Extra fats and sugars show up unnoticed in so many of our food choices that empty calories can be hard to avoid. And they can slow your progress to your weight loss goal, even when you’re eating well. Good news: Cutting out those empty calories without losing any of the pleasures of tasty food is easier than you realize. We’ve got some simple swaps you can make this summer that will add up to a big difference in your daily calories.
Here are 10 easy ways to trim empty calories:
1. Cooler coffee
Frappuccinos and other cold coffee drinks can come with more than 200 empty calories in a small, 12-ounce cup. Simple iced coffee with almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon has less than 20 calories, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you’re craving a bit more sweetness, try our easy recipe for making your own Caramel Faux Frappuccino. It has just 134 calories per serving.
Calories saved: 160
2. Whole benefit
Real fruit juice may be better than soda or other artificially sweetened drinks, but many still come with lots of sugar and empty calories. Plus, often fruit juices are created by straining out the fruit’s pulp, which means you lose the benefits that come with fiber. Whole fruit gives you all of the sweet taste you’re after, but you also get fiber to help you feel full. A cup of apple juice, for instance, has 110 calories. You get 57 calories in a cup of apple slices.
Calories saved: 53
3. Nicer cream.
Want a frozen treat on a hot day? Whip up our luscious Mint Chocolate Chip Nice Cream, with only 134 calories per serving, about 20 percent fewer than the 160 calories in store brands.
Pass on the sprinkles and you cut out another 50 calories (per tablespoon), according to the USDA.
Calories saved: 76
4. Oil free
Sauté vegetables to bring out their rich flavors and get them to that perfect balance between crunchy and tender. But keep them from sticking with zero-calorie cooking spray rather than vegetable oil, such as canola, which adds 120 calories per tablespoon.
Calories saved: 120
5. Dressing light
Creamy salad dressings pile extra fat, sugar and calories onto a healthy bowl of fresh vegetables. Just two tablespoons of ranch dressing comes with 110 calories, according to USDA. Try one of our delicious and light salad dressing recipes, or go with calorie-free red wine vinegar or lemon juice instead.
Calories saved (using red wine vinegar or lemon juice): 110
6. Leaner burger
Ground turkey makes tasty burgers that have less than half the calories of ground beef (166 vs. 349). To trim even more calories from your burger, hold the bun (220 calories) and wrap your patty in a sturdy lettuce leaf (one calorie).
Calories saved (turkey in lettuce vs. beef in a bun): 402
7. Homemade marinade
Marinating adds flavor to grilled foods, but beware of those with lots of oil or sugar. Popular brands can have more than 30 calories in two tablespoons. Instead, stir up a homemade marinade for less calories.
Calories saved: 20
8. Better drinks
You can enjoy a drink with alcohol or two each week and stay on track toward your weight loss goal, if you remember the important guidelines from our expert nutritionists. When you choose a drink, pick a light beer (103 calories per 12 ounces) or dry wine like Chardonnay (123 calories per five ounces). Regular beers have 145 calories and mixed drinks such as margaritas can have 300 or more calories in eight ounces, according to the USDA.
Calories saved light vs. regular beer: 42
Calories saved dry wine vs. cocktail: 277
9. Hold the mayo
Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt gives your potato salad the same creamy texture as mayonnaise, but it comes with just 73 calories in seven tablespoons vs. the 700 calories in the same amount of mayo. Substitute steamed cauliflower (12 calories per half-cup) for the potatoes (170 calories) and save even more.
Calories saved yogurt vs. mayo: 627
Calories saved Cauliflower vs. potatoes: 158
10. Primo pasta
Likewise, pass on the mayo for pasta salad and dress it with a simple vinaigrette, which has just 245 calories in seven tablespoons. Add fresh or dried herbs for even more flavor—they have less than two calories in two tablespoons.
Calories saved: 455
*All calorie estimates come from the USDA Food Composition Database.