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Ten Strategies for Cutting Calories

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Whether your goal is to lose a lot of weight or just a few pounds, cutting your calorie intake will help you achieve your goal. Eating low-fat food important, but cutting calories is more important. Here are some strategies to make cutting calories easier:

  • Read nutrition labels: Healthy foods can contain plenty of calories and fat. A container of ramen noodles, for example, packs 15 grams of fat and 400 calories; a bran muffin can top 10 grams of fat and 250 calories. Portion sizes can be deceptively small, too. A serving of sugar-sweetened iced tea contains 60 calories, but each bottle often contains two servings.

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    Credit: "Lily Dark Chocolate pkg, Back, Stevia, Low Carb," © 2010 , Deb Nystrom Tatiana12 used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol, although fat-free, delivers 7 calories per gram or about 70 calories per ounce (2 tablespoons). The higher the proof, the more calories alcohol has: 80-proof alcohol averages 65 calories per ounce, and 100-proof alcohol comes in at 85 calories per ounce. The average light beer or 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 100 calories. A typical beer has about 150 calories.

  • Use smaller plates: Serve yourself on a salad-size plate, about 8 inches in diameter, rather than on a dinner plate, which is larger. Your portion sizes will be closer to those suggested in the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.

  • Ask for the kid size: Kid-size popcorn at most movie theaters contains 150 calories, but a large size can top 1,000 without the butter-flavored topping. A child-size soda (8 ounces) has about 95 calories; a large soda measuring 36 ounces or more contains at least 400.

  • Eat proper portion sizes: Nibbling from packages of crackers or eating forkfuls of cake from the platter can add up. Portion out everything you eat onto a small plate or bowl.

    Use measuring cups and spoons to portion out a serving onto your dinnerware.

  • Eat in the dining room: When you bring plates to the table already filled, you won’t be tempted to pick from serving bowls and platters in front of you.

  • Eat slowly: Your brain takes a full 20 minutes to register the fact that your stomach is full. Try putting your fork down and taking a sip of water between bites. Chew your food well and don’t load up your fork or spoon until you swallow what’s in your mouth.

  • Fill up on plant food: Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without butter, dressings, or sauces take up stomach space, leaving less room for denser, high-calorie foods. They also take more time to chew and eat.

    Consider the fact that a teeny little pat of butter has as many calories as 3 cups of broccoli or that a 1-inch cube (1 ounce) of cheddar cheese has the same number of calories as 1 cup of bran flakes.

  • Switch to low-fat dairy products: An 8-ounce glass of whole milk contains 150 calories, but the same amount of fat-free (skim) milk has only 85. One ounce of regular cheddar cheese has 114 calories, but reduced-fat and low-fat varieties contain 80 and 49 calories, respectively.

    Dairy products, such as ice cream and flavored yogurt that are marketed as reduced-fat, low-fat, or fat-free often contain added sugar to make up for the loss of flavor and texture that fat provides. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they provide fewer calories.

  • Cook meats with methods that start with the letter B: Broil, barbecue, bake (on a rack), or braise meats, and you save many calories over frying, sautéing, and stewing, because the fat (and therefore its calories) has a chance to drip away from the meat.

    Cooking chicken and other poultry with the skin on and removing it after it’s been cooked is fine, because the meat absorbs little of the fat but stays moist.


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