Do you have a big holiday dinner or party coming up? Save some calories for splurging. I'm not talking about a traditional fast-before-the-fete where you starve yourself all morning and afternoon then go hog wild when you walk into the event because you've had nothing to eat all day but apples and plain lettuce. (Click here for a better pre-party plan to control calories!)
I'm talking about a strategic eating plan that allows you to bank calories painlessly—simply save calories in places you really won't miss them so you can indulge in the foods you really want and not eat too much by the day's end. Here are seven simple swaps to help you get there. Do one each day for a week and you'll have 700 extra calories to spend (think: about two glasses of wine and a generous slice of pie) at your party. Do a couple each day and you'll have even more wiggle room for treats.
No-sweat calorie saver #1: Order your coffee with nonfat milk instead of cream and sugar. For a 12-ounce size, this will free up about 100 calories. If you need a little sweetness (and are OK with consuming artificial sweeteners), you can add a little Splenda.
No-sweat calorie saver #2: Have an English muffin instead of a bagel. You'll save 100 calories if that bagel was 4 inches in diameter—and even more if it was a bigger one from the bakery. Spread it with some peanut butter: its protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats will give this breakfast some staying power.
Recipes to try: Satisfying Low-Cal Breakfast Recipes to Beat Weight Gain
No-sweat calorie saver #3: Ditch the chips, have popcorn. Some snack chips aren't so bad for your health but you do have to account for their calories. A 1.5-oz. bag of SunChips, for example, has 210 calories. If you have 3 cups of air-popped popcorn (a whole grain!), you'll cut the calorie count in half (about 90 calories).
Recipes to try: Cheesy Popcorn and More Easy 100-Calorie Snacks
No-sweat calorie saver #4: Lose the top piece of bread on your sandwich. An open-face sandwich is often just as satisfying as one with double the bread. Isn't the filling the best part anyway?
Related: Lunches for 400 Calories or Less
Recipes to try: Go open-face with these healthy sandwich and panini recipes
No-sweat calorie saver #5: Swap that heaping tablespoon of mayo for some mustard. Mayo delivers 90 calories in just 1 tablespoon and you're probably using even more. Mustard adds a spicy bite to your sandwich at only about 10 calories per tablespoon.
No-sweat calorie saver #6: Eat snap peas instead of a banana with your sandwich for lunch. Yes, bananas are healthy (they're a great source of potassium and vitamin C)—but you can shave 100 calories from your day, painlessly, if you enjoy 1/2 cup of snap peas alongside your sandwich in place of that big banana.
Related: 7 Foods That Do the Weight-Loss Work for You
No-sweat calorie saver #7: Halve the amount of rice you have with your stir-fry. A cup of rice (200 calories) is technically two servings of grains. That's fine: even if you're eating only 1,200 calories—the lowest calorie level that's considered healthy—you still need six servings of grains a day. But if you're trying to bank calories, limit your grain servings to one at dinner and save those calories to spend later.
Related link: Easy Vegetarian Stir-Fry Recipes
What are your everyday, painless ways to save calories? Tell us what you think below.