Still Counting Calories? Stop That, Right Now!

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If your weight loss tactic is counting calories, you may want to re-think your approach.

The Energy Balance equation of still applies:

  • Eat fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight.
  • Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight. 
  • Eat the same number of calories you burn and your weight will remain stable.

That is simple science and remains true.  However, there are a lot of factors that play into this simple equation. 

The first problem with the energy balance is the theory that 3,500 calories is equal to a pound of body weight.  Thus, if you cut 500 calories from your diet daily you should, in theory, lose a pound a week.  Good theory. We know however, that this is not actually the case.  How?  Well, if that were indeed the way it worked a 120 pound person would end up weighing 0 pounds in just over 2 years.  Of course this isn’t the case.  Metabolism plays a big part here.  Our bodies are highly efficient and our metabolism will slow down when calories are decreased for any length of time.  Thus the initial weight loss on most diet plans followed by a plateau when our metabolism catches on to the steady decrease in fuel.

Other issues with the Energy Balance Equation come from calculating ‘calories in’ and ‘calories out’.  While meticulous tracking of every calorie ingested and expended sounds like a foolproof plan (albeit tedious, time-consuming and stressful), this system will quickly lead to frustration due to the amount of variables that come into play.  These include:

  • The number of calories printed on the nutrition label can be off by as much as 20-25 percent due to the imprecise method of determining these values. 
  • A food calorie, calculated in a lab, may not be the food calorie we burn in our body.  There are perhaps hundreds of variables at play that effect how much of the calorie we burn including age, weight, hormones, gender, lean muscle mass, etc.
  • The amount of energy we absorb, store and use from those calories can vary greatly depending on the food and our unique bodies. Minimally processed, ‘whole foods’, take more work for our bodies to digest, thus we absorb less energy (calories) from them.  On the contrary, highly processed foods are readily absorbed and hit the blood stream at a much quicker rate.
  • There are many variables that make up the amount of calories we expend every day:  Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR),  is the amount of fuel your body uses everyday,  Thermic Effect of Eating (TEE) – the amount of calories used to digest your food, regular daily activity, additional physical activity you get (hopefully).  It would nearly impossible to specifically and accurately measure the amount of calories you burn in a given day and it would need to be recalculated daily.
  • Not all calories are created equal.  The calories in some processed foods are usually less nutrient dense and therefore less satisfying than the calories we get from whole foods.  Foods such as peanuts and avocados, can tack on calories quickly but are great sources of healthy fats and will keep you filling full longer than Cheetos, for example, for the same amount of calories. Think quality over quantity.

Don’t get me wrong – I am a big advocate of food journaling, just not calorie counting.  There are definite benefits:

  • Tracking and food journaling are great ways to get a handle on what you eating, when you are eating it and why you are eating.  You can uncover patterns like always eating sweets before bed or snacking as a way to avoid work.   
  • Calorie awareness is also good. Educating yourself on what foods are high or low in calories helps you make better choices.
  • Knowing how your macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) stack up for the day is also a powerful tool when it comes to weight loss.
  • I’m talking about 1200 calories being a ‘good day’ and 1201 calories being a ‘bad day’.  Don’t do that to yourself.  Obsessing over the numbers is stressful, it squashes the satisfaction of enjoying food and is counterproductive because stress is directly related to weight gain.  You will also find yourself on the express route to Crazy Town.

So, how do you eat well, maintain weight or even lose weight without having to count calories?

  • Focus on building your meals around healthy, nutrient rich foods that satisfy your appetite and boost metabolism. 
  • Concentrate on what you are eating, not how many calories are in it.
  • Listen to your body for hunger and fullness cues, not the calorie tally in your journal.
  • Do a quick self monitor when making a food choice, “Is this getting me closer to goal or further away from my goal?’, then make the choice and own it.

Maintenance and Moving Forward

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Maintenance

Once you have reached a goal weight, you may feel like the battle is complete and you can finally let down your guard.  Not the case.  Maintaining any amount of weight loss takes diligence. Consistency is key at this stage in the game.  According to studies of participants that have maintained weight loss over a period of over time, there are several common practices that have been adhered to for continued success: 

  • Continue doing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio on most days of the week with a goal of burning at least 2,000 calories a week.
  • Continue to strength train at least two times a week to build lean body mass, and keep your metabolism in high gear. 
  • Watch less than 16 hours of TV per week, usually less than 2 a day.
  • Weigh yourself on regular basis.  It will be much easier to lose 1 or 2 pounds before they become 9 or 10 pounds.
  • Continue to track calories and activity periodically to keep you on top of any weight gain. Adjust intake to your new weight and activity level.
  • Incorporate as much activity into your lifestyle as you can.
  • Continue to make changes that will positively effect your health.
  • Surround yourself with people that will support your effort and keep you on track.  Perhaps your success will become inspiration to those around you.
  • Keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle is a continual journey, not arriving at a final destination. 

