Many experts agree that when it comes to weight loss, it really boils down to ‘calories in versus calories out’. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, dietitians generally agree that you will lose weight. However, weight loss doesn’t necessarily have to happen after you completely change your diet. You can start by making little changes to eat healthier and cut calories everyday.
So how can you get to that ideal ratio? There are a few things you can do, one idea is to exercise more and burn more calories, but you still have to be conscious of how many calories you take in. You can’t exercise away a bad diet!
Cutting calories is considered by many to be a necessary first step to weight loss. I want to make it perfectly clear though, this does not mean going on a ‘crash diet’! (check out this article about Fad Diets for more info.) You shouldn’t cut calories suddenly and severely. This many end up with initial weight loss, but it is not sustainable and it is NOT healthy.
Remember that women should not go below 1200 calories per day, and men should not go below 1500 calories per day. Our bodies need calories and nutrients to function, and severely cutting down on our calorie intake or cutting out food groups can end up doing more harm than good.
Smart Ways to Cut Calories Everyday
Make simple changes like having water instead of a sugary juice or soda. You can also opt to make your coffee at home instead of going to a coffee shop. This way you can control what goes into your cup.
Take a good look at what you are snacking on during the day… Can you replace some snacks with a fruit or veggie? Opting for an extra serving of veggies instead of snacking on chips or crackers is another obvious way to cut out a couple hundred calories.
Use smaller bowls and plates when you are eating. When we use larger plates we tend to eat larger portions than is necessary and end up over eating.
When you are ready to sit down for a meal, go through the whole process, and enjoy it. Turn off TV and devices and really focus on the food you are eating. Before you eat your meal, drink a glass of water. Enjoy each bite and listen to your body, it will tell you when it is full. Practicing mindful eating is a great way to promote a healthy relationship with food. Also, make sure your plate is full of veggies, this will help you cut down on higher calorie foods, while getting a boost of the nutrients and vitamins you need.
Keep a Food Diary
Writing down what you eat and its caloric value is a good place to begin. The web has some great resources for the calorie-conscious. There are sites dedicated to counting the calories in an enormous variety of foods – you type in the food, and the calorie counter will show you how many calories that food contains. A few examples are LoseIt!, Sparkpeople, and MyFitnessPal.
Ask your doctor or a nutritionist about how many calories a person of your build should take in each day. Rather than guessing, ask about how many calories you should cut in order to lose weight in a healthy way.
Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods.
Nutrient-dense foods are those foods that pack a lot of nutrition into each calorie. Unlike sugary foods and junk foods that have very few nutrients but contain a lot of calories, nutrient-dense foods have lots of nutrients and relatively fewer calories. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “empty calories,” this refers to foods that are the opposite of nutrient-dense ones. In other words, nutrient-dense foods have more nutrition per calorie than junk foods. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
- Vegetables such as avocados, spinach, tomatoes, and kale
- Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, oats, and millet
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts
- Fruits such as pineapples, strawberries, apples, oranges and bananas
Start With Small Changes
Sometimes diets fail because people try to do a major life overhaul and change everything at once. Try to change just a few things to start with, such as replacing butter and margarine with olive oil, or using a healthy sugar substitute instead of white sugar in your tea and coffee. You could cut out one food or drink, such as sugar-sweetened, carbonated beverages or French fries. Drinking water is an easy way to cut calories everyday, easily. Once you have conquered a few changes, add a few more.
Tips When Dining Out
Try to order appetizers for your meal instead of a large entree. You could also opt to share a meal. Ask for your salad dressing on the side – it’s said that you use much less dressing when you dip each forkful of salad into the dressing than if you pour the dressing over the salad. The same technique works for pancakes and syrup. In a restaurant, watch out for high-calorie beverages, like specialty coffee drinks, sugary tea and lemonade, and alcohol. Stick with water when dining out.
Be Realistic With Your Goals
If you are trying to lose weight, be realistic with how much work you want to put into it versus how much weight you expect to lose.
What I mean by this is that if you only plan to make small changes and cut out calories bit by bit, you can expect a slow and steady weight loss – which is great!
You can expect even greater results if you are willing to put a bit more work into it. Cleaning up your diet and working out 4-5 days per week will really get the weight loss ball rolling.