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Cheat Sheet

Calorie Counter For Dummies

Counting calories is a time-tested method for reducing food intake, which leads to weight loss and other health benefits. Counting calories can be part of making sure you eat a well-balanced diet as well. Eating out can be troublesome for the most committed dieter, but some helpful hints can steer you safely through even that dangerous landscape.

Counting Calories and a Balanced Diet

There’s no one perfect diet, but you can count calories toward a balanced diet fairly easily. A balanced diet is one that ensures that you consume adequate carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Having a balanced diet also means that you take in the exact amount of calories your body needs to function and maintain a healthy weight, which means balancing eating and exercising.

To achieve a balanced diet, keep the following points in mind:

  • Strive for variety. One way to keep eating a balanced diet on a daily basis is to choose a variety of foods. Variety in this case means choosing different types of foods within each food group. So even if you love bananas, mix things up and eat an apple, a plum, some melon, or berries every week. Hey, go crazy: Try a kiwifruit or mango once in a while too!

  • Eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, and they play a vital role in a balanced diet. When you’re on the go, bring fruit to work or school with you to help balance out the higher-fat, higher-calorie choices you may make at other times. Eating fruits and veggies also adds fiber to your diet, and fiber helps control hunger, aiding in weight control.

    Eat at least two servings of fruit daily, gradually increasing this amount to three or four.

  • Exercise regularly. Including physical activity (also known as exercise) with a balanced diet is a great way to stimulate weight loss and improve general health and well-being.

  • Get enough sleep. When you’re well rested, you’re able to make reasonable decisions. You can pass up that 460-calorie sweet potato casserole in favor of the 60-calorie steamed vegetables. Another plus is getting adequate sleep helps with weight control.

Calorie-counting Tips for Dining Out

Dining out can be an enjoyable experience, but it can also be a high-calorie one. Even if you’re counting calories, though, you can enjoy your dining experience without the worry of eating too many calories or sacrificing health with a bit of planning ahead.

Use the tips in the following list to save calories the next time you dine out:

Ask for dressings or sauces on the side, or skip the mayo. Include as many vegetable toppings as possible on your sandwich, in your omelet, or on your pizza.
Consider an appetizer or side dish as an entrée, or choose the regular, small, or kid-sized portion. (Skip anything that’s extra-large or supersized.) Skip the butter on breakfast items such as waffles or pancakes and use smaller amounts of syrup.
Choose nonfat or lowfat milk and coffee drinks (pick the small or “tall” size for the latter). Enjoy your eggs with toast, but skip the extra meat item.
Select grilled or oven-roasted items and skip the deep-fried foods. Skip the extra cheese on anything whatsoever.
Drink more water with your meals. Choose pastas with marinara or olive oil–based sauces rather than cream or Alfredo-type ones.
Review beverage sizes and calories. You can rack up several hundred calories a day in liquid if you don’t monitor your intake. Consider splitting an item with a friend and ordering a side salad to round out your meal (unless of course you’re splitting dessert).
Watch out for salads; they aren’t always the low-calorie choice.

If you currently eat out daily, consider cutting back to eating no more than three meals per week away from home (not counting packed lunches). Ideally, you should limit dining out to two or fewer times a week.

Counting Calories for Weight Loss

To lose weight, you have to reduce your total calorie intake, which means counting the calories you ingest and reducing them. Eating 500 calories less a day will promote the loss of 1 pound per week. Use the tips in the following list to help you lose weight

  • Check out the calories in common foods that you eat each week to determine where you can make a change or reduce portion sizes.

  • Include fiber in your diet. Fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and foods made with whole grains) provides denseness without the calories, meaning you can actually eat a bit more without upping your calorie intake. Shoot for 3 grams of fiber or more per serving.

  • Add one to two vegetable servings to your diet daily. Have carrots available to snack on, slice an apple, or eat a banana. You’ll be surprised how easy this is to do if you plan on it.

  • Drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.

  • Analyze your eating behaviors to see whether any of them are possibly sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. Skipping meals, avoiding food groups, and eating when you’re stressed or bored can all hinder weight loss.

  • Get support. If you need to lose weight, find a professional to help you do it. Talk to your doctor about consulting a registered dietitian (RD) or certified personal trainer (CPT).

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