Healthy Weight Loss Tips


Losing weight and establishing a healthy lifestyle is a goal almost everyone has at some point. But how do you achieve it? And more important, how do you achieve it in the right way?

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have created a set of guidelines that will help you lose weight in a practical and achievable way.

Now, this doesn't mean it will be easy, but at least you will have guidelines to follow and suggestions to help you when you feel like giving up. Most of these tips are outlined in this article in the following sections:

  • Understanding the USDA Guidelines Looking for a healthy, lifelong weight loss plan? Then you've come to the right place. In this section, you'll find out about the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are basically recommendations for a healthy way to eat. You'll also find out why the federal government is so interested in what we eat.
  • What's New About the USDA Guidelines On this page, you'll find an overview of the major changes made to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For example, learn about MyPyramid, the new symbol that has replaced the old Food Guide Pyramid as a helpful tool for eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
  • Understanding Calories and Weight Control Do you know how many calories equal a pound? Find out in this section. While you're at it, you'll also learn about the importance of calorie balance if you want to control your weight -- and why imbalance causes you to gain or lose weight, depending on which side of the scale is tipping.
  • The Three Tenets of Weight Loss The USDA suggests that there are three tenets of weight loss: eating fewer calories, increasing physical activity, and making wiser food choices. This sounds relatively straightforward, but if you need more information, plus some helpful examples, take a look at this section.
  • Fats, Proteins, and Carbs According to the USDA, it's important to eat a combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrate each day, even when you're trying to lose weight. Cutting out one or more of these types of food could actually hinder your weight-loss efforts. To find out more about eating a balanced diet, see this page.
  • Restricting Fats and Consuming Fluids and Vitamins While eating a balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate is a crucial step toward weight control, it's also important to restrict the amount of fat you consume and increase your fluid and vitamin intake. Find out more about what your diet may be missing -- or have too much of -- on this page.
  • Creating a USDA Weight-Loss Plan Before you embark on creating a USDA weight-loss plan, you'll want to ask yourself a series of questions to ensure that this time your weight-loss efforts will stick. Find these questions, as well as information on the many health benefits of losing weight, in this section.
  • Healthy Weights and BMI You know you need to lose weight, but what is a healthy weight for you? This section discusses healthy weights and offers a equation to help you determine your BMI, or body mass index. You'll also find out why that weight in your middle is the most dangerous to your health.
  • Setting a Weight-Loss Goal There are a few good methods for determining how much weight you should lose: using the BMI formula, losing a percentage of your current weight, and losing 1/2 to 2 pounds per week, no matter what your weight. Get more information on these methods in this section, along with help on figuring out how many calories you should be consuming.
  • Creating a Calorie Deficit The USDA claims the best way to create a calorie deficit and lose weight is by not only decreasing the amount of calories you intake, but also by getting rid of them through physical activity. Learn more about the USDA's recommendations on this page.
  • Creating a Diet Inventory You can't know where you're going without knowing where you've been. That's why it's so important to take an eating and activity inventory before you start cutting calories. Find suggestions to do just that on this page, along with link for keeping track of your diet online.
  • Dietary Guidelines Quantities Key Just how much is 3 ounces of chicken anyway? When you first start cutting calories, it can be difficult to know what the recommended serving size means -- especially if you're not at home to measure it all out. The tips on this page will make the process easier until you become a master at determining serving sizes.
  • Analyzing a Diet Inventory After you've spent a few days tracking your food intake and activity output, it's time to analyze the data and determine how many calories -- and what kinds of foods -- you should be eating each day. The information on this page will help you.
  • Setting Dietary Goals A good way to ensure you meet your dietary goals is first to make them attainable. This section offers tips on how to set goals and how to alter them as you acheive each one. You'll also be reminded about tracking your eating and activity habits to make sure your diet stays on track.
  • Calorie-Cutting Strategies Now that you've set your weight-loss goal, you probably need some calorie-cutting strategies to get you on the right track. This section features suggestions on how to cut down on portion sizes and how to ensure you drink lots and lots of water.
  • Boosting Nutrients and Fighting Temptation In order to achieve your daily caloric intake goal, you need to be mindful of how to get the most out of the food you're eating and how to avoid those tempting "bad" foods that could send you spiraling back to your old habits. This section offers great tips on boosting nutrients and fighting temptation.
  • Smart Shopping and Recipe Modification The grocery store can be a difficult place when you're losing weight. Find out how to shop more effectively on this page. You'll also learn great tips for modifying some of your favorite recipes to make them less fattening and lower in sugar.
  • Low-Calorie Snacking on the Go Don't let hunger get the best of you while you're away from home. By following the tips outlined on this page, you can be sure to keep up with your weight-loss plan, even when you're traveling, shopping, or engaged in other activities outside the house.
  • Low-Calorie Dining Out Yes, going out while dieting can be difficult. But if you are making a lifestyle change like the USDA suggests, then you need to get used to avoiding temptation. This page offers suggestions on how to order when dining out and preventative measures you can take before you go out to ensure you don't overeat.
  • Restaurant Advice: Mexican, Chinese, and More This helpful section details some of the best dishes -- and worst -- to order when you are dining out. You'll find lists for Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese food, as well as Thai, Italian, and Middle Eastern fare.
  • Restaurant Advice: Fast Food and Buffets The biggest challenge for many people who are dieting is what to do when faced with such high-caloric options as a buffet, a fast-food restaurant, or take-out food. Fortunately, there are still ways to keep your diet in check when these are your only options. Learn more on this page.
  • Finding Time to Exercise We all know how difficult it can be to get motivated -- and stay motivated -- to exercise on a regular basis. That's why the tips on this page will come in handy. Whether it's finding an activity buddy to join in on the fun or rewarding yourself with nonfood treats, you'll learn ways to keep up with your activity goals.
  • Exercise Strategies Since exercising is one-half of your weight-loss plan, it's important to find ways that will ensure you stick with it. This section will do just that, offering strategies like creating a flexible routine, incorporating TV time with exercise time, and more.
  • Exercising While Away Abandoning your exercise routine while away from home -- especially if you travel for business -- just won't work if you're serious about weight loss or weight control. So what can you do? There are actually plenty of ways to stay active while traveling; find out about some of them on this page.

Overview of the USDA Guidelines

You want to get a handle on your weight (and you don't mean a love handle!). But how to do that is what stymies most everyone. While there's certainly no lack of advice to be had, the sheer abundance of it -- and its contradictory nature -- can be immobilizing rather than inspiring. Which of the competing diet plans should you choose; which celebrity or authority should you believe? And which plan makes the most sense for your particular situation and needs?

