Controlling Calories: 10 Tips for an Ideal Daily Intake
by Susan Woodward for MSN Health & Fitness
* Medical Encyclopedia
The equations are simple: When the amount of calories (energy) you consume matches the amount of calories you expend, your body weight is maintained; consume fewer calories than you burn and you’ll shed pounds.
Of course, achieving this fine balance every day is anything but easy.
“Women should consume about 1,400 calories per day, men about 1,800 calories,” advises California weight-loss coach Jonny Bowden, author of Living the Low-Carb Life. (www.jonnybowden.com
) Be careful, though, his figures are based on pure averages and you need to factor in several additional metabolic and genetic factors.
But mathematical determinants are boring and not the subject of this article! Go ahead and research the perfect caloric intake for you. Then adopt these 10 conscious-eating tips and you’ll be well on your way to controlling your calories – and your weight.
1. Increase your portion awareness. Every food has an ideal serving size. What does a portion of pasta look like? Measure a cup of cooked pasta and put it on your plate to see. Same goes for your cereal, or juice (a serving of which is just four to six ounces!) Become intimately familiar with correct portions, and for goodness’ sake, never eat out of an open box or bag. Instead, place a serving of your favorite snack into a bowl.
Hint: Many foods are already packaged into correctly portioned individual servings!
2. Doggy bag it. Well versed in the typical meal size dished up at most North American restaurants, Julie Beyer, a nutrition and wellness educator in Michigan, (www.nutraconsults.com
) offers this great suggestion: Ask for a take-out container to accompany your meal – and scrape half your food into it immediately. “No one with any class is going to dig back into that while dining out,” Beyer insists. “Even if you eat the rest when you get home, you’ve still spaced out the calories.”
3. Use smaller plates. Bowden swears by this tip. Research shows a correlation between perception of food quantity and our feeling of being satiated. “That perception is profoundly influenced by the size of the plate,” he insists, arguing that a smaller plate will make your meal appear larger, and thus your sense of satisfaction deeper. “You’ve got to trick your brain.”
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4. “Bullet proof” your kitchen. This is another classic tip followed by Bowden’s clients. “When midnight comes and you’re up watching The West Wing like me, the best defense is an offense – don’t have [junk food – you know what it is!] in the house.”
5. Establish regular meal times. “A great number of calories are consumed mindlessly,” Bowden warns. The antidote is to decide the hour of your three daily meals and stick to a routine.
6. Know your calories. Educate yourself until you know the calorie count of every type of food that crosses your lips – or don’t eat that morsel, Beyer tells her clients. Sounds tedious, but surely worth it to maintain a healthy weight. “At least that way you’re making informed choices,” Beyer explains. “People are often surprised when they find out a shopping mall pretzel can have over 400 calories!”
7. Never measure vegetables. Vegetables are not a source of high calories and their health benefits are very well established. Down them by the bucketful!
8. Eat dairy food. Beyer says recent research indicates that three daily servings (ah, that word again!) of milk, cheese and/or yogurt are helpful with weight loss, probably because dairy foods create a feeling of fullness.
9. Journal. Record your food intake, set personal goals, even jot down your feelings. Writing about your relationship with food will help increase your awareness about exactly what you’re eating.
10. Exercise. Come on, you knew it had to be here! Your activity level has a huge, direct bearing on your metabolic rate and therefore the number of calories you burn in a day. Weight control is incomplete without exercise and there’s no way around it. Get moving and be inventive about ways to incorporate exercise into your schedule for life!