AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I’m trying to lose weight. Should I cut calories at meals or snacks?
A: You should find what works for you. There is no single best strategy to cut calories for weight loss.
The goal is to cut from 250 up to 500, or perhaps even 750, calories daily. You may find there’s a particular time of day when you eat more than you need. Perhaps at dinner you tend to eat high-calorie dishes or often go back for seconds. Are your snacks loaded with sugar or fat? Or maybe there’s a time of day when you eat or drink a large amount without paying attention. That sort of mindless or stress-prompted eating can add hundreds or even a thousand calories without much nutritional value and not satisfy your hunger.
Keeping a record can be an excellent tool to help you see where you can cut calories. Jot down everything you eat and drink for a few days, and note how hungry you are before and after you eat. You may not find a single stand out source of excess calories, but rather a pattern of 50 or 100 extra calories you could cut at multiple times through the day. For example, instead of cutting a snack completely, you could eat a smaller portion. A registered dietitian-nutritionist can help you identify some meal or snack alternatives.
It doesn’t matter whether your calorie cut comes in one big change or a collection of small changes. What does matter is that you are eating the healthful foods you need to maintain your energy and health, and that you are creating a strategy that can work for you every day.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).