If you're searching for a magic bullet that will help melt the pounds away and keep them from returning...you've actually come to the right place. You may have thought the previous sentence was going to end with "there's no such thing." And if by magic bullet you mean a solution to weight control that requires nothing more than swallowing a pill, that's how that sentence should have ended.

But if you're looking for a practical, healthy, flexible, achievable, science-based path to lifelong weight control, one that takes a shortcut through the hype and gets right to the heart of the weight-control matter, then you have definitely come to the right place. In this section, we will introduce you to the new USDA Dietary Guidelines and how they can help you lead a healthier lifestyle. Let's start with a little history.

USDA Guidelines: Then and Now

You're probably familiar with the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, perhaps without even knowing it. The guidelines, which are revamped every five years, are the result of analysis of the latest science about food, nutrition, and diet and their role in good health.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Guidelines are recommendations for a healthy way to eat, and they form the basis for federal food, nutrition education, and information programs and for food labeling.

Until now, the Dietary Guidelines have concentrated solely on nutritional guidance -- setting standards for a healthy diet -- and their primary focus was to reduce the incidence of chronic illness and to increase longevity by promoting better eating habits. The Guidelines acknowledged the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and of being physically active, but they did not offer specific recommendations for the purposes of controlling or losing weight.

Feds Weigh In on Weight

With the release of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, however, the federal government weighed in on weight control, too. The Dietary Guidelines address it head-on, providing a blueprint for a healthy diet and lifestyle that will help you lose weight and prevent the accumulation of additional pounds as you get older. For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines include recommendations for calorie intake and physical activity in addition to nutrient intake.

You may not think of the federal government as the first or best place to turn for weight-control advice. After all, the government isn't known for being able to control its own appetite (just think of the federal budget deficit). But when it comes to diet and weight control, the government is on the cutting edge. Its recommendations reflect the accumulated wisdom of federal and private research and organizations whose primary purpose is to discover -- and promote -- the best diet for good health. And by all accounts, the healthiest diet and lifestyle are central to weight control and disease prevention.

Let's not sugarcoat the reason the government has turned its attention to weight control (that would be bad for our diets!).

Overweight and obesity in America are no longer primarily an issue of appearance and comfort. They're a health crisis, and that's why the government, via the Dietary Guidelines, has honed in on it. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and more than 50 percent do not get even the bare minimum of physical activity.

Excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of a host of serious medical problems, such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. While these diseases can occur on their own, obesity is often a precursor to them. The more overweight and inactive you are, the greater the risk.

It's not just adults who overeat and are underactive. There's been a dramatic increase in the number of overweight and obese children and teens. And the numbers of kids being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is skyrocketing. This form of diabetes used to be rare in children but is increasingly common because it is associated with being overweight.

You're probably wondering: What's new about the USDA Dietary Guidelines? Well, you're in luck. The next section will cover the changes that have been made to the government guidelines.

What's New About the USDA Guidelines

Like the old system, the USDA Dietary Guidelines use a pyramid to recommended daily intakes.
Like the old system, the USDA Dietary Guidelines use a pyramid to recommended daily intakes.

A number of changes have been made to the USDA Dietary Guidelines. An emphasis on weight management is an important feature and it is supported by a number of recommendations that differ from those in the previous Guidelines.

USDA Recommendations

The new dietary recommendations include:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Recommends increased intake.
  • Grains: Recommends half your daily intake of 6 ounces come from whole grains.
  • Dairy: Recommends an additional serving.
  • Oils: Includes healthful oils as part of your daily diet
  • Serving sizes: Describes serving sizes in familiar household measurements such as cups and ounces to help consumers better understand and measure the quantities that are recommended.
  • Discretionary calorie allowance: Adds this new concept to describe the number of calories that may be left in a person's daily calorie allowance after meeting all the recommended nutrient intakes. Note that there aren't many calories left for foods and beverages that contain added fats, added sugars, and alcohol!
  • Physical activity: Recommends specific amounts of time for physical activity to reduce the risk of chronic disease, prevent weight gain, and promote weight loss. Makes physical activity an essential part of the energy-balance equation.

MyPyramid

Accompanying the new Dietary Guidelines is a brand-new symbol and an interactive food guidance system. Called MyPyramid, the symbol replaces the original Food Guide Pyramid, which almost everyone recognizes. Since 1992, the Food Guide Pyramid had been the educational tool used to visually interpret the dietary guidelines for the general public, and it has been ubiquitous on food-product labels. It graphically depicted the foods that should form the base of a nutritious diet (the bottom of the pyramid) and the foods that should be eaten less frequently (the top of the pyramid). The 2005 Guidelines required a new symbol, however, to express their emphasis on the importance of daily physical activity and of making smart food choices from every food group every day.

MyPyramid is deliberately simple in design to reflect the need for an individualized approach to diet and physical activity. In fact, there really are 12 pyramids, each of which provides the number of servings per food group that are recommended for a particular calorie level, ranging from 1,000 to 3,200 calories per day. If you enter your age, gender, and activity level at the www.mypyramid.gov site, it will generate the appropriate pyramid based on your personal information. In contrast, the former Food Guide Pyramid depicted the one-size-fits-all nature of the previous guidelines.

Interpreting MyPyramid

To create the new symbol, the designers pushed the pyramid over onto its side, and the colored stripes that represent the five food groups and oils run vertically from the bottom to the top. Each colored band is a different width, corresponding to the proportion of your daily diet that food group should contribute. The stripes are wider on the bottom to represent foods that have the least amount of fat and sugar. The narrowing of the stripes as they move up the pyramid indicates that you should select more of the lowest-fat and lowest-sugar foods within each group. A series of steps that a person is climbing runs up the left side of the pyramid, a reminder that physical activity is essential to good health and weight control. The steps also convey the central message of MyPyramid's slogan, "Steps to a Healthier You." It promotes the idea that gradual improvements in eating habits and activity levels are the surest way to improve your health and to control your weight over the long term.

The Bottom Line

The premise of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is that a healthy diet combined with physical activity prevents an energy imbalance (taking in more calories than you expend). An energy imbalance leads to weight gain, and if the imbalance is considerable and persists over a long period of time, it eventually leads to overweight and obesity. Overweight and obesity, in turn, can increase your risk of developing chronic and life-threatening diseases.