This is not the end of your journey.  Quite contrary, it is the beginning.  You now have a full toolbox of knowledge you can use.  Slip ups will happen, they are an inevitable part of life.  How you chose to deal with those when they arise will determine your success in the long run.

Take Away: When the scale stops moving it’s time to change things up to continue to see results.

 

 

Moving Forward  

Don’t stop now.  Here are some things to keep in mind and keep you pointing in the right direction:

1. Stay aware of the benefits of your lifestyle change.

What changes have you made?

What have you achieved with those changes?

What are the next steps for you?

2. Recognize your success.

What are you most proud of?

3. Remind yourself of your progress.

Post weight and activity graphs

Weigh yourself

Keep track of activity milestones

4. Continue to keep track of your weight, eating and activity

Record what you eat, your weight and daily physical activity

5. Add variety to your routine

How have you varied your physical activity

What new foods or snacks have you added to your diet

6. Set new goals for yourself

Set up a reward system for yourself when you reach a goal and immediately set a new goal to keep you focused

7. Adjust your calorie intake for every ten pounds you lose based on your new weight.

Lighter people need fewer calories

Take Away:  Remind yourself that a healthy lifestyle is something you will maintain for the rest of your life and continually strive to improve your efforts.  

Stay Motivated

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Stay Motivated

What motivates you to lose weight?  What to do you think will be better or different when you are 10, 20 or 30 pounds lighter than you are now?  Whether it is health, quality of life or vanity driving you, determining your motivation will play a key factor in your success.  In case you forget or need some help in the motivation department, here are some great ways to stay motivated.

Motivation to work out:

  • Remember how you feel after a workout.  You know you can accomplish something and it makes you feel good and very successful when you’re done.  
  • Take care of yourself.  You undoubtedly spend a lot of time taking care of everyone around you.  Make sure you invest that same effort into taking care of your own health and well being
  • Calories burned let’s you enjoy the foods that you love without guilt.  If you put the time in for exercise, you will also realize how much effort it takes to burn those unwanted calories which can make you think twice before making poor choices you will later regret.
  • Surround yourself with people that inspire you to do more and be more.  Avoid like the plague those that suck energy from you and try to derail your efforts.
  • Read blogs from others that have had the same goals as you and have achieved them.  Personal accounts can have monumental impact on your motivation.
  • Improve your posture and you will automatically carry yourself better and look slimmer.
  • Time to think occurs when you are working out alone. A great time to contemplate what you have, what you want and how to go about getting it.
  • Creative juices also flow from endorphins.  Studies have shown that our most creative time is 30-90 minutes after a workout.  Take advantage of all that creativity.
  • Relieves the stress from the day and lets you sleep better at night.
  • Pay a trainer and chances are good you’ll show up.  Money lost is a big motivator.
  • Reaching short term goals puts you that much closer to the big, long term goal. 
  • Losing a few pounds lets you know your efforts are paying off.  More effort = more weight lost.
  • The unanticipated compliment from someone who hasn’t seen you in a while and noticed you look better.
  • Reward yourself with new workout clothes.  Looking good and spending money says that you have made a commitment to this lifestyle.
  • Knowing that doing nothing will leave you the exact same.  If you don’t change something, nothing will change.

Take Away:

  • Remind yourself often of why you are doing what to do and keep yourself motivated to continue.

Plateaus

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Plateaus

If you have lost some weight by making changes to your diet and including more exercise in your routine, congratulations.  That is a great accomplishment.  If you had some good success then stopped losing additional weight even though you continued eating healthy food, kept your calorie count in control and continued to work out regularly, don’t get too down on yourself.  This is a plateau and it is very common during weight loss.

The good news is that your body has now established a new normal.  If you go back to the energy balance lesson, you will remember that when calories consumed equal calories burned, weight will remain the same.  That is what the plateau is.  Your metabolism has now adjusted to the new routine of fewer calories and more exercise.

