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Easy ways to reduce calories

Molly Cerreta Smith has enjoyed a career in the publishing industry for more than 10 years. As an editor of several regional magazines, she has had the opportunity throughout her career to meet many local celebrities, businesspeople, ent...

Cut the calories, kick up flavor

Let's get to the point: Swimsuit season is closer than you think. Whether you want to slim down five or 10 pounds — or more — you already know the deal: fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains... yawn. Add a little fun to your diet while subtracting from your waistline with some creative snacks and calorie-cutting tricks.
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Eat what you like

Here's a crazy diet theory — don't waste your calories on a bunch of highly processed "light" foods. Instead, eat what you like... with a few modifications. Instead of heavily breaded and fried chicken strips and French fries, for example, coat some white meat chicken breast pieces in 100 percent whole wheat panko crumbs or finely crushed raw nuts (such as pistachios), bake them and add them to the top of a bed of leafy greens. If you love mashed potatoes, try pureed cauliflower. You get the idea: Experiment with new ways to prepare your favorite foods in a lighter and healthier way so you don't feel deprived.

Skip the dressings without leaving your lettuce bare

Store-bought salad dressings, even the light ones (actually, especially the light ones!) are just diet no-nos. But if the thought of chomping down dry salad makes you want to cringe, consider some low-cal enhancers like flavored vinegar (balsamic, apple cider or champagne are all yummy) on salads with raw veggies or fruit, salsa on a Mexican salad instead of sour cream and guac or even a few splashes of soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil on an Asian-inspired salad instead of a heavily caloric peanut dressing.

5 Ways to make breakfast healthier >>

Spice things up

Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean your meals have to be bland. Put a little pep in your step, ahem, we mean, your diet with some spices like chili or curry as well as fresh herbs like rosemary, dill and basil, which can add a whole new taste to once-boring foods like grilled fish without the additional calories of rich sauces or dips.

Salad dressing secrets: How to avoid sabotaging your greens >>

Easy on the cheese

Cheese is one of those items that always seem to come along with your salad, sandwich or burger but its flavor seems to get lost among the other ingredients. Those calories sure don't get lost, though. Our advice? Skip the full-fat cheese as an accoutrement and instead enjoy a reduced-fat cheese such as Alpine Lace on its own or paired with a small portion of raw nuts, some olives or apple slices for a satisfying snack.

Think outside your comfort zone

Tired of steamed broccoli and brown rice? We totally get it. So branch out. Just because you didn't like Brussels sprouts and beets as a kid doesn't mean you won't like them now. Maybe you've matured... or at least your taste buds have. Try drizzling (not drenching!) them in olive oil and roasting them for a totally rich flavor profile.

How many calories should you eat in a day? >>

Back away from the margaritas

Ladies, you already know that you can seriously drop some LBs if you simply cut back on those happy hour libations. But what fun is that? We're not asking you to give up your after-work gab sesh with your girls; we're just suggesting that instead of sharing a pitcher of margies, which is always accompanied by a bowl of chips, you opt for a single glass of wine or a cocktail with club soda (not tonic, which packs 124 calories per 12 ounces).

Land O'Lakes sponsored this post.

Tell us:

While you're reducing calories, consider a whole food approach that focuses on limiting your intake of highly processed foods and sugars while expanding your horizons with fresh, natural foods.

More ways to whittle your waistline

The 500-calorie workout plan
8 Great ways to cut 100 calories
How to cut 100 calories from your favorite recipes

Photo credit: B2M Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images
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