The Guidelines are based on the three basic tenets of weight control: Eat fewer calories, be more active, and make wiser food choices. These recommendations may sound like common sense -- and they are. But if common sense were all it took to control our weight, there wouldn't be a need for dietary guidelines -- or the myriad weight-loss products that crowd store shelves. The experts who developed the Guidelines are serious about helping you win the battle of the bulge, and they are not selling you anything except the idea that you can take charge of your weight and your health.

Anyone, no matter what their weight or their current level of physical activity, can follow the Guidelines. It doesn't matter where you live, what your income level is, or how busy your lifestyle. You just need to know where to start and how to keep taking small and achievable steps to reach your goal of a healthier and trimmer you. In fact, making small changes and incorporating them into your life, a few at a time, is the best strategy. Before you know it, these changes will add up to a healthier lifestyle that includes more physical activity, more nutritious foods, and a decrease in caloric intake: just what you were aiming for!

The key to controlling your weight is getting to know about calories -- consuming them and burning them. The next section explains what calories can do for you.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Understanding Calories and Weight Control

Eating healthy can be a simple matter of maintaining a balanced diet.
Eating healthy can be a simple matter of maintaining a balanced diet.

Two of the three general principles -- eat fewer calories and be more active -- put forth by the USDA Dietary Guidelines have to do with calorie intake and calorie expenditure. That's because neither healthy eating nor physical activity alone can produce the most effective weight control or the greatest amount of weight loss, even though one of them may work for a while.

The Dietary Guidelines encourage you to find the balance that's right for you between calorie intake (food) and calorie expenditure (physical activity). That balance is unique to each person, and it depends on many factors, including the goal weight you set for yourself and whether you're trying to lose weight, maintain your weight, or prevent gradual weight gain over time.

When we're struggling with our weight, we tend to think of calories as the bad guys. But calories are simply a way to measure energy. They shouldn't have any more of a negative connotation than do miles, which are used to measure distance. Of course, when you're on a car trip and you've got more miles left to travel than you have time or patience, then miles can seem like the bad guys. It's the same for calories. It's only when the number on the scale says that you've gained weight that calories become the enemy.

The Benefits of Calories

Your body needs fuel, in the form of calories from food, to sustain life. Calories are used to keep your body functioning: your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your organs working, and your brain thinking. Growing and repairing tissues requires calories, too. The number of calories your body burns to fuel these functions is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or metabolism. You can think of your metabolism as an engine that's idling. It burns fuel constantly to keep the car (you) running. Your BMR accounts for about 60 to 65 percent of all your energy (calorie) expenditures.

Of course, if you want to move your car, you step on the gas, which gives the car fuel to burn to power its motion. The same is true for you. When you go off "idle" and do any physical activity, you burn more of the body's fuel in the form of calories. The more active you are, the more calories you burn. Increasing intensity, like stepping on the gas harder, increases the number of calories you burn, as does increasing the amount of time you spend doing an activity, which is akin to driving a long distance.

Calorie Balance

To visualize the concept of calorie balance, think of an old-fashioned balance scale with a small dish hanging from each side. The center, upright beam of the scale represents your body. The dish on the left is all of the calories that come into your body from food and beverages. The dish on the right represents all the calories you burn up in a day, including calories used for metabolism, for digesting food, and for physical activities.

When you take in the same number of calories that you use up, the scale dishes are balanced, and your weight stays the same. That's what you strive for if you want to maintain your current weight. If more calories come in from food than you burn up in activity, the scale tips to the left, and you gain weight. On the other hand, if your body uses more calories than come in from food, the scale tips to the right, and you lose weight. Weight management is simply a matter of calorie input and calorie output.

How Many Calories Are in a Pound?

Most people don't have any idea how many calories are in a pound of body weight. But that's a crucial number to know when you're trying to lose weight, and it puts all the discussion of calorie balancing and creating a calorie deficit in perspective. One pound of body weight is equal to 3,500 calories. That means that to lose one pound, you need to create a 3,500 calorie shortage by eating fewer calories, burning more calories through physical activity, or a combination of both. To gain a pound, the opposite is true: you create a 3,500 calorie surplus by eating more calories, burning fewer calories through physical activity, or a combination of both.

If 3,500 calories sounds like a lot to you, it's not really. Gaining a pound is as easy as eating 250 calories more a day (for instance 3 chocolate chip cookies or 2 ounces cheddar cheese) for two weeks or skipping a daily 250-calorie workout without cutting back on what you eat.

Calorie Awareness

Being aware of your calorie intake and your calorie expenditure is one of the first steps on the path to weight control. Having calorie awareness will motivate you to make modifications in your diet. And it will also motivate you to be more physically active and to make changes in your routine that will use up more calories, such as taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Having calorie awareness will prompt changes that will get you to your weight-loss goal.

Now, with a firm understanding of calories and how energy balance affects your weight, you're ready for the next section, where we'll explore how the USDA Dietary Guidelines can put you on the fast track to weight loss.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

The Three Tenets of Weight Loss

Being more active is a good way to control your calories.
Being more active is a good way to control your calories.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines are designed to help you accomplish the three basic tenets of losing weight: eat fewer calories, be more active, and make better choices.

The First Tenet: Eating Fewer Calories

Taking charge of your weight begins with taking charge of the number of calories you eat. And you can do that by making small changes that add up to big differences. For instance, eating a mere 100 calories less per day can mean staving off a 10-pound weight gain each year. Here's the math: 100 calories X 365 days = 36,500 calories, which is just over 10 pounds (10 X 3,500 calories in a pound).

But let's correct one weight-loss fallacy at the outset: Eating fewer calories does not mean skipping meals. You may think that skipping meals will sharply reduce your calorie intake. But it doesn't work that way. Skipping meals actually slows down your body's metabolism, the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. That's because meal skipping triggers our evolutionary response to famine, which is to conserve energy and lay down fat reserves in order to survive.

Eating regular meals, on the other hand, tells your body that plenty of food is available, so its metabolic rate can continue humming along. Those meals just need to be composed of modest amounts and fewer calories. You can eat fewer calories by:

  • Choosing foods with less fat or added sugar.
  • Eating smaller portions.
  • Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet.
  • Choosing more nutrient-dense foods.

Once you know how, it's easy to choose similar foods that have less fat or added sugar. The simple meal makeover, below, shows how minor changes add up to a big difference in total calories. The flavors and portion sizes are the same so you will feel as satisfied with the new meal as you did with the old one.

Substituting foods that are lower in calories yet similar to the originals cut the calories in that meal by more than half. You can learn to do the same. Knowing which foods to substitute for those that are higher in calories is vital to eating fewer calories each day.

