When attempting to lose weight, we might assume we have to dramatically cut back on calories. But life’s all about balance, and that's why eating just slightly less calories is an easier and much more effective way to shed pounds.

For most adults, 2,000 is the magic number of recommended daily calories needed to maintain a healthy weight. However, it can vary based on factors such as age, physical activity level, and a person’s metabolism. Regardless, taking a drastic dip in order to slim down is difficult to keep up for weeks at a time and may easily result in malnutrition.

Small dietary tweaks are much safer and produce longer-lasting results than sudden changes. But before coming to a alterations in our eating routine, it’s vital that you understand how many calories we tend to eat regularly. Of course, it’s easy to lose track of that exact number, especially if we mix up the kinds of foods we eat each day.

Thankfully, Rachel Paul PhD, RD, told Eat This, Not too! about a simple method of finding our average calorie intake: “A precise way to calculate one’s calorie needs would be to ask them to eat because they typically do without any modifications for around seven days.” Over that time, write down the calorie levels of every meal using a fitness journal (Buy on Amazon, $6.99) or mobile app like Lose It!, which Paul recommends for her own clients.

Once you have that average daily amount, Paul advises shaving off just 250 calories each day like a small calorie deficit that will help us lose around one half one pound per week. Following the body gets accustomed to this transformation for a couple of weeks, we can gradually continue to lower our calorie consumption. Paul warns against ever consuming fewer than 1,200 calories a day, though, which could quickly result in malnutrition.

Reducing calories also doesn’t mean we must sacrifice flavor. There’s lots of methods to enjoy the most popular foods without loading up on body fat and sugar! For example, a stack of pancakes can be made healthier by adding Greek yogurt to some store-bought mix and topping it with fruit rather than syrup and butter. Or try steaming cauliflower and mashing it with butter and garlic instead of heavier potatoes.