With less than two weeks left until the start of the summer season, you may be trying to find a way to shed some weight to kick off the summer with a slimmer figure.
And it is easy, at least in principle.
"If you want to lose weight, you need a calorie deficit. In other words, you have to expend more calories than you consume," says weight loss coach and nutritionist Yvonne Saier.
OK, but it might be nice if there were little calorie-cutting tricks to help achieve the deficit with minimal effort. Are there?
The answer is yes, and oil comes quickly to mind. That's no wonder because its energy density is high: A mere tablespoon packs more than 100 calories. So how best to cut calories here?
"First of all, you should get yourself a pan with a good coating. Then you'll need less oil for frying," points out a food blogger in Bavaria who goes by the name Stef.
Before serving, you can remove the grease from fried foods by dabbing them with paper towels. Not to worry: Your dinner will taste just as good.
"It's best to bread meat and fish yourself anyway, and maybe just coat them in flour," says nutritional therapist and author Doris Fritzsche. The reason is that breading soaks up a lot of fat, and the breading on processed foods tends to be extra thick because it saves the manufacturers money.
The aforementioned food experts discourage cooking without oil entirely, though.
"A limited amount of fat is important for the body," says Fritzsche, explaining that some vitamins can only be absorbed in combination with fat. "This is why it makes little sense to saute vegetables in water to save calories."
Salad dressing without oil isn't a good idea either, she says.
Rice, potatoes and noodles also have calorie-savings potential – for those willing to wait. "If you cook these foods, let them cool and then eat them the following day either warmed up or cold, they'll have somewhat fewer calories," says Saier.
This is because when they cool down, some of the digestible starches in them turn into digestion-resistant starches that act as a kind of dietary fiber. So your body draws less energy from these foods. It's estimated that resistant starches can cut your calorie intake by roughly 10%.
Dairy products are an important part of lots of people's diet, and many are inclined to choose products with the lowest fat content.
"You can do this to save calories, of course," says Saier, but notes there are drawbacks. For one thing, ultra low-fat products often taste bland, she says, adding, "You've got to realize that low-fat cottage cheese won't satisfy your hunger as long as cottage cheese with, say, a fat content of 20 percent."
If you want to reduce the calories you consume, you need to consider what foods you should generally eat and in what amounts and proportions. To do this, you've got to look at your entire plate.
"Ideally, half of it should be covered by vegetables, and a quarter each by side dishes that are filling and protein-rich foods – plus some high-quality oil," Fritzsche says. "This way you'll feel full faster and therefore consume fewer calories. And you'll feel full longer because your blood-sugar levels will stay stable longer."
But it's not just what's on your plate that counts, says Stef. "When following a calorie-conscious diet, you shouldn't only take something away, you should add something too: exercise. It plays a key role in calorie expenditure."