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Keeping up with calorie counts can be confusing at best and depressing at worst. However, if you learn a few tricks and pick up the following habits, you can shave 100 calories off your meal and barely even notice.

Hold the Cheese. Sandwiches like ham and cheese or turkey and Swiss (not to mention the cheese burger) are ingrained in our food culture, and humans are creatures of habit that will often just go with the flow and order the same standby that worked well in the past. Take a stand and hold the cheese, please – and you will probably find that you don’t even miss it! Cheese is loaded with fat and calories (over 100 per 1-ounce slice), so save your cheese consumption for the times you can truly savor a small chunk as a delicious treat, not just another layer on a sandwich whose flavor will be lost in the shuffle anyway.

No Grazing! As you cook dinner each night, you taste your soup, nibble a crust of bread and sample the dessert – all while drinking a glass of wine. Before you even sit down to eat, you’ve consumed well over 100 calories! Institute a no-grazing policy in your kitchen and you will find that you enjoy your meals even more when you let the taste anticipation build.

Drink Water. Thirst can often masquerade as hunger and you may find yourself eating a cheeseburger to try and quench your thirst without even knowing it. Make a refillable water bottle your new best friend, and sip all day long so that when hunger strikes, you know that it’s real. However, hold off on the H20 before, during and after meals as nutritionists agree that it can dilute the stomach’s acid and interfere with digestion. The rest of the day? Sip away.

Go Open-Faced. Who says that sandwiches need two slices of bread? Lose the lid and save yourself around 100 calories if you eat your sandwich open-faced, or much more if it is a commercially prepared sandwich made with a giant potato roll or slab of focaccia.

Known your portion sizes. Meals that you order in restaurants often have four to five times the amount of food that you really need to eat. These huge serving sizes and gigantic plates can increase your idea of what’s “normal,” so pay attention and learn common serving sizes: 3 ounces of meat (about the size of a deck of cards), ½ cup rice (about the size of a light bulb) and 1 ½ ounces of cheese (about the size of three dice).

Egg Whites Galore. Your favorite organic egg breakfast meal will taste just as delicious if you lose the yolks on a few of your eggs. Instead of a three-egg omelet, use one whole egg and two egg whites, and you will save 120 calories and over 400 milligrams of cholesterol. Load up your egg breakfast with plenty of veggies for flavor and skip the fatty breakfast meats for a healthy head start to your day.

Leave Bites Behind. While many of us were taught to always clean our plates, this isn’t great advice for those trying to watch their caloric intake. While throwing away food is never a good idea, neither is using your body as a trash can because you can’t bear to throw something out. Leave 3-4 bites behind at every meal and you will save about 100 calories – or better yet, just portion out a smaller amount and save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch.

image: Lori_NY