Recognizing which foods to fill up on while getting the least amount of calories is important, too. In general, plant foods -- vegetables, fruits, and grains -- are quite low in calories, as long as they are not processed with added fat or sugar. That's why the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that these three groups make up the bulk of your diet. Foods such as milk and meat are modest in calories, especially if you choose low-fat or lean versions. At the other end of the calorie spectrum lie fats and processed foods, both of which are loaded with calories. So, vegetables and fruits are calorie bargains, while fat-laden candy bars and sugar-laden sodas are calorie excesses.

Processed foods tend to be high in calories because fat and sugar are frequently added in processing. Calories add up fast when fat is added because it packs more than twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. The excessive amount of sugar added to some foods gives them a calorie overload, too.

Most foods contain a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Here's where the calories you eat come from:

  • Carbohydrate - 4 calories per gram
  • Protein - 4 calories per gram
  • Fat - 9 calories per gram
  • Alcohol - 7 calories per gram

You can start making choices today to lower your calorie intake. Filling your plate with favorite vegetables and snacking on fruits is a quick way to eat fewer calories. Eating smaller portions of higher-calorie foods or eating them less often will cut calories, too.

The Second Tenet: Be More Active

Being more physically active is another way to tip your calorie-balance scale toward weight loss. Physical activity burns up calories, and it boosts your metabolism by revving up your internal engine and keeping it going at a higher rate for some time after you've stopped the activity. And physical activity, particularly strengthening activities, builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories than fat. The more muscle you have, the faster you burn calories, even when you're at rest.

Building muscle mass will also help protect you from weight gain as you age. Muscle mass tends to decrease with age, lowering your metabolism by about five percent per decade. So keeping active as you get older will help prevent loss of muscle mass and the subsequent slowing of your metabolism. To burn more calories, you need to determine how much activity and what type of activity is right for you.

The Third Tenet: Making Wiser Food Choices

Cutting back on calories in order to lose or control weight does not mean sacrificing good nutrition. It just means you need to use your calories wisely by making the best food choices, which are those that provide the most nutrients for the least number of calories.

Foods that are low in calories and brimming with vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial substances are considered "nutrient-dense." Nutrient-dense foods are the preferred choice. They provide nutrients needed for optimum health while allowing you to manage your weight.

To have a weight-loss and weight-maintenance routine that you like well enough to live with for years to come, you need to adopt a balanced eating pattern. A balanced pattern includes foods from each food group, because they each provide different nutrients. A balanced plan incorporates a combination of the three energy-providing nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Severely restricting any one of these categories or food groups not only leads to health problems over the long term, but it also sets you up for weight-loss failure. In the next section, you'll see how to balance your nutrients to keep you running strong while staying slim.

Gradual weight gain is caused, on average, by an excess of only about 100 calories per day. So eliminating 100 calories by eating a little less and getting more physical activity may be all it takes to manage your weight. Losing 10 pounds over a year can be as simple as eating 100 calories less each day for a year. Try these tips to get started.

Five ways to trim 100 calories from food:

  • Swap a 12-ounce regular soft drink for a diet soft drink or water.
  • Drink 2 cups of fat-free milk instead of 2 cups of whole milk.
  • Use 1 teaspoon of mustard or ketchup or 1 tablespoon of fat-free mayonnaise in place of 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise.
  • Split a small order of french fries with a friend.
  • Slice a typical piece of pie or cake about one-third smaller.

Five ways to burn 100 calories through physical activity:*

  • Pedal an exercise bike for 13 minutes.
  • Practice some fast dance steps for 16 minutes.
  • Work in the garden for 18 minutes.
  • Walk briskly for 23 minutes (3.5 mph).
  • Clean the house for 25 minutes.

Five food and foot-power combos to cut 100 calories:*

  • Eat 5 fewer potato chips, and walk for 6 minutes.
  • Eat one-quarter cup less of spaghetti with tomato sauce, and walk for 11 minutes.
  • Top toast with 2 teaspoons apple butter instead of 2 teaspoons butter, and walk for 11 minutes.
  • Spoon out 3 tablespoons less mashed potatoes, and walk for 13 minutes.
  • Skip 2 half-and-half creamers in coffee, and walk for 15 minutes.

*Physical activity and walking estimates based on calories burned by a 150-pound person. Calories burned will increase with higher body weights and decrease with lower body weights.

Tips are reprinted with permission of Food Insight, a publication of the International Food Information Council Foundation, 2003.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Fats, Proteins, and Carbs

Meals like a salad provide the nutrients needed for optimum health while allowing you to manage your weight.
Meals like a salad provide the nutrients needed for optimum health while allowing you to manage your weight.

Is it realistic to think you'll never eat another carbohydrate again? Or that you'll never eat another high-fat food? Not likely. An eating plan that cuts out an entire type of food doesn't usually last for long, and once you're back to your old routine, you start to regain weight. Plus, it's just not healthy. Your body is designed to run on a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to make it all "go."

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a balanced diet that includes carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The Guidelines also give specifics about how much food to consume from each food group.

Carbohydrate

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that carbohydrates supply 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories. That's easy to do when you consider that all foods except meat, fish, and poultry have at least some carbohydrate in them. There are two basic types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. And they are naturally low in fat and calories. Fiber, the indigestible part of plant food, is a no-calorie nutrient that's full of benefits for your digestive system and for your weight-loss efforts. Fiber sops up fluid like a sponge, expanding in your stomach so it takes less food to satisfy your hunger. It helps regulate blood sugar, so you don't experience the sharp drops that can cause hunger and food cravings. And fiber helps prevent disease, keeping cholesterol levels down and stimulating your intestines.

Complex, fiber-filled carbohydrate is found mostly in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates that have been refined, such as white flour and white rice, have had most of the fiber and many other nutrients removed. Simple carbohydrates are found in milk, fruit, some vegetables, and processed sugars such as table sugar and corn syrup. Naturally occurring simple sugars, such as those in milk, fruit, and vegetables, have many healthful nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Processed sugars, however, are mostly devoid of nutrients, so steer clear of them. Fat plays an important role in satisfying hunger, but you need to be careful about the kind of fat you eat. Most of your dietary fat should come from oils: monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil and canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (such as soybean, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils).The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that you limit your intake of saturated fat, in nonlean meat, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as palm kernel and coconut oil, to less than ten percent of your total calorie intake.

The Guidelines further recommend that you limit your intake of trans fats, which are hydrogenated fats (a process that changes unsaturated fats into saturated fats). Trans fats are found in products such as margarine, fried foods, many baked goods, and other processed foods. Both saturated and trans fats spell trouble for your arteries and heart because they are converted into artery-clogging cholesterol in your body.

