(D) How to control calories with minimal effort

  1. First, we need to know your present diet. Write all that you eat at each meal and snack for a full week. Estimate weight in grams or we can do it for you. We will calculate the number of calories in your present diet. This number will be surprise you! More important, it will be the basis for the implementation of your personal food plan to achieve your objectives.
  2. Identify the trigger foods. These are the foods of abuse, those that you cannot control the quantity that you eat. They may even be in the list of healthy foods.
  3. Keep a dairy. After steps (1) and (2), continue to have a dairy of foods consumed every day. It will give you better control of what you eat and help you to make corrections when needed. It will also help with counseling by our physicians.
  4. Identify and then avoid trigger behaviors such as finishing the whole plate or "lack of finger control" (eating a lot of small things with your fingers).
  5. Identify trigger situations to avoid or neutralize them. They include places (salad bars, buffets, all-you-can-eat restaurants, cocktail hours, family picnics) and times (birthdays, holydays, late afternoon waiting for dinner, weekends, watching TV). Examples of how to deal with them include having a snack before going out to dinner, numbing your tongue taste buds with breath strips, mentholated sugar free tablets or chewing gum or even cough syrup!, have your hands occupied at cocktail parties (with a glass of tomato juice or a Bloody Virgin Mary in one hand and your purse in the other).
  6. Structure your eating to have 3 meals and one or two light snacks.
  7. It is sometimes convenient to add a snack, usually about 3 to 5 pm. Waiting for dinner may be tempting.
  8. Do not skip meals or snacks. The objective is to avoid hunger because it produces a hormonal disarray. Fasting alternatives will be discussed later on.
  9. Eat complete, nutritional adequate meals, rich in fat, protein and fiber with scanty carbohydrates (see later on for favored meals and those to avoid). Your balanced meal has to satisfy you. If you feel hungry is because the meal is not adequate.
  10. The choice of food begins at your trip to the market!
  11. Don't go grocery shopping while hungry.
  12. Once a week, plan out and shop for meals and snacks. Write a shopping list of essentials.
  13. Do not get tempted to buy more than the essentials, particularly "empty calories" such as crackers, cookies, candies, high sugar chocolates, pastries. A way to avoid temptations is to have the purchase made by phone and delivered to your home or picked up at the grocery door.
  14. Batch prepare meals for the week. This usually helps to control daily meals, including those brought to work.
  15. Prepare low calorie, ready to use full meals or portions for up to a week ahead. For instance, make low calorie soup and store individual portions in the freezer. Have a big bowl of pre-made salad in the frig. Freeze veggie puree to add fiber to other foods such as sauces and soups.
  16. Control portions. The larger the offer, the more that you will eat. For instance: a single small potato versus unlimited mashed potatoes, one small apple versus a full can of diced apples, popcorn in a small bag versus a supersized bag. Serve plates at the kitchen rather than serving yourself from large dishes passed around the table. Have all your servings for a given meal ready at the table. Use small plates (salad-size instead of dinner-size plates). Do not overfill the plate.  Try to gradually reduce serving size.  Eat until you are 80% full.  This is a way your body and mind will get trained to eat less. Eat slowly, chowing patiently and enjoying your food. It takes 20-30 minutes before satiety feedback signals travel up to the brain.  Wait 20 minutes before to go for seconds or do not go at all. Eat half of your plate, drink some water and wait 20 minutes before attempting finishing it. Do not consume the uneaten food if no longer hungry (anyway, probably lost its taste or is cold!).
  17. Control proportion of vegetables, proteins and carbs. A rapid method is by their relative size in the plate. Of the plate surface, 2/4 should be vegetables including salads, 1/4 proteins (e.g., fish, meat, beans) and no more than 1/4 carbs (e.g., pasta, rice, potatoes).
  18. Reduce or better suppress artificially sweetened drinks because they maintain sugar cravings and may not be safe when consumed for years. Keep a bottle of water handy!
  19. Natural fruit juice is nutritionally fine but has too many calories and do not produce satiety (probably because it lacks the fiber of fresh fruit). Replaced it by water, seltzer, or unsweetened tea or black coffee. A glass of tomato juice is all right once in a while. Avoid the high calorie latte or cappuccino but adding a little cream will improve taste and help to produce satiety.
  20. Keep healthy food ready for a snack. They may be an apple or fresh vegetables such as celery and carrot sticks, but also high protein items such as boiled eggs, hummus, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts. Nuts are also an excellent choice to keep in your purse or office drawer but eat a few of them, not the whole pack.
  21. Make a snack pack with healthy low calorie bites to bring to work, class, meeting or travel.
  22. Keep sugary snacks and other tempting foods out of sight!
  23. Chow gum between meals if you feel hungry or have a cup of tea or coffee with no sugar. Hunger is temporary. If you wait long enough it subsides. However, it is not good to have prolonged hunger because there is reactive release of hormones. Have a healthy snack instead.
  24. Avoid eating while cooking! Have a coffee or chow gum!
  25. Drink water I hour before meals.
  26. Do not snack while watching TV. Do exercise instead! It is better to keep your hands and brain occupied. Or substitute TV for alternatives such as reading a book, playing a board game with your family or typing on the computer.
  27. Eat in front of a person rather than a screen. It cuts down on mindless eating.
  28. Go easy in the holidays and weekends. This the time when the diet is usually broken. Most people gain some pounds in December and January every year, and keep it forever!
  29. Plan ahead what you would like to eat at the restaurant. Check the menu on line to make a thoughtful choice.
  30. Put away from you or have the waiter retire the bread basket, potatoes chips and the like that you may indulge with before the main course is served.
  31. Start with a low calorie high protein soup like veggie bean or a salad (it will fill you up), rather than with high calorie deep-fried or cheese aperitives.
  32. Choose grilled, baked, blackened, steamed or broiled items rather than fried or breaded.
  33. Ask for your entrée to be served on a bed of greens rather than a bed of pasta, rice or mashed potato.
  34. Baked potato is better than French fries. Sweet potato is better than regular potato because it has a lower glycemic index.
  35. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side.
  36. Halve your restaurant meal (specially the desert!). Do it with a friend or ask the server to bring only half to you and doggy-bag the rest.
  37. Drink wine by the glass (not by the bottle!).
  38. Brush your teeth after dinner. It may suppress food cravings, but mainly brushing them again before going to bed is tedious!
  39. Just have a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
  40. Reduce stress. Long-term stress can affect eating behavior and increase cortisol and appetite. Stress reduction is not easy. Increasing physical activity is a proven method. Meditation and yoga have been recommended. Go for a walk, call a friend, take a bath or read a book.

NEXT: Exercise (Click).

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