Simply put, weight management comes down to calories in versus calories out. In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you eat each day. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you wanted to lose 1 pound per week, you would need to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. For effective weight loss, use a combination of exercise and diet. As long as you are doing some exercise, cutting just a few hundred calories each day will help you get the scale moving downward.
Replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie foods. Instead of filling up on high-calorie foods like chips, cookies and and ice cream, choose foods that are low in calories yet high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber helps make you feel full while you consume fewer calories. Swap out a snack-sized bag of ranch-flavored tortilla chips for 3 ½ cups air-popped popcorn, which reduces your calorie intake by about 300 calories. Replace your usual dessert of two scoops of chocolate ice cream with a bowl full of grapes and save 160 calories. Replace one piece of pepperoni pizza with a cup of steamed broccoli to save about 250 calories.
Cut portion sizes. Typical portions tend to be two or three times the amount of food needed at a meal or snack. These calories can really add up, since most people eat more when served more. A plate of spaghetti can easily be 2 cups of pasta with sauce and three large meatballs, while a portion should be closer to a cup of pasta with sauce and three small meatballs. The larger portion can be more than 1,000 calories, while the smaller portion is only 500. In order to keep your portions in check, eat off smaller plates at home and limit second helpings. When eating out, order an appetizer as a meal, share an entree or box half of your meal to take home before you dig in. When snacking, don’t eat directly out of the package. Instead portion your snack into a bowl or onto a plate. Also, read the nutrition label to determine what a serving size is. Each of these habits could easily save you a couple hundred calories per day.
Eliminate calorie-filled beverages. Soda, coffee drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages can all add a lot of calories to your diet, yet they don’t offer much nutritionally. A can of soda adds 150 calories, a latte 250 calories and an energy or sports drinks is easily 200 calories. Alcoholic beverages can range from 150 calories for a beer to over 400 calories for a margarita or daiquiri. Make water your beverage of choice most often. Choose low-fat milk, black coffee, tea or calorie-free drink mixes when you are in need of something else.
Skip the "extras." The two pats of butter you put on your toast contain 60 calories. The cream and sugar you add to your coffee total 65 calories. A scoop of sour cream on your baked potato is another 65 calories. A few spoonfuls of cheddar cheese on your salad equal 50 calories. These calories can add up at the end of the day.
Ann Jensen is a registered dietitian with experience in nutrition education and counseling. She has written numerous nutrition education, weight loss and fitness articles for various publications.