To work fats into your weight-loss regime, you'll want to aim for the low end of your recommended amount, say 20 percent of calories from fat for adults. If you consume more fat than that, you'll end up tipping your calorie scale in the wrong direction. Make wise choices and eat modest amounts of heart-healthy oils while limiting the less-healthy solid fats.

The next section, will look at ways to use fluids and vitamins as part of a balanced diet.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Carbohydrates are your body's primary fuel. They are broken down into glucose, which is the best fuel source for your brain and muscles. Without enough carbohydrates, your body takes drastic measures to make the glucose it needs. When this happens, you have less energy and feel tired. You may feel light-headed, dizzy, and unable to think clearly. And when you limit carbohydrate intake, you actually inhibit your weight-loss efforts. Your body needs carbohydrate to burn stored fat. Eating the right amount of carbohydrate will help you get rid of stored fat, and you'll feel better while doing so.

Protein

Protein-rich foods should make up about 10 to 35 percent of your calories. Smart protein food choices include lean meat, fish, and poultry, along with eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds. While some of these, such as nuts and seeds, are high in calories, they are a great source of certain nutrients. Include them in small amounts as an occasional protein choice.

The average American already eats twice the recommended amount of protein and does not need to focus on increasing protein intake. Typically two or three servings each day will easily provide the recommended amount.

Protein foods supply the nutrients needed for your body to build, repair, and maintain itself. There are certain protein substances the body cannot make. Since these must be obtained from food, protein plays an important role in good health.

Fat

The MyPyramid food guide contains a thin yellow band representing healthy oils. Healthy fats include vegetable oils, fish oils, and the oils found in nuts and seeds. This is the first time a U.S. food guide has depicted oils as a food group necessary for good health.

At the same time, the Dietary Guidelines caution consumers to limit solid fats, such as those found in meat, whole-fat dairy products, and processed foods. High in calories but essential for a balanced eating pattern, total fats should supply 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most of the fat consumed coming from oils.

If fat is so high in calories, you might wonder why the recommended percentage of daily calories isn't lower. The answer is that fat is vital to many body functions. Vegetable oils contain vitamin E, an essential fat-soluble vitamin. Healthy oils also supply your body with "essential" fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids. These special fats cannot be constructed by your body, so you must get them from food.

Because fat is also essential for proper brain and nerve development, the Dietary Guidelines' fat intake recommendations are based on age:

  • Adults -- 20-35 percent of calories
  • Age 4-18 -- 25-35 percent of calories
  • Age 2-3 -- 30-35 percent of calories
  • Newborns to age 2 -- No fat restriction

Restricting Fats and Consuming Fluids and Vitamins

We've covered the major staples of your diet, but there are other considerations for truly balanced nutrition. We'll address several on this page, including:

Fluids

Making wiser food choices isn't limited to solids; it includes beverages, too. Watching the amount of calories in beverages is another good way to consume fewer calories. Water has no calories, yet it keeps you feeling full and less likely to overeat. Increasing the amount of water you drink to eight cups per day is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Although water does not supply any particular nutrients, it is an important part of a healthy weight-loss plan. Water expands the fiber you eat, further helping you to feel full and satisfied. It assists in many bodily functions, and it helps turn stored body fat into energy by transporting the nutrients needed to make this happen. Water also prevents fatigue, mental confusion, and headaches. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content, so eating them will also increase your water intake.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytochemicals

The Dietary Guidelines are adamant about choosing foods low in calories and brimming with nutrients. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, as well as carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

For good health while losing weight, you need the recommended amounts of vitamin A, numerous B-vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K. Important minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, and potassium. Phytochemicals are natural plant substances that appear to help prevent cancer and may play a role in preventing many other chronic diseases. They include thousands of compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, and protease inhibitors.

Typically people eat too many foods low in vitamins and minerals but high in calories. The more foods and beverages you consume that are low in nutrient density, the harder it is to get all the vitamins and minerals you need without getting too many calories and gaining weight.

For weight control and good health, it needs to be the other way around. Choose foods low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals most of the time. These nutrient-dense foods are the base of your balanced eating pattern. Sufficient vitamins and minerals enable the body to function properly and use up stored fat appropriately as fat cells release it. The best food choices to accomplish this include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lean protein sources.

The Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid show you the way to a well-balanced, low-calorie eating plan. Delicious foods from every food group are included. No foods are forbidden. Both guides provide specific amounts of food to eat depending on the amount of calories you need to lose weight. Basing your eating routine on these guides and balancing it with adequate physical activity will put you on the road to a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle for life!

Now that you have a grasp of the major points of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, are you ready to start that healthy way of eating? Good! Take a look at the next section to help you come up with a USDA weight-loss plan that will work for you.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Creating a USDA Weight-Loss Plan

Once you have made the decision to lose weight, it's time to decide where to start. Are you a little overweight or a lot? How much do you need to lose? How fast can you lose it? The next several pages offer a series of steps to help you determine your weight-loss goal and the path to get there. You may be pleasantly surprised at how little it takes to improve your health and lose weight, and the USDA Dietary Guidelines can help you achieve your goal. Get ready, get set, and go!

Get Ready

Embarking on a weight-loss journey means you'll be making changes in your eating and activity habits. Are you ready to do that? Probably, or you wouldn't be reading this! But you'll need more than desire to ensure success. To be successful, you need to think about what it will be like to make lifestyle changes. And you need to be willing to do things differently than you have before.

The following questions will help you reflect on your readiness to make changes and on what may have prevented you from losing weight and keeping it off in the past. A little introspection now will put you on the fast track to success. Here are the questions to ask:

1. Why do you want to lose weight? Whether you want to lose weight primarily to improve your health or to change your appearance, it's good to know what motivates you. Make a list of all the factors and refer to it for incentive as you change your diet and exercise habits. When you read "have more energy to play with the kids," or "look better at my college reunion," you'll be more likely to stay on track.

2. Have you lost weight before or attempted to? Many people attempt to lose weight more than once. This time can be different! Think about what prevented you from losing weight before and what you might do to prevent the same obstacles from getting in the way this time. Often the problem is that lifestyle changes haven't been established, and so dieters return to old eating habits. The USDA Dietary Guidelines encourage you to take

gradual steps to establish lifelong

healthy habits.

