A Guide to Creating a Calorie Deficit

Calories in minus calories out: That’s the simple, age-old equation for creating a calorie deficit. Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight, right? If only it were that easy!

The key to creating a calorie deficit is to burn a little more (or eat a little less) than your body requires for weight maintenance. The calories burned through exercise + non-exercise activity + basal metabolic rate (BMR) need to be more than the calories consumed through food to produce weight loss. But how much of a calorie deficit should you create through your calorie burn and reduced intake? In general, you’ll need to create a deficit of 250-500 calories per day to lose 1/2 to 1 pound per week.

OK, so now you know the what and why of calorie deficits; let’s talk about how to actually achieve it.

Figure Out How Many Calories You’re Burning

Know Your BMR: Start By Understanding Your Metabolism
The best place to start is at the beginning. Since your basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn at rest) accounts for 60–70% of the calories burned throughout the day, it’s important to calculate that as a starting point if you’re wanting to create a deficit. How much your body burns at rest depends on many variables such as genetics, age, hormones and muscle mass.

Wear a Fitness Watch
Are you burning as many calories as you think? Workout intensity, efficiency, muscle mass, duration — there are many factors that influence how many calories you burn during exercise, and the elliptical machine is likely not giving you an accurate measure of your total burn. Wearable fitness watches provide more reliable data for you to to add to your basal metabolic rate when creating your calorie deficit.

Walk It Out
You may be surprised, but the simple act of walking can be enough to lose weight and get in shape. Walking can help you build fitness and lose weight by helping you create a calorie deficit. Even if you’re a regular exerciser, upping your daily step count through walking increases non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which has been a big area of research of late because it may be an answer to how body weight is maintained, gained or lost.

Track Your Intake! A Calorie Isn’t Just a Calorie
What you put into your body makes a difference in your health and your weight. That slice of banana bread at the bakery looks divine. But choosing it over a banana adds more than just extra calories — you’ll be piling on more unhealthy fats and added sugar. As you track your intake, you get the bigger picture of what your food contains: carbs, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals. To get the biggest nutritional bang for your calorie buck (and create a bigger calorie deficit), consume the majority of your calories from unprocessed whole foods.

Learn to Count Calories Without Making Yourself Crazy
Don’t get lost in the numbers, which can be overwhelming. While it’s important to be as accurate as you can with food tracking when trying to create a calorie deficit, don’t lose your mind in the process. It definitely gets easier with practice. Stick with it: Logging your food consistently (even if it’s not perfect) is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.

Your Secret Weapon: Mindful Eating
This isn’t as touchy-feely as it might sound. “Mindful eating” simply means being aware of the taste, texture, aroma and presentation of what you eat, as well as your body’s signs that you’re full. Ask yourself: Do you really want that last bite of food because you’re still hungry? Discover your cues for eating so that you can be empowered to stop when you’re satisfied, even if there’s still food on your plate.

Consult an Expert!
If you hate math or are confused about how many calories you should be eating to create a deficit, go to a pro. A nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian (Full disclosure: like me) provides a personalized approach and game plan based on your medical and diet history and fitness goals.

Spring Clean Your Pantry
If you’re trying to set yourself up for success, the leftover holiday candy and cookies aren’t going to do you any favors. Give your pantry and fridge a little makeover to stay on track with your goals.

Learn What Midnight Snacking Is Doing to You
Late-night noshes are usually high-calorie, large portions or snacky foods (Read: cookies, ice cream, chips and candy) eaten mindlessly out of enjoyment to unwind from the stress of the day. It’s a recipe for weight gain and disaster.

Be Smarter at Restaurants — But Still Enjoy Yourself
Eating out can rack up the calories, so knowing how to make healthy menu swaps is key. Whether you’re dining at your favorite taqueria, steakhouse, Italian trattoria or ordering Chinese takeout, this guide gets you on the right track toward making the healthiest selection.

Arm Yourself with “Hacks” to Save Calories
Whether it’s swapping hummus for mayo or noshing on zucchini noodles in lieu of traditional spaghetti, the calories you save really add up when you’re trying to create a calorie deficit. Here are 10 simple tricks that’ll help.

What to Do When You Blow Your Daily Calorie Budget
We get it, we all fall off the wagon sometimes. It’s OK — what’s more important is understanding why you blew it and getting back on track. Try, fail and adjust … it’s a journey.

9 Recipes Under 400 Calories for Memorial Day Weekend

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Whether you’re hosting a backyard party or going to a potluck, celebrate the holiday with nine of our favorite recipes — easy skewers, flavorful burgers, tangy chicken wings and healthy sides. Your Memorial Day weekend cookout will be the talk of the town!

