Nutrition Plan Hacks to Control Your Calories

Nutrition Plan Hacks to Control Your Calories

Posted on 18. Apr, 2010 by in Nutrition

Lately, I have been thinking about how I can save even more calories but still enjoy my favorite foods. This idea came to me when I still wanted to eat something sweet while watching “Gran Torino” which is a great movie, by the way. This lead me to think about my top 3 nutrition hacks so I can still eat without sending my calorie intake through the roof.

Reducing Calorie Content But Not the Volume

I learned this strategy from following the Precision Nutrition (PN) plan when I’m not fasting. Basically, you can eat the same food and reduce the amount of calories in it without reducing the volume. For example, if you already eat plain yogurt with your fruits, you can switch to fat-free, plain yogurt instead. One cup of regular plain yogurt has about 120 calories while the same amount of fat-free yogurt is about 90 calories. You can also apply this idea to foods like whole milk vs. fat-free milk, white rice vs. brown rice, cottage cheese, etc. This is also a great trick for your eyes and your tummy because it usually can’t tell the difference in volume but you’re still saving calories.

Heather's Farro Recipe from

Heather's Farro Recipe from

Eat High Protein Grains

Eating high protein grains is one nutrition strategy is especially helpful for vegetarians or for people who are looking to add more protein into their nutrition plans but still want to enjoy their carbohydrates. Here is a list of grains that have more protein compared to rice at a serving of 1/4 cup:

  • Farro – this a whole grain much like barley and wheatberries but it has 6 g of protein per 1/4 cup compared to brown rice which has 1 g of protein for the same amount. Check out this great Farro recipe from
  • Quinoa – we are all familiar with Quinoa by now. This grain has 7 g of protein.
  • Grain Amaranth – another grain that originated from Asia and South Americas. This grain has 7 g of protein.
  • Hemp Bread – this is a lot like Sprouted Grain Breads but is a nice change if you’ve been eating those for awhile. You can find these at the bread aisle of your local grocery store. Each slice of bread has 100 calories and 6.5 g of protein. If you want to see if your local grocery store carries them, go to and click on store locator.

When you eat high protein grains, you are also eating less carbs. That was obvious but I thought I’d still mention it.

Keeping it sweet but Reducing Sugar Content

So, I ended up getting a medium cup of French Vanilla cappuccino from 7-eleven to enjoy with Gran Torino. But, when I started giving up a lot of my sweets addiction, this cappuccino just tasted too sweet for me. So, to lessen the sweetness, I’d only pour the French Vanilla about a third of a cup and then fill up the rest with regular or decaffeinated coffee. This is a happy medium for me because I so love the flavor of French Vanilla but didn’t want all the added sugar. I haven’t actually applied this strategy to other foods since I try to avoid sugary stuff most of the time but if you want to sweeten things up without jacking up the calories, adding stevia is always a good option.

There you go, nutrition hacks that you can apply right away while still enjoying your favorite foods and not feeling like you’re depriving yourself. Thanks for reading my post and I look forward to your comments.

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  • Anna,
    These are great tips. So many people just have the urge to eat a certain volume of food, no matter the amount of calories. If more people focused on reducing calories without reducing volume with the strategies you describe here, I think we’d see more lean people out there.

  • admin

    Hi Dave, for sure! All we need to do is to pay closer attention to the foods we eat right? 🙂


  • Hey Anna! great post, and just in time too. I never really thought about simply going with lower calorie versions of higher carb/sugar foods. I`ll have to try that tonight, I`m getting a craving for rice lol:)

  • admin

    Hi Charles, glad I was able to help just in time 🙂


  • Al

    i have had a lot of success in cutting down on total calories consumed, with the following trick. The preparatory step is to ruthlessly eliminate as many carbs as possible from intake. Then, I buy the CHEAPEST ground beef – the ones with the highest fat content. I JUST BARELY cook it, so that almost no fat drains away. Then I eat it… i can barely get two mouthfulls down before i feel completely satiated. And that “full” feeling lasts for 12 hours or so.

  • admin

    Hey Al, that was very creative of you but it doesn’t sound very appetizing to me 🙂 If it works for you, don’t mess with it right? We all have our own personal preferences and it’s great that you found yours. Just make sure you don’t do it too often and you can still get your nutrition in.

    Thanks for the comment!


  • Hey Anna,
    Great idea.
    I used to be a major sugar junkie and missed being able to have something sweet while watching movies, but like you I find those things way too sweet now. I’ll have to check out Gran Torino one of these days, lol.

  • Great tips. I’ve been doing what you said about switching to lesser calorie alternatives for years now. I know a lot of people that won’t sacrifice a little taste for less calories. I’d rather have less calories than more taste, but that’s just me.

  • admin

    David, I used to be one too. Still am sometimes but not as much as I used to…lol. Rent Gran Torino now! It’s a must-see.

    Chris, yes, I would rather sacrifice a little taste for less calories. It does take practice but it’s all worth it.


  • Hey Anna,
    This is a great post with some great tips in it. These would help me a lot especially the protein intake, i feel increasing my protein will help me get leaner.
    But nevertheless, great tips.


  • admin

    Michael, increasing protein intake alone would not help you get leaner. You would have to also lower your carb intake for a bit so you can use more fat for energy. I’m sure you know but I also want to clarify it to my readers 🙂


  • Unfortunately when I hit 50 I found that it really doesn’t matter how many calories I lower my food, I also have to watch the quantity…I think it must be a hormone and age thing combined!