3. Do you have a few friends and/or family members who are willing to support your efforts? It's important that

people with whom you are in contact daily or almost daily are supportive of your efforts. Talk to them about what you are going to do and what you need from them specifically. For example, you can say, "I know you're trying to include me when you ask if I'd like some of the fried chicken you brought home, but please don't ask me anymore. It's easier for me to not eat it if I don't feel obligated to accept. Will you do that for me?" Surround yourself with people who will give you positive reinforcement. This will help you feel good about yourself and raise your self-esteem, which is a boon to weight loss (and vice versa!).

4. Do you understand the benefits of losing weight?

Losing even a small percentage of your current body weight can reduce your risk of many chronic diseases and health conditions. You don't have to become stick thin to reap the health benefits of weight loss. Often losing just 10 percent of your body weight will do the trick. Knowing this might help you feel confident and hopeful: You're starting something you can and will achieve.

5. Are you willing and able to spend time to take care of yourself? Some of the lifestyle changes you'll be making will take some extra time, and your routine will be different. You may spend a little more time making food choices at the grocery store or do more cooking than usual. And you will be spending more time being physically active. If you understand and make room for that extra time at the outset, you'll increase the likelihood of your success.

6. Is this a good time in your life to pursue weight loss? The best time to make lifestyle changes is when there are no major stressful events in your life, such as starting a new job, moving, marrying, divorcing, or having a child. Life will never be stress free, so don't wait for that -- just avoid starting a new diet and activity regimen during an unusually stressful time!

Losing even a few pounds can reduce your risk of health problems. You can look forward to LESS risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Respiratory problems
  • Joint pain and osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Sleep apnea
  • Premature death

After having an honest chat with yourself, it's time for the next step: determining an appropriate weight-loss goal for you. In the next section, we will look at healthy weights and what it takes to get there.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Healthy Weights and BMI

The USDA Dietary Guidelines urge all Americans to achieve and maintain a body weight that

optimizes their health. But how do you know how much you should weigh?

Just as there is no magic weight-loss bullet, there's no magic number on the scale, either. But you can determine whether your weight and the amount of body fat you are carrying are within a range of weight that is optimal for your health. Once you've done that, you can go ahead and set a more specific goal weight.

There are two primary methods of measuring body fat, the Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that you use both measures to assess your current weight and to monitor your weight whether you're in the weight-loss or maintenance phases of your weight-control plan.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of a person's weight

in relation to height. But don't confuse it with the traditional height and weight tables that used to be on display in your physician's office.

BMI is calculated with a formula, and it produces a number that indicates whether your weight falls into a range that's optimal for health. BMI is considered a more accurate measurement of body fat than weight alone in people 20 years of age or older. (For assessment of young people ages 2 to 19 years, visit www.cdc.gov/growthcharts.)

To calculate your BMI, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, wearing few or no clothes. Confirm your height and convert it to inches. Multiply your weight in pounds by 700 (using a calculator makes these computations quicker and easier). Divide this result by your height in inches. Then divide this result again by your height in inches. This number is your BMI. (You can also insert your height and weight into a BMI calculator at a Web site run by the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/calc-bmi.htm.)

Here's an example of BMI calculations for a 140-pound person who is 5 feet 6 inches tall:

140 (weight in pounds) X 700 = 98,000 divided by 66 (height in inches) = 1,484.85 divided by 66 (height in inches) = 22.49.

A BMI between 19 and 24.9 is considered to be in the healthy range and is associated with the least risk of heart disease or other health problems related to being overweight. So the person in the example above is right in the middle of the healthy range. Health risks begin when BMI is 25.0 to 29.9. They become even greater when BMI is higher than 30.0.

If you have a BMI that puts you in the "obese" category, don't despair. There are health benefits to even a modest weight loss of ten pounds. And you can significantly reduce your health risks by losing just ten percent of your weight. The lifestyle changes you're about to make will automatically lower your health risks -- you're on the right path!

Even if your BMI places you in the healthy weight range, it's important to take steps to prevent weight gain, which happens as you age because of metabolic changes even if you continue to eat the same number of calories. Preventing weight gain by eating fewer calories as you get older is also critical to your health.

BMI Limitations

Although it's a good indicator of body fat and health risk, BMI measurement is not perfect. It can overestimate the amount of body fat in people who are very muscular, because muscle is more dense than fat. And it can underestimate the amount of body fat in people who have lost muscle mass, such as the elderly. Even so, BMI is the preferred method of assessing health risks related to weight and amount of body fat.

Where's Your Fat At? -- Waist Circumference

In addition to BMI, it is important to consider where you

carry your extra weight. If fat tends to gather in your abdominal area, you may have increased health risks.

Large stores of fat around the waist are associated with a risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers for those who have a BMI of 35 or less. (Waist circumference does not indicate any additional risks for those with a BMI greater than 35.)

" >To measure waist circumference, place a tape measure around the top of the hip bone. This location may not be what you consider to be your natural waistline, since it is not the narrowest part of your midsection. However, it is the position where you will get the most accurate measure of your abdominal circumference and therefore the best indication of where fat is being stored.

Pull the tape snuggly but not so tight that it indents the skin. Take the measurement after a normal exhalation of breath. Read the tape measure in inches. A waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men or 35 inches or more for women indicates that you are at greater risk of health problems, even if your BMI alone doesn't indicate that. Your waist circumference can put you in a high-risk category when your BMI does not.

Now you know what your target weight should be, at least in general terms. In the next section, we will talk about setting a realistic weight-loss goal and answering the question -- what does it take to get there?

Does your BMI put you at risk?

Body Mass Index

Less than 19.0 = Underweight

19.0-24.9 = Healthy weight

25.0-29.9 = Overweight (Moderate risk for health problems)

30.0 and greater - Obese (High risk for health problems

Setting a Weight-Loss Goal

Using the BMI formula is one way to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Using the BMI formula is one way to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.

At this point, you've calculated your BMI and waist circumference and discovered whether you are at greater risk of health problems because of those values. You've considered common barriers to weight loss and thought about how to get around them. And you've determined your own health status and family history. The next step is to set a goal.

There are several methods for setting a weight-loss goal. Use one of the methods that follow, whichever suits you best:

1. Use the BMI formula. Estimate a weight that you think will put you in the healthy weight range. Then use the BMI formula from the previous page to refigure the BMI with your goal weight rather than your current weight. If the weight goal you chose falls between 19 and 24.9, then it's a healthy one, and you can use it to determine your daily calorie needs.