The bad new is that you will need to make additional changes in order to see additional changes. To break through a plateau, try any/all of the following:

  • Make sure you are continuing to stay within the calories goal you have set.  If you have stopped or gotten lazy about recording your food intake, it may be a good time to get back to monitoring diligently.  You may find this will keep you honest about what you’re eating and not slipping back into old habits.
  • Adjust the amount of calories you eat every day to your new lower weight.  This is a common mistake.  As your body loses weight it requires fewer calories every day, so make sure that number is  accurate.
  • Increase the amount of physical activity you are getting to burn those additional calories.  If you have been putting in your time at the gym you should notice that your endurance has increased.  Put all that hard work to good use and keep going.
  • Incorporate new activities into your routine.  Different activities will engage different muscle groups to keep your body working hard and burning calories.
  • Add strength training to your routine.  Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn every day.  If you are already strength training, be sure to add additional weight once you are able to do more than 15 reps.  See Progression.
  • Re-visit your goal to make sure the number you are striving for on the scale is a realistic and safe number.  Perhaps setting a new goal of staying within your calorie range 6 days a week and getting to the gym 4 days a week will keep you from focusing too heavily on the stagnant number on the scale.

Plateaus are an inevitable part of the weight loss journey.  Plateaus are not defeat.  Contrary, plateaus are success.  Congratulate yourself on establishing a new normal at a lower weight. Stay focused and determined and continue onward.

Take Away: When the scale stops moving it’s time to change things up to continue to see results.

 

Tech Your Workout

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Tech Your Workout

Techies and non gear-heads alike can appreciate the multitude of devices that will keep you monitored, motivated, guided and entertained while working out.  While completely unnecessary to a successful workout, they can alleviate some boredom, challenge you to do more and even offer some scientific evidence that your workouts are achieving desired results.

Here are a few worth mentioning:

Heart Rate Monitor – You may have seen heart rate monitors for sale at the gym but still haven’t quite figured out why exactly you should be monitoring your heart rate.  Here’s the skinny:  Back in lesson 7 we talked about the different levels of heart rates during training.   Your body burns different fuels at different exercise intensity levels.  If your goal is to lose some body fat, you will want to stay in the fat burn zone instead of the carbohydrate burn zone.   This is done at a lower intensity workout.  So, you may actually be exercising too hard to burn fat.  Hmm, interesting.  You may actually want to slow down a bit and reap the benefits of the fat burn zone.

These devices can also do a lot more for you than simply counting beats per minute.  Most monitors willtally the number of calories burned per session which is helpful if you are keeping a daily count.  Those with a competitive nature may also like to push themselves a little bit further than they did last time making a heart rate monitor a great motivational tool.

Higher end models will also allow you sync your workouts up with your computer to see a  total for the number of workouts you have done daily/weekly/monthly.

 

 

More Technology

Metabolic Testing – This is a service that is typically offered through a gym and needs to be administered by a technician with some know how.  Essentially what will happen is you will be hooked up to a device that will measure your heart rate and oxygen consumption at various levels of exertion.  Once completed, the test will give you data showing you what heart rate zones you should be working in for maximum results as well as how many calories you are burning daily. This is a great piece of information for you to best manage your calorie balance.  While somewhat pricey, these tests take the guesswork out of how many calories you consume daily making it worth the money if you want to get your precise numbers instead of using generalized charts.

Apps, apps and more apps – If there is something you want help with, chances are good that there is an app than can help you.  There are apps to help you find calorie counts, new workout moves, gym locations, music to workout with and much, much more.  While there are countless frivolous apps that don’t offer any real value, there are some that can be quite helpful like GPS and other navigational tools to track your runs.  Not only will they let you know how far you ran, they can also prevent you from getting lost if you are unfamiliar with the area.

Pedometers can be a great motivational tool by keeping you working toward a goal each day.  These are great for any one at any fitness level because you can start at what ever fitness level yo are at and continually measure progress by simply adding on to the amount of steps daily, weekly or monthly.

Ipods and MP3’s – Music is a great way to keep your mind off how hard you are working and can help you power through a tough workout.

The bottom line:  Use whatever gets you going.  If you like the solitude a walk in the woods gives you, keep the electronics at home.  If you need bass pounding beats to power you through a workout – plug in.