  • I love your practical approach! Cutting sugar is my problem, look forward to more tips on that addiction!

    Ann Evanston
    The Warrior is Within You

  • Some very good tips here. I like and use the method you used for you french Vanilla treat. I do something similar when I find I haven’t been drinking enough water. I’ll use a drink mix (something like Crystal Light) but find them way too sweet. Instead if mixing it as directed, I dilute to 1/4 strength or less. The flavor is just enough to be appealing and my water intake improves.

  • admin

    Ann, this happens to be my specialty 🙂

    Kerry, that is a good strategy too. Anything that will help us improve water intake is good as long as we don’t overdo it.


  • I have recently been struggling with the sugar addiction issue, well chocolate specifically. I’m with Ann, I’m looking forward to more tips to help with that issue! Thanks for the useful tips.


  • Yeah, that sugar thing. And rice: I’m a rice-aholic. I’ve cut way down on my sweets (can’t remember the last candy bar I’ve eaten), too. My soda dependency is manageable.

    This is solid stuf, this blog. Thanks to Ann for bringing you to our attention, and a big thanks goes to you for keeping our attention and satisfying it with such wonderful content. I simply have to train my brain to remember alternatives when making meals and meal choices. Hey, after reading this, maybe the not-so-healthy stuff should be the alternative to a regular diet of more healthy stuff. Turn it on its head. Think about it differently at the outset, not as an afterthought….

    I’m sure it’s been done to death, but maybe you’d consider sharing your take on the different faces of binge? You know, emotional eating, stress eating, eating as reward (and the irony that such a reward is actually a not such a dood reward), the sometimes OK-ness of occasionally losing our minds and washing sown a candybar with a Coke.

    Thanks for your practical insights. I’m now gonna find thaat magic subscribe button…

  • Good tips! I also like to substitute out higher-sugar fruits like peaches and oranges for things like strawberries and blackberries.

  • admin

    Hey Tanya, first you’d want to train yourself to have less and less sugar until you make it a habit to not have it often. Try it for a week or so and see what happens.

    Hi Michael, I’m not sure what you mean about the not-so-healthy alternative. Would you care to elaborate? Also, you might like this post on binges, etc =>


  • admin

    Here was Michael’s response just in case you guys are wondering:

    Well, lots of folks commonly view stuff that’s good for you as “a healthy alternative”. As a matter of fact, that’s how it’s often marketed to us: health foods, whole foods, organic foods. All promoted as alternatives, kinda like they’re not all that common because they’re somehow not all that great. I’m thinking that they shouldn’t be the alternatives. They should be the mainstream, and the not-so-healthy stuff should be “alternative”. I know, it’s a stretch, but your blog post just got me to thinking, and instead of censoring myself, I just dumped it all out theere!

    Thanks, Mike.

  • Love the term ‘nutrition hacks,’ Anna! And you are so right — they are the new age way of having our cake and eating it too! (provided it has fewer calories for the same volume). Brilliantly surmised!

    My favorite nutrition hacks:
    1. Frosted mini-wheats with black coffee (I used to put sugar in my coffee but now I get it from the accompanying cereal).
    2. I switched to diet soda about 2 or 3 years ago and now regular soda is just too sweet for me (just like your coffee anecdote).
    3. Shake ‘n Bake instead of fried chicken. (People are probably gonna hate me on this one but in reality Shake ‘n Bake gives you a much similar texture and taste to fried and it actually is far less calories!)

  • admin

    Irene, the amount of muscle mass as you age affects your metabolism greatly. To keep you metabolism up, you’d want to add more muscle mass through strength training. Hope this helps you.

    Drew, that’s a good tip too. I should’ve mentioned that in the post. Thanks!


  • Laura Sheridan

    I recently did a 21 day cleanse, avoiding all sugar, meat, dairy, wheat, and caffeine. One of the keys to success was to focus on all the delicious things I COULD eat, rather than what was forbidden. It was amazing to me how I could so look forward to my lunch of hummus and fresh veggies (or whatever was on the menu) and greatly enjoyed all of the fresh, natural alternatives to what I would often eat. Just changing the focus in your own mind can make all the difference. Focus on the GOOD!

  • Anna,

    just wanted you to know the recipe-style posts are appreciated. My goal is to learn how to cook!


  • admin

    Lee, those are really good suggestions although I don’t know if I’d like frosted mini-wheats with coffee but then again I don’t eat cereals anymore. I like Shake and Bake and I use it every now and then.

    Laura, that’s definitely what I did when I did the Elimination Diet. The mind really does have a lot to do with all the things that we’re trying to do.

    Yavor, I basically just follow recipes by the book unless something can be substituted for lesser calories. Believe, me learning how to cook takes time 🙂


  • Oh Chocolate that’s the sweet I love. Dark bitter sweat chocolate, mmm.

  • admin

    Hi Lisa, I used to not be able to live without chocolate for awhile but now I don’t even crave it. It’s funny how things change once you acquire good habits. Of course, a little bit here and there is not bad at all.

    Nice to see you here!


  • He should be building his body, I know some good information about the protein at it's look good. 🙂

  • This is so interested! Where can I find more like this?