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.