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Slip-Ups

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Slip Ups

Slips are times when you don’t follow your plans for eating healthy and being active.  They are a normal part of lifestyle change and are to be expected.  The actual slip-up may not impede your progress as much as your reaction to the slip up does.

What things cause you to slip up from healthy eating?
 
What things cause you to slip up from being active?
 

You have slip ups because of habits you have developed over years of behaving in a certain way.  The way you react to a slip up is also a habit.  You can change your habits to reflect your new, healthier lifestyle, but it will take time, just as it took time to develop the bad habits.  Be patient and forgiving to yourself and keep moving forward toward your goals.

It may be helpful to have a plan of action to follow for the same slip up in the future. How could you have handled it differently?  What’s your plan?

Make a Positive Plan of Action
How did you slip up?
Any triggers or roadblocks you could have avoided?
Trigger Reaction
Next time I am faced with these trigger I will:
Trigger New Reaction
   
   
Why will this help you?

Take Away: 

  • Don’t give up when slip ups occur.  Figure out what went wrong and vow to learn from it for future reference.

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Getting Back On Track

If you are a member of the human race, chances are good you will  have a slip up along the way.  It is how we learn.  How you react will be determining factor in your success of achieving healthier lifestyle.  Throw in the towel and say ‘oh well, good try but not meant to be’ means you are taking absolutely no responsibility for your actions.   Asking yourself why  that particular situation made you react in the way you did and adjusting accordingly for future reference will allow you to learn from the experience and hopefully not make the same choice in the future.  A few steps to help after a slip up:

  1. Replace negative thought with positive thoughts. You are a human and humans make mistakes.  Those mistakes do not define you or qualify you as a failure.  You are capable of learning from mistakes, forgiving yourself and  moving forward.  What can you learn from it for the next time you are in that situation?
  2. Walk through what you could have done differently in your head.  Visualize different reactions to stimuli and which reaction you would like to try to implement the next time you are in a similar situation.
  3. Start over right now.  Don’t wait until ‘tomorrow’ to start over.  Hit the reset button right now, erase the bad and continue on in a positive light.
  4. Talk to someone that will support you, offer you encouragement and not judge you.  Discuss a new strategy for handling difficult situations in the future.
  5. Focus on the progress you have made and let that encourage you to keep going.  It can be a challenge, but it is definitely worth the effort.
  6. Remember that one slip up doesn’t mean that all is lost.  This is not a short term fix, but a long term solution.  Just like one day didn’t get you where you are, one day will not derail the rest of your journey.  Get up, dust yourself off and carry on.

Developing a Support System

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Support System

Sadly, it often times isn’t an enemy or foe that keeps us from reaching our goals, it’s our loved ones and family.  By demanding your attention and asking you to put their needs ahead of your own they are jeopardizing your health without even knowing it.  When deciding on a new lifestyle it is important to for those in your life to understand what you are trying to do and why it is important to you.

Identifying a support system and enlisting their help will play a big role in your weight loss success.  Surround yourself with people that will understand your goals and will assist you in achieving them and steer clear of those that try to sabotage your efforts.  Identify people that will help you:

Eat healthy foods Be more active 
Serve healthy option for meals Go for a walk or run with you
Eat healthy foods when you are around Plan social events around being active
Clear the table and put away leftovers Praise you when you do a scheduled activity but don’t remind you when you don’t
Help with shopping for and cooking healthy meals Baby-sit so I can take a walk
Encourage you to try new fruits, vegetables or whole grains
Praise your efforts to eat healthier foods

If you don’t have a person, or group of people that will help you stay accountable in person, you may want to consider an online club.  There are workout groups, online forums and support groups that will encourage and motivate you to do your workouts and eat healthy.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals will help you stay focused on your goals, whether in person or online.  

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Take Away:  

  • Develop a support system that you can relying for help when you need it.  Consider online groups if your current social circle doesn’t share your new attitude toward health and fitness.

Tracking Macronutrients

Tracking Macros

The Challenge:  Hit your macronutrient goals everyday.

While tracking calories is a good start, tracking where those calories are coming from is even more important. All calories come from macronutrients.  There are three types of macronutrients, or macros: Proteins, carbohydrates and fats.  We’ll take a closer look at each of these this week.  Finding a balance with your macros will help you feel full and satisfy your bodies needs, reducing cravings, binges and overeating.

