Trying to lose those pesky 10 pounds you gained on summer vacation or wondering how to prevent packing them on over the holidays? Oodles of new research has uncovered ways to trim 100 calories or more from your diet without skimping on flavor. While it doesn't sound like much, shaving off 100 calories a day could help you trim 10 or more pounds a year—even if you never set foot in the gym.
Get started today with these science-backed calorie-cutting shortcuts that'll help you maintain healthy curves all year long. (But first, learn the 8 Things You Didn't Know About Calories to make sure you )
1. Dim the Lights
Regardless of what you thought as a kid, it turns out the dark isn't so scary after all. A new study from Cornell University says the secret to eating less—and feeling more satisfied about what you do eat—could be as simple as turning down the lights. Researchers found people who ate a meal under soft, warm lighting consumed 175 fewer calories than those who noshed in brightly lit places. The study participants who dined under mood lighting ate 18 percent less of the food on their plates—and also rated their food "more enjoyable" than those under bright lights. Scientists think that's because the harsh fluorescent lights commonly found in fast food restaurants may create a psychological need to rush through meals and eat more—so light a candle or two at dinnertime, and you may be less stimulated to gobble up your food. (Want more tips to help control your snacking? Read 6 Ways to Stop Overeating.)
2. Be a straight shooter
They might look stylish, but swanky, curved drinking glasses on your table could lead to saddlebags on your thighs and a spare tire around your middle. A British study found that people consumed 60 percent more alcohol, sugary sodas, and juices if the glass they drank from was curvy, rather than a straight tumbler. The researchers speculate that people drink faster from the curvy glasses because it's harder to tell when you're at the halfway point, so you reach for another drink sooner and end up consuming more.
To space out your sips and feel satisfied sooner, pour yourself a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) in a straight-shaped glass. If you end up drinking 60 percent less than you normally would, that's about 67 calories saved at breakfast if an 8 oz glass of orange juice is a morning staple; 48 calories saved at lunch if you're sipping a sweetened iced tea; or about 40 fewer Chardonnay calories consumed at dinner or happy hour.
3. Grab a Few Winks
Got a bad case of the head bobs? Several studies say you could wind up hungrier than if you were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. One study from the Mayo Clinic shows getting less than six and a half hours of sleep a night can lead to consuming as many as 500 excess calories in a day.
Being sleep deprived can increase how hungry you feel and lead to downing more calories than you'd eat if you weren't exhausted, says Manfred Hallschmid, PhD, department of medical psychology and behavioural neurobiology, University of Tubingen and lead researcher of a separate study on sleep and calorie consumption. "Sleep deprivation can raise levels of appetite hormones like ghrelin," he says. Surging levels of ghrerlin, the hormone that revs up your appetite, can lead to eating hundreds of extra calories than when you're well-rested, according to Dr. Hallschmid.