Calorie-Shaving Tips to Help You Lose Weight (cont.)

"Doing a little here and there throughout the day makes a big difference if you're trying to lose weight," says Kowalsky.

When it comes to cutting calories, she says it also helps to know where to look. Protein and carbohydrates both contain about 4 calories per gram, but fat has more than twice that at 9 calories a gram, which means trimming even small amounts of fat from your diet can offer substantial calorie savings.

Cut the Fat

Perhaps the most famous fat-cutting technique with fast foods is "the pizza blot," using a napkin or paper towel to blot excess fat from the surface of a slice of pizza. The same technique can also be applied to fried foods and greasy burgers.

Although this method might save a few fat grams if there is visible grease, Moore says the problem is that you don't always know exactly what you're blotting off. It may just be moisture from the toppings on the pizza or the hamburger, and if the food has been sitting around for a while most of the fat has already been absorbed.

A more effective strategy would be to skip the fatty pizza toppings such as pepperoni or sausage and opt for a plain or veggie slice, which guarantees you at least 100 saved calories. By opting for mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, onions, or other vegetables as toppings, Moore says you'll also feel fuller longer because the vegetables provide fiber and other nutritional benefits.

Other quick fixes for cutting the fat in fast food include:

  • Have mustard rather than mayonnaise on sandwiches (savings of about 100 calories per tablespoon).
  • Skip the cheese (100 calories a slice) and opt for lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on burgers and sandwiches.
  • Use cocktail sauce or lemon to season fish and seafood rather than tartar sauce (150 calories per 2-tablespoon serving).
  • Skim extra fat and oil off soups by running an ice cube across the surface and letting the fat stick to it (calorie savings vary).

Cutting Calories at Home

There are also several ways to shave fat and calories from your favorite recipes when cooking at home.

Investing in a good set of non-stick cookware is a good way to cut down on the amount of fat needed to cook almost anything. But Moore and Kowalsky say just about any recipe can also be made healthier and lower in fat and calories.

"I have found that for many regular recipes found in cookbooks, you can easily cut back fat and sugar by even a quarter and not notice any negative effects," says Moore. "You have to play with it, but that's a good rule of thumb."

Any recipe that calls for dairy products is also an ideal candidate for calorie cutting by using a lower-fat version of the product, such as using reduced-fat sour cream instead of the regular.

It's also possible to substitute a portion of the butter or margarine in baked goods with a fruit puree, such as applesauce or baby food, or commercial baking substitute. Just follow the directions on the package.