Counting Calories versus Counting Macros

If you consume fewer calories than you burn in a day, simple science dictates that yes, you will lose weight. However, the quality of your weight loss will suffer and your ability to sustain a calorie deficit will be impossible if you ignore macronutrient counts. Inadequate protein during a calorie will result in muscle loss. Inadequate fat intake during a calorie deficit will impair hormone regulation and may hinder weight loss. Inadequate carbohydrate intake will cause energy supplies to fail and hinder training performance. So, for an effective, long term solution, macros are the thing to keep track of.

As a general rule, Carbohydrates will be 50%, Protein 20% and Fat 30%  of your overall daily intake. If using My Fitness Pal to track your food intake, you can find   your daily totals under the ‘Nutrition’ label on the app.

Proteins

Protein has been labeled the superstar by most popular diets recently.

What they do:

Building blocks for muscle.

They control appetite.

Requires more energy than other macros to digest.

Where they are found:

Meat

Fish

Dairy

All of these things make high-protein diets good for fat loss.

How much do I need?

0.5 – 2.0 grams per pound of lean body mass, depending on weight loss/gain goals.

One gram of protein yields 4 calories

Carbohydrates

If proteins have been labeled the superstars of the diet world, carbohydrates, or carbs, have certainly assumed the role of evil villain.

What they do:

Used for energy

Where are they found?

Fruit

Vegetables

Grains

How much do I need?

0.5 – 2 grams per pound of lean body mass. Technically, you can live on 0 carbs, but athletes have been known to consume 700+ grams per day.

One gram of carbs yields 4 calories

Fats

Fats have had a bad reputation in the diet world in the past, but have staged quite a nice comeback recently.  For good reason, too.  The role of fat in our diets is essential.

What is does?

Insulates body

Assists with vitamin absorption

Hormone regulation

Brain function

Where are they found?

Meat

Nuts

Butters

Oils

How much do I need?

Between 15 – 45 % of your total calories should come from fat. Between .35 – 0.7 g per pound of lean body mass.

One gram of fat yields 9 calories.

Alcohol

What it does?

Non-essential

Where is it found?

Beer

Wine

Liquor

How much do you need?

0, nadda, zilch

One gram of alcohol yields 7 calories

Doing The Math

Once you have determined the macronutrient ratios you will be using, it’s easy to calculate how many grams of each macronutrient you should be eating. But first you have to calculate the total number of calories you will eat in a day as described in Calculating Daily Calorie Needs.

daily calories x percent protein / 4 calories per gram = grams protein

daily calories x percent fat / 9 calories per gram = grams fat

daily calories x percent carbs / 4 calories per gram = grams carbs

daily calories x  percent alcohol / 7 calories per gram = grams alcohol

For example, if your daily calorie needs are 2000 calories and you choose proportions of 30% protein, 20% fat and 50% carbohydrates:

2000 x .30 / 4 = 150 grams protein

2000 x .20 / 9 = 44 grams fat

2000 x .50 / 4 = 250 grams carbs

From that point, you can take a look at any nutrition label and make informed decisions on how that food will affect your daily macronutrient needs.

Cut Down on Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates come in many forms such as cake, candy, cookies, crackers, muffins, soda, fruit juices, chips and most white breads.  These calories, if not burned, turn into excess fat.  Try to limit the amount of these refined carbs in your diet and replace them with high-fiber, protein and low-sugar foods.

Drink More Water  (1/2 your body weight)

A general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight a day in water.  For example, if you weight 100 pounds, you will need to drink half of that in ounces (50 ounces) of water every day.  This will also help regulate your metabolism and purify your digestive system of impurities and foreign substances and boost your immune system.

To Do: Be mindful of eating foods that will fill you up and provide you with the nutrients you need every day.  Try to cut out as many empty calories as possible and replace them with unprocessed, whole foods.  Strive to eat breakfast and drink enough water daily.

Serving Size

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Serving  Size

Size does matter.  A lot.  And bigger is not better.When it comes to food and weight control the biggest problem most have is the amount of food they eat.

Start with your plate

First of all, using a smaller plate will make it feel like you are loading up and may help with feeling deprived.  Use a smaller plate when you can then aim to fill it accordingly.

1/2 Vegetables:  Fill half your plate with vegetables.  Add a colorful assortment for nutrition, texture and taste.

1/4 Protein: Lean cuts of meat that are baked, broiled or grilled are great options.

