How To Lose Weight Without Tracking Calories

Christian Coulson
Updated: June 14, 2020
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I bet you’re wondering if there’s a way you can lose weight without tracking calories.

50 years ago we didn’t have apps to track calories, so how did people lose weight back then?

Well, back then we didn’t have an obesity problem either.

Fast food restaurants were not as common as they are today, the food industry wasn’t as greedy, foods were not advertised as “healthy” when they actually contained lots of calories, processed foods and snacks weren’t as abundant, and people were a little more active.

Even though I recommend tracking calories, at least for a few months until you get familiar with food composition, there are a few ways you could lose weight without having to track at all.

An important thing to remember is that, in order to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit.

That means you should be eating fewer calories than you burn.

With that out of the way, here are 5 ways to lose weight without tracking calories.

1. Alternate Carbs & Fats at Each Meal

Carbs and fats are typically easier to over-consume. It’s the combination of these two in a meal that can lead to eating more calories than expected.

By alternating them at each meal, you could reduce your daily calorie intake without having to consciously track calories.

For example, if you ate 4 times a day, your meals could look something like this:

  • Meal 1: Protein + Fats
  • Meal 2: Protein + Carbs
  • Meal 3: Protein + Fats
  • Meal 4: Protein + Carbs

Protein is an essential nutrient needed for maintaining tissues, organs, skin, and muscles. Plus, your nails and hair are mostly made of protein.

It’s also more difficult for the body to break down, which will help you stay full for longer. That’s why I recommend having some protein at each meal.

2. Intermittent Fasting

  • 16/8

There are many types of intermittent fasting, with one of the most common ways being 16/8. This means that you fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour eating window.

Studies (1) have shown that reducing the time frame in which you eat can lead to a caloric deficit even in when you’re not consciously dieting.

  • Skipping Breakfast

Some people find success just by skipping breakfast. Skipping breakfast will typically reduce your overall daily calorie intake, given that you don’t overeat on consequent meals.

You: “But isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?”

It is… BUT! Breakfast doesn’t mean “eat as soon as you wake up.” Breakfast is the first meal after a fast, the meal that “breaks” the fast.

In fact, most people are not even hungry when they wake up. This is because of how hormones react to your circadian rhythm and extended periods of fasting.

Some people, however, need their breakfast to thrive, so just try different methods of intermittent fasting and see which one works best for you. Remember, what works for some people might not work for others.

  • 4-hour Fast Between Meals

Having 4-hour fast between meals will help keep your calories down by preventing you from constant snacking.

It will also give your body time to properly digest and absorb nutrients from the previous meal before you shove more food in.

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3. Eliminate Liquid Calories

Fruit juices, sodas, and smoothies are a good way of adding calories without feeling full. I actually recommend fresh or frozen fruit smoothies to people trying to put on weight.

A can of coke alone contains 140 calories and 39 g of sugar. In my opinion, this is just a waste of calories.

If you do have to drink something with taste, try going with carbonated water, coffee, tea, or diet sodas.

In fact, there are a few ways drinking plain water can help you lose weight.

4. Eat Out Less Often

The average restaurant meal contains around 1,200 calories and that’s with salads included. I’m pretty sure removing salads out of the data would bump that average to somewhere around 1,400 calories.

Here are a few things you can do to keep your calories low when you eat out:

  • Choose lean meats like chicken, white fish, and turkey.
  • Ask for sauces on the side.
  • Side of veggies.
  • Ask for boiled, baked, or grilled foods.
  • Look up the restaurant’s nutritional information.

Don’t try to guess how many calories you’re eating. You’re most likely way off from what you think you’re consuming. Things like sauces, dressings, and oils are difficult to measure when eating out but can add SO MANY CALORIES to your meals.

Studies (2) show that most people tend to underestimate calories when eating out.

5. Swap Processed Foods for Whole Foods

Processed foods are foods that have gone through a few mechanical or chemical operations to be changed or increase shelf life.

They normally come in boxes, bags, or cans, and have several ingredients listed in the nutrition label.

The Downsides of Processed Foods

Many processed foods are not filling and contain lots of sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. 

Several of these foods have minimal nutritional value but lots of calories, so limiting them can benefit your health and weight loss efforts.

This study (1) found that people ate about 500 calories more per day when fed mostly processed food than they did when fed less processed foods.

Not All Processed Foods Are Bad

There are also plenty of minimally-processed foods that contain lots of nutrients that can be used to replace less healthy ones.

They can be very convenient for people who are pressed for time but still want to prepare healthy meals.

Processed Foods to Limit Processed Foods That Are Okay
Granola Bars Frozen Vegetables and Fruits
Dried Fruit Bagged Salads
Fruit Snacks Cut Vegetables
Ketchup Canned Beans
Ramen Canned Tuna
Fruit Juices Greek Yogurt
Frozen Dinners Hummus
Sausage Nut Butter
White Bread Whole-Grain Pasta

Yes, fruit juices are in the “processed foods to limit” list.

