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How to Cut Calories at Meals, According to a Registered Dietitian

Veggies don't always have to be a side dish. By using them as a vessel for grains, protein and produce you can not only shave off the calories but infuse your dishes with new, delicious flavors. Here's how.

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Blackened Tilapia with Zucchini NoodlesTaste of Home

Opt for veggie noodles

Veggie spiralizers have become a popular kitchen gadget recently with the growing food fad of veggie noodles. Made from zucchini, beets, potato, carrots or squash this pasta alternative can be a great way to increase the nutrition of your meal while also cutting calories. During the warm summer months give this blackened tilapia with zucchini noodles recipe a try!

Learn how you can make them at home with or without a fancy spiralizer.

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Cauliflower RiceTaste of Home

Swap white rice for cauliflower rice

One great way to help cut calories and increase the veggies at dinnertime is to swap conventional rice for riced cauliflower. Cauliflower is full of nutrients like vitamin C, K and folate and because the flavor is so neutral, you can spice up your cauliflower rice however you desire, like in this Spanish cauliflower rice recipe.

Learn how to make it step by step right here.

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Wild rice stuffed squashTaste of Home

Stuff squash

Squash can be the star of your next meal by acting as the perfect vessel and serving dish for different grains, proteins and veggies. By bulking up your meal with squash you can eliminate sources of empty calories at mealtime and replace them with a great, natural source of vitamins and minerals. This wild rice stuffed squash recipe is a great one to cozy up with on a chilly fall evening.

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Lettuce wrapsTaste of Home

Swap bread for lettuce

Lettuce is a perfect swap for tradition sandwich bread or wraps as its neutral flavor can provide a base for almost kind of cuisine. Aside from the crisp texture they provide, lettuce wraps are a fantastic way to shave calories off your next meal. From Asian lettuce wraps to BLTs, your creativity can run wild with this healthy swap.

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Crunchy organic dry potatoese chips and beetroot chips served as a finger food snack in a wooden bowlNika Art/Shutterstock

Skip potatoes and try veggie chips

While chips are a classic household snack, their greasy, salty flavor keeps you going back for more and can quickly turn into a higher calorie snack than your waistline can handle. By buying or making your own veggie chips at home you can turn your favorite snack not only into a lower calorie choice but one that is filled with nutrients.

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Turn taco Tuesday into taco salad Tuesday

Next Taco Tuesday ditch the fried taco shells and opt for a refreshing salad instead. By choosing greens over taco shells you can still enjoy all your favorite toppings with a little less guilt and way less mess! This recipe makes for great leftovers for lunch the following day as well!

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Make veggie-based pizza crust

One way to include pizza into your dinner rotation more frequently is to try using an alternative crust. The crust in pizza is often what contributes the majority of the calories in this family favorite. By making a crust from cauliflower, zucchini, or portobello mushrooms, you’ll feel less guilty about indulging in this comfort food more often!

Try this cauliflower garlic bread option, too!

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Avocado stuffed with tuna and fresh vegetablesShutterstock / NADKI

Trade buns for avocados

Instead of a bulky hoagie roll full of empty calories, try stuffing your favorite sandwich fillings into an avocado! The healthy fats found in avocado will keep you full while providing a wide variety of nutrients. This shrimp stuffed avocado recipe is a great way to test out this healthy swap!

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Get your crunch from cucumbers

A low calorie and extra crunchy swap for sandwich bread, chips or crackers for cold salads and cold cuts is a cucumber boat! By slicing the cucumber length-wise and scooping out the seeds, you can make an effective vessel for any delicious filling you fancy.

Christina Manian, RDN
Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Boulder, Colorado. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, she has been involved with the nutrition departments of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital. She completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy and most recently practiced clinical nutrition at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. While her background has largely been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces and is shifting her focus towards wellness nutrition as the backbone to optimum health.