1/4 Grains: Whole grains offer more fiber and will keep you feeling full longer.  This area also includes starches such as yams, potatoes and corn.  Even though they are considered vegetables they are high in starch and should be placed on this part of the plate.

 

Visual Guidelines

  • 1 cup = baseball

Use this to measure one serving of milk or yogurt, leafy greens or baby carrots.

  • 1/2 cup = lightbulb or billiard ball

Use this to measure one serving of fruit, beans or legumes.

  • 1 oz or 2 tablespoons = golf ball

Use this to measure on serving of nuts, seeds or nut butters.

  • 1 tablespoon = poker chip

Use this to measure one serving of butter

  • 3 oz = deck of cards

Use this to measure one serving of beef, poultry, fish or tofu.

  • 1 oz  = 2 dice

Use this to measure one serving of cheese.

Weighing and measuring foods is important for accurate calorie counts.  For solid food, level off before you record.  For liquids read the line at eye level. For other items such as meat, cheese, etc., use a scale for accuracy.   Weigh meats after they are cooked.

Eating Out

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Eating Out

We live in a world built around food.  There are restaurants everywhere (except that long stretch of highway you’ve been on for hours when you’re starving) and no shortage of convenience stores with snacks a plenty.  No matter how disciplined you have become at home, at some point you will find yourself staring at a menu with everything on it calling your name.  There are a few guidelines that will help you stick to your plan when eating out.

Just because you are leading a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean that you will never get to step foot in you favorite restaurant again.  Here are some points that will let you eat out without undoing all the good you have accomplished so far.

Plan Ahead

Most restaurants have nutrition information available online.  Look it up before you go and plan what you will eat before you go.

Plan your other meals that day accordingly so you will still be on the positive end of the energy balance.

Choose Foods Carefully

Beverages will quickly elevate calorie counts.  Stick with drinks without added sugar such as water or tea.

A salad is always a good choice, but beware of fat laden dressing.  This can quickly add up to just as many calories and grams of fat as a cheeseburger.  Always ask for the dressing on the side and only add as much as you need for flavor.

Broth based soups and sauces are usually lower in fat and calories than creamy ones.

Quit Eating When You Are Full

Just because they have it doesn’t mean you need to eat it.

Take the rest of your portion home for lunch tomorrow (not midnight snacking tonight).

If you are older than 4, there are no awards for clean plate club.

Take Charge of the Situation

If you don’t see options that fit your lifestyle, ask if menu selections can be cooked a different way, for example: steamed, grilled and broiled are always good alternative to fried or sautéed.

Ask to skip the bread basket which is loaded with empty calories and opt for a vegetable based appetizer like edamame.  Better yet, skip the appetizer all together and save the calories for your entree.

Always order the smaller portion or ask for an appetizer, lunch or children’s size.  Restaurant portions are notoriously large and even the smaller size dishes are usually more than a normal serving. You can always get an additional side item later if you are still hungry.

Fast Food

If you happen to live in the real world the chances are good, despite the best of intentions, you will find yourself scurrying frantically from important event #1 to important event #2 with little or no time in between to plan, prepare and eat a healthy meal.  Fast food to the rescue.  It happens.  More often than it should sometimes.  Yes, fast food is typically devoid of nutrients and is essentially ‘filler’.  No, it shouldn’t be a staple in your diet.  But, if you find yourself needing some fast, cheap calories, know that there are some healthier fast-food options available.

Order smarter: Know that as much as half of the fat in a sandwich can come from the dressing and sauces.  Order them plain and add some catsup or mustard for flavor. Always order a grilled version instead of the breaded and fried alternative.

Better Sides: Baked potatoes, corn-on-the-cob or sliced apples are decent choices.

Low fat options: Sandwiches you order with out added dressings such as Subway are good options.  Beware of serving size here, though.  Half a sandwich is usually a serving.

Non-fried options: Chipotle and Taco Bell and other Tex-Mex chains offer meat, rice and beans in various forms that don’t touch a deep fryer.  The tortilla usually has the highest calorie count, so if you can order a bowl instead you’ll save plenty of calories without sacrificing taste.  Guacamole or sour cream on the side, if at all.

Liquid calories:  At least save yourself the added empty calories from the beverage and ask for a water instead.

Take Away:  Try, try, try to avoid the fast food window if you can.  Plan meals and snacks ahead of time so you don’t find yourself in a bad situation.  But, if you do find yourself dining in your car, do the very best you can.