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How can I cut calories safely?

As part of your weight-loss plan, adopt eating habits that help control the calories you take in. But don't give up the nutrients you need. To lose a pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you eat. You can lose half a pound a week by cutting out 250 calories per day - or by burning an extra 250 calories each day. You can lose a pound a week by cutting out 500 calories per day - or burning an extra 500 calories each day.

Here's an example of how you might cut and burn 500 more calories than normal in 1 day.

  • Before work, get up a little earlier than usual and take a brisk 20-minute walk. This burns about 125 calories, depending on your weight and speed.
  • After lunch, if you normally eat a candy bar - 350 calories - have an apple - 80 calories. That's a savings of 270 calories.
  • For dinner, in place of fried chicken - 316 calories - choose a skinless, roasted chicken breast - 198 calories. That's a savings of 118 calories.
  • Total calorie difference: 513

Most people can lose a pound a week by continuing their normal activities and eating a diet that contains 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for men.

To find out the number of calories you're eating now, keep a food diary for a few days or a week. Keep track of what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. Then figure out how many calories you've consumed, using a calorie guide available in most bookstores. A dietitian can help you with this.

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