Though they’re often labeled as “healthy,” they actually contain lots of added sugar and calories.

Just like fruit juices, there are several “healthy” foods that can be making you gain weight.

Why Whole Foods?

Whole foods typically contain lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which will help you stay full for longer and reduce cravings.

So swapping processed foods with whole foods whenever you can, will help you lose weight by keeping you full without having to consume too many calories.

This approach has been far better than giving people rigid meal plans, as it gives them the freedom and knowledge to swap foods each week, which is essential for long-term success.

Example of Whole Foods
Whole Grains
Starchy and Non-Starchy Vegetables
Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy Greens
Beans and Legumes
Nuts and Seeds
Berries and Other Fruits

6. Swap the Bun for Lettuce

Image of a lettuce burger by - 8 Little Tweaks to Cut Calories for Weight Loss

Whether you make burgers at home or eat them at your favorite restaurant, consider replacing the bun with lettuce.

A burger bun can have about 120 calories (this varies greatly depending on the bun), compared to 5 calories in a leaf of lettuce.

You can use this same trick with wraps. Instead of using the regular tortilla, you can wrap everything with lettuce.

If using lettuce doesn’t sound appealing, you can look for bread with fewer calories.

Some brands of bread, such as Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread have as low as 40 calories per slice, so consider spending some time reading the nutrition facts.

Here’s a quick guide if you’d like to learn how to read nutrition labels.

7. Replace Sodas for Diet Sodas or Sparkling Water

Sugary drinks, like fruit juices and sodas, contain lots of calories and no nutritional value whatsoever (this is what some call empty calories).

This makes these drinks not filling at all and therefore easier to over-consume.

By swapping sugary drinks for “zero-calorie” ones like sparkling water, you could save about 150 calories.

8. Eat More Fibrous Foods

As previously mentioned, fiber will help you stay full for longer and reduce cravings, which can ultimately lower your calorie consumption and drive weight loss.

Sadly, surveys show that about 95% of Americans fall short of the recommended daily fiber intake. (2)

A good rule of thumb is to get 14 g of fiber for every 1000 calories, with a minimum of 25 g and a maximum of 75 g per day.

Foods High in Fiber
Brussel Sprouts
Sweet Potatoes
Kidney Beans
Rolled Oats
Whole Grains
Nuts (be careful as they’re also high in fat)
Infographic about how to lose weight without starving yourself.

9. Drink Water Before Each Meal

Another great little tweak to cut calories for weight loss is to drink water before each meal.

This study (1) showed that dieters who were asked to drink two glasses of water (16 ounces) before meals lost 44% more weight than those who didn’t.

It’s believed that the reason for this is because water helps the stomach expand without the need for much food which serves as a signal of fullness.

10. Use Cauliflower Rice

Image of Cauliflower rice - 8 Little Tweaks to Cut Calories for Weight Loss

Being a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is very low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Replacing regular rice with cauliflower rice will not only keep your calories low but also help you get more servings of vegetables in your day.

You could also use it to make cauliflower crust pizza!

Here’s how to easily make cauliflower rice for weight loss.

11. Drink Black Coffee

Black coffee can be an acquired taste for some, however, if you’re trying to lose weight, it might be worth cutting the sugar and creamers from your coffee.

These “little” things are typically the reason people tend to gain weight.

They believe they aren’t eating much, but adding sugar to your coffee, then one or two crackers after lunch, some creamy salad dressing, can definitely add up at the end of the day.

It might take some time to get used to, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

If you just can drink coffee without something sweet, you may try using some low-calorie sweeteners like stevia, Splenda, or a dash of cinnamon.

Coffee is also a great natural appetite suppressant.

12. Consider Using Mustard

Unlike Ketchup and mayonnaise, mustard is a “zero-calorie” condiment.

So if you need to add some flavor to your meals, consider using mustard instead of other types of sugary sauces.

For example, one tablespoon of mayo has about 90 calories! A single tablespoon! that’s crazy.

note: companies are allowed to label their products as “zero-calorie” as long as they contain under 5 calories per serving, so consider this when eating “zero-calorie” products.

13. Eat More Slowly

This study (2) showed that subjects who ate slowly ate an average of 88 fewer calories than those who ate at a faster pace.

One of the reasons for this might be because it can take up to 30 minutes for your stomach to send satiety signals to your brain.

So focus on taking things slow and enjoying your food to prevent overeating.

14. Swap Regular Pasta for Zucchini Pasta

Image of Zucchini Pasta - 8 Little Tweaks to Cut Calories for Weight Loss

Replacing regular pasta for zucchini pasta is another great way to keep your calories low.

Since zucchini is a vegetable, it contains little calories with a lot of nutrients, just like the previously mentioned cauliflower.

One cup of cooked zucchini has about 17 calories compared to 200 calories for a cup of cooked pasta (this can vary greatly depending on the type of pasta).

Here’s a tasty low-carb zucchini pasta recipe for weight loss.

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