Calorie savings based on 1/4 of a small pizza.
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5 of 10
Take the Night Off
Calories Saved: 300
Remember that alcohol — yes, even a straight shot of vodka or a light beer — provides empty calories. After the weekend, give your body three nights off from alcohol, which adds up to significant calorie savings. If you want a break from water, try a cup of hot tea or flavored sparkling water. Come Thursday or Friday, that cocktail will taste all the better since you took a sabbatical. Note: Calorie savings based on cutting out two cans of regular beer per day.
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6 of 10
Grab Some Spinach
Calories Saved: 80
Add pre-washed spinach leaves (or arugula) to pasta, soup, wraps, sandwiches, and eggs. The added cup or two of low-calorie spinach will fill up your plate, leaving less room for the bready, starchy stuff. Note: Calorie savings based on cutting one serving of starchy food.
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9 of 10
Pass on the Basket
Calories Saved: 100
Whether you’re flying coach or first class, most of the free snacks (except the peanuts) aren’t doing you any favors. Instead of munching all that refined flour and sugar, bring your own pouch of tuna or nuts for a protein-filled snack when true hunger strikes. Apply this method to the office, too, side-stepping vending machines and donuts.
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10 of 10
Put Avocado on Everything
Calories Saved: 60
Instead of a slice of full-fat cheese on your burger, tacos, and anything else you’d normally smother with cheese, plop on three thin avocado slices. You’ll get more fiber, too.
Michelle Dudash, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and cookbook author.
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