2. Lose a percentage. The National Institutes of Health; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the North American Association for the Study of Obesity recommend an initial weight-loss goal of 10 percent of your current weight over a six-month period. Even if you have a lot of weight to lose, aiming for a 10 percent loss will keep you focused on an achievable target. After you lose 10 percent successfully, you can set a new goal. To determine how many pounds equal 10 percent of your weight, do these calculations:

  • Your current weight in pounds ___ X .10 = ___ pounds to lose.
  • Current weight ___ minus ___ pounds to lose = ___ my new weight goal.

3. Lose 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. No matter what your goal weight, the healthiest and most long-lasting weight loss typically occurs in weekly increments of 1/2 to 2 pounds. People who are clinically obese (BMI of 30 or more) can aim for a weekly weight loss at the higher end of that range, while those who are only slightly overweight should aim for the mid or lower end.

Which of these methods you choose will likely depend on your current weight as well as your personal preferences. It doesn't matter much how you set your goal, but it's essential that you have one. A goal will help determine your path to weight loss.

How Many Calories Do I Need?

Now that you have a goal in mind, it's time to make a plan for achieving it. Weight loss requires you to create a calorie deficit: You need to take in fewer calories than you expend over a period of time.

Although you can just start eating less, it will be easier to meet your long-term goal if you have some idea of how many calories you're actually consuming right now. You can get a sense of that by figuring out how many calories you need every day to maintain your current weight. Here's a quick calculation that will give you a ballpark estimate of your daily personal energy needs:

1. My current weight: ___ X 10 (for women) or X 11 (for men) = ___

2. I am:

  • Inactive (mainly sitting, driving a car, standing, reading, typing, or other low-intensity activities): Add 300 to the result of #1
  • Moderately active (active throughout the day with very little sitting; may include heavy housework, gardening, brisk walking): Add 500 to the result of #1
  • Active (active, physical sports or in a labor-intensive job such as construction): add 700 to the result of #1.

3. Total of answers in #1 and #2: ___. That's the approximate number of calories you need every day to maintain your current weight.

Another way to estimate your current calorie intake is to consult this chart from the Dietary Guidelines. The table estimates the number of calories needed to maintain energy balance based on gender, age, and activity level.

Getting to Your Goal

To lose a pound a week, which is a realistic goal, you'll need to create a deficit of 500 calories a day. That's because one pound of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories (500 calories X 7 days = 3,500 calories). You don't want to lose weight much faster than that because it takes time for fat cells, where your body stores the extra calories that you don't use up each day, to give up their bounty. (People who are classified as clinically obese (BMI > 30) and who are aiming for a more significant weight loss, however, can try to create a calorie deficit of up to 1,000 calories per day -- two pounds, or 7,000 calories, a week.)

By creating a calorie deficit each day, you force your body to seek energy from the stored energy in the fat cells. When fat cells release their stored energy, they shrink, getting smaller and smaller until they are empty. But it's a process, and it doesn't happen overnight.

You may have heard about diet plans that promise weight loss of 5 pounds a week -- and you may even have experienced such a drop in weight yourself. But when you lose weight that rapidly, the majority of what's lost is typically water and muscle rather than fat.

Severe food restriction causes chemical changes in the body that produce water as a by-product. That water, and the water loss caused by muscle degradation when the body breaks down muscle to provide energy, is what's actually being lost rather than fat. When you return to a less restricted diet, the body quickly replenishes the depleted fluid and fat stores, and you regain weight. You don't regain muscle unless you work at it.

That's why yo-yo dieting is so unhealthy and unproductive: You actually regain weight as fat rather than muscle -- unless you go to the gym and work to counteract this process. At the more reasonable weight loss rate of 1/2 to 2 pounds a week, you'll lose unhealthy body fat, not just water.

Drastically reducing the number of calories you consume also slows your body's metabolism, which is counterproductive to your weight-loss efforts. A dramatic reduction in calories signals famine, and the body will slow its internal engine to keep you from starving to death. It will give up little bits of muscle instead of fat, because fat is a concentrated source of energy that the body might need if the perceived famine conditions persist. Keep in mind that your metabolism is the greatest user of calories. If it slows down, you're burning fewer calories.

How Many Calories?

To figure out your daily calorie needs to produce a one-pound weight loss per week, take the result of the formula you used earlier in step #3 and subtract 500 from it. The result is the number of calories you can consume each day to achieve a one-pound weight loss.

One caveat: Do not consume less than 1,000 calories per day. Research shows that weight loss is not aided by eating less than 1,000 calories. And the average minimum amount of calories needed to support your body's functions is 1,200 per day. You'll risk your health and defeat your weight-loss goals because you'll slow your metabolism if you go much below that number of calories.

In the next section, we will discuss how to create a calorie deficit that will help you lose weight.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Creating a Calorie Deficit

The next step in weight loss is to determine how to create your daily calorie deficit. In order to lose weight, you need to tip the scale toward weight loss -- taking food off the "Calories In" side (eat fewer calories) and adding calories to the "Calories Out" side (burn more in physical activity). If you make adjustments on both sides of the energy-balance equation, you'll be more successful at losing weight.

And that's what the USDA Dietary Guidelines encourage you to do no matter how much weight you're trying to lose. If you only decrease calorie intake and don't increase physical activity, it will take longer for you to lose weight and you won't reap as many health benefits. One way to approach creating

a calorie deficit is to make equal adjustments on both sides

of the calorie-balance scale.

If a 500-calorie daily deficit is your goal, then you'd take in

250 fewer calories and expend 250 additional calories every day. Of course, you can balance your scale any way you'd like, and you'll probably want to make adjustments as you

lose weight and become more fit or when you encounter any lifestyle changes that alter your routine. If expending 250 calories in physical activity seems like too much at first, try eating 400 fewer calories per day and expending 100 calories a day in physical activity.

You can gradually shift the ratio as you become comfortable with the amount of physical activity in your daily routine. And on days when you can't fit in your usual amount of physical activity, simply decrease your calorie intake by the number of calories you normally expend. That's the beauty of the calorie-balance concept. You're not stuck with a rigid diet or physical activity plan. You just need to keep your daily calorie deficit goal in your sights and make sure to follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines' recommendations for healthy eating and physical activity.

A realistic weight-loss plan always involves dietary and activity changes. In the next section, we'll focus on diet and show how creating an inventory will help you monitor the calories you take in.

Genetics also play a role in your body shape, size, weight, and likelihood of having certain chronic conditions. Research suggests that genes are responsible for somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of how your body regulates weight. Genes play a major role in determining how much energy your body spends to sustain itself, your rate of metabolism, the type of appetite you have, and how your body tends to store fat. When one or two parents are obese or a sibling is obese, your chance of becoming overweight increases. Certain body types are designed to be heavier than others regardless of the steps you take. However, adopting eating and activity habits that lower your health risks are still important, regardless of how much weight you do -- or don't -- lose.