 

 

1. BAKED PEACH BBQ CHICKEN WINGS | HEALTHY NIBBLES AND BITS

Naturally sweeten up your next gathering with this mouthwatering crowd-pleaser. These all-star peach BBQ chicken wings are so tangy, juicy and finger-lickin’ good, your guests won’t even notice that they’re not fried! Recipe makes 4 servings 4 at 1/4 pound chicken wings (after removing wing tips) each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 318; Total Fat: 19g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 85mg; Sodium: 837mg; Carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 23g

2. CILANTRO BURGERS WITH SRIRACHA MAYO | COOKING LIGHT

Fire up that grill and cook up cilantro beef burgers dressed with spicy Sriracha mayo. Chopped cilantro flavors the beef while whole sprigs take the place of lettuce. Serve with a fruit salad on the side for a complete meal. Recipe makes 4 servings at 1 burger each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 363; Total Fat: 19g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 79mg; Sodium: 491mg; Total Carbohydrates: 20g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 27g

3. GRILLED SHRIMP SKEWERS WITH WATERMELON & AVOCADO | PALEO LEAP

Flavored by a Thai-inspired coconut-chili marinade, these shrimp skewers will take your tongue to an island paradise. Shrimp is complemented by watermelon and avocado for a nutritious appetizer rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Recipe makes 4 servings at 2 skewers each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 148; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 54mg; Sodium: 205mg; Carbohydrate: 14g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 9g

4. BACON BRUSSELS SPROUTS SKEWERS | DELISH

Two-ingredient recipes are the ultimate no-fuss appetizers — and this dish is no exception. Brussels sprouts are skewered with a slice of bacon and roasted until slightly charred — they’re irresistible! Recipe makes 10 servings at 1 skewer each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 75; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 8mg; Sodium: 155mg; Carbohydrate: 8g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 6g

5. ROASTED VEGETABLES & GOAT CHEESE PASTA SALAD | CLEAN EATING

This go-to pasta salad is hearty and delicious served cold (but great warm, too). If your kitchen is getting a bit too stuffy for your liking, head outdoors and take this recipe with you: You can also make the whole thing outside on your grill! Recipe makes 8 servings at 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 191; Total Fat: 5g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Carbohydrate: 29g; Fiber: 5g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 9g; Sodium: 163mg; Cholesterol: 8mg

6. APRICOT-GLAZED GRILLED CHICKEN | THE HEALTHY MAVEN

Apricot-glazed grilled chicken thighs are a great try for your next backyard barbecue session. These juicy marinated chicken thighs are worth getting your fingers sticky for! We recommend serving them with a big helping of greens or roasted veggies on the side. Recipe makes 6 servings of 2 chicken thighs each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 281; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 166mg; Sodium: 484mg; Carbohydrate: 14g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 11g; Protein: 39g

7. GRILLED ZUCCHINI CORN SALAD | UPROOT KITCHEN

This smoky vegetable salad makes a great side for your grilling party. Juicy corn kernels and tender zucchini are dressed in a tangy lemon-basil vinaigrette. To make this vegan-friendly just leave out the feta cheese. Recipe makes 6 servings at 3/4 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 94; Total Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 6mg; Sodium: 74mg; Carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 3g

8. GRILLED SWEET POTATO WEDGES | FOOD FANATIC

Smoky on the outside but sweet and tender on the inside, these grilled sweet potatoes are a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. The cilantro-lime dressing adds depth and dimension to this sweet potato side. We bet you can’t eat just one! Recipe makes 6 servings at 4 wedges each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 132; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 216mg; Carbohydrate: 16g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugar: 5g; Protein 2g

9. 2-INGREDIENT HUMMUS DEVILED EGGS | EATING BIRD FOOD

Love deviled eggs? This recipe uses just two ingredients — hard-boiled eggs and hummus. Combining the yolks with hummus results in a flavorful, creamy filling. These are great as a snack, a dinner appetizer or to bring to a potluck. Recipe makes 12 servings at 1 deviled egg each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 47; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 93mg; Sodium: 57mg; Carbohydrate: 1g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 3g

How Much Weight Do I Need to Lose to Prevent Diabetes?

Q. How can a blood test determine if I have prediabetes? How much weight do I need to lose to bring my numbers down?

A. Doctors typically perform one of three blood tests to diagnose prediabetes, a condition marked by blood sugar (glucose) levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to qualify as diabetes. While prediabetes often leads to full-fledged Type 2 diabetes, many people can hold the condition in check if they lose a relatively small amount of weight and increase their physical activity, said Dr. Rhonda Bentley-Lewis, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “I stress to my patients that we’re not talking about a huge amount of weight,” she said, “just 5 to 7 percent of one’s body weight” — or 10 to 14 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds.

Two of the tests require fasting, which helps prevent results being distorted by a prior meal and provides “an even baseline,” Dr. Bentley-Lewis said. One, the fasting plasma glucose test, checks blood glucose levels after an 8 to 10 hour fast; results of 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter indicate prediabetes. The other, the oral glucose tolerance test, is the most sensitive. It checks blood glucose levels after fasting and then two hours after you consume a sweetened drink; levels of 140 to 199 after the drink indicate prediabetes.

A third test, the A1C test, may be the most convenient because it doesn’t require fasting. It measures your average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months; results of 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent, which indicate the percentage of red blood cells that have glucose attached to them, indicate prediabetes.

Though doctors often repeat a test to confirm a diabetes diagnosis, they do not always do so for a prediabetes diagnosis, Dr. Bentley-Lewis said.

Doctors can treat prediabetes with medication, but many patients prefer to try weight loss and exercise first, Dr. Bentley-Lewis said. Among thousands of people with prediabetes who participated in a national study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, those who received counseling about lifestyle changes, like losing a modest amount of weight, stepping up physical activity and reducing the amount of fat and calories in their diets, were able to reduce their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.