Researchers agree that even if there are obese relatives in the family, "environment" plays a major role. In this case, "environment" refers to eating and activity habits. Since genetics determine 60 to 80 percent of weight regulation, that means a whopping 20 to 40 percent is attributed to environment--the things you can control! A healthy eating plan combined with adequate physical activity may stop so-called "obesity genes" in their tracks. So even if you have overweight family members, don't despair -- you're on the right track now.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Creating a Diet Inventory

Do you know what your energy balance scale looks like? Most of us have no idea. In fact, research shows that our perceptions of what we eat and how much physical activity we do are way off the mark.

In a survey of more than 5,700 adults, most thought they ate more fruits, milk, and protein foods than they actually did. Women tended to overestimate -- and men tended to underestimate -- the number of vegetables they ate. And most thought they were eating much fewer grains, fats, oils, and sweets than they actually were.

Before you can put yourself on a calorie budget, then, it's important to get an accurate picture of what you currently eat and how active you really are. That's why this page shows you how to keep a food and activity log -- a sort of inventory of your diet. After you've done that for a few days, you'll learn how to use the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations to adjust the amount of calories you consume and the amount of calories you expend to achieve the weight-loss goal you've set. It's a balancing act you'll get good at!

Take an Eating and Activity Inventory

The only way to raise your awareness of what you actually eat and how active you are is to keep a log for at least three days. If you're under any illusions about your calorie intake and calorie expenditure or what foods you eat, this will quickly dispel them. The inventory will also help you uncover patterns in your eating and activity behaviors. You'll be able to identify situations and emotions that cause you to overeat or make poor choices.

Armed with that information, you can develop some strategies to take control over your habits instead of letting them control you. And the inventory will give you a very good idea of how your diet stacks up against the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid (the USDA interactive food guidance system) intake recommendations.

You are the only one who will see this inventory, so be completely honest. An inventory that truly reflects your current habits will help you target problem areas and make changes that will lead to successful weight loss. And it will help you design a plan that includes many of your favorite foods and gets you moving in ways that fit into your lifestyle. For a blank copy of a diet inventory than you can print out and use, click here.

  • Log typical days: Take your inventory on three typical consecutive days. Aim for two workdays and one nonwork or weekend day. Avoid taking your inventory when your schedule is hectic or when you're traveling or sick.
  • Don't wait: Carry your log with you and write down everything as you eat it or as you do it. Don't wait until the end of the day: Studies show that you can't rely on memory. If you don't have your inventory sheet with you, jot down your meal, snack, or activity on any piece of paper and add it to your inventory later.
  • Record everything!: Be sure to record any food you eat or beverage you drink, no matter how small. That includes nibbles and bites you take while preparing food or eating on the run. The old joke about cookies not counting if they're broken does not apply!
  • Be specific: For foods and beverages, record the specific amount you consumed. For example, did you eat about 1/2 cup of rice, 10 potato chips, 6 ounces of milk, or 3 ounces of chicken? Try to measure everything you eat and drink at least once. Determining your typical portion size is very important, so don't skip this part of the process. Also record the number of calories. If you're not sure how many calories are in a particular food, look on the product's Nutrition Facts panel. Be sure to log the amount of time you spend in physical activity, too. Record the number of minutes, as well as the intensity level.
  • Include food preparation details: Record how food was prepared -- was it raw, baked, breaded, fried, steamed? And log everything you add to your food, such as butter, ketchup, sauce, gravy, and salad dressing. When recording mixed dishes, list ingredients separately. For instance, your sandwich might have 2 slices of whole-wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, and several slices of ham that are about 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards), plus 2 leaves of lettuce.
  • Assess your hunger: On a scale of one to five (1 is not hungry; 5 is ravenous) rate how hungry you are every time you eat. If you weren't hungry, mention why you ate: Were you bored, sad, or excited? Did someone offer you food and you couldn't refuse? If you understand why you eat when you do, you'll be better able to change and control your eating habits.
  • Quantify by category: Indicate the number of cups or ounces you ate from each of the five food groups. You'll need this information later on to design a diet plan that follows the Dietary Guidelines and the MyPyramid food guidance system. To fill out the Discretionary Calorie columns, use calories or grams, whichever you prefer. Determining the amounts to enter in the columns can be tricky, because they are not just calories from snack foods. They include calories from fat and sugar in foods that you may have eaten to fulfill your nutrient needs in each food group. For example, dairy products in the milk group of the Guidelines are all nonfat. So if you eat dairy products that are low fat or full fat, you'll need to account for the fat calories (or grams) in those products in the "solid fat" column in the discretionary calorie section of your log. You can find the amounts listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. The same principle applies to meats. Only the leanest cuts of meat are included in the Guidelines' meat group, so if you choose fattier cuts or didn't trim off all visible fat, include those additional fat grams or calories in your discretionary calorie allowance. In addition, shortenings used in baked products, hard margarines, mayonnaise, and cream or creamer should be included in the fat column. One teaspoon of fat equals four grams or 36 calories. In the sugar column, which is part of your discretionary calorie allowance, only account for added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup or table sugar, that are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation. Do not list sugars in unsweetened dairy products or beverages that are 100 percent juice, because these are not added sugars; they occur naturally.
  • Total the categories: At the end of each day, add up the quantities you've logged in each food category column, as well as the number of minutes of physical activity. Write this in the "Totals of Food Categories -- Amount Consumed (or Minutes of Activity)" row.

Keeping track of everything you put into your mouth and all of your activity for several days can seem very tedious. Yet people who write it all down report that it is the most useful tool they have for getting in touch with their eating and activity habits.

Numerous studies, too, report that those who keep a food diary eat fewer calories. The most successful weight losers continue to keep an Eating and Activity Inventory for a few days every month.

Even though you may be impatient to get on with the process, don't skip this part. You are strongly encouraged to log a minimum of three day's worth of eating, drinking, and activity -- this IS part of the process!

For a more precise evaluation of your calorie balance, log onto www.MyPyramid.gov. Go to the section called "MyPyramid Tracker." Click on "Assess Your Food Intake." Here you can enter your daily food intake -- from one day up to a year's worth of days. The report will tell you precisely how many foods you're eating in each category and how many calories you're consuming. Also in the MyPyramid Tracker you can determine your calorie expenditure more precisely. Click on "Assess Your Physical Activity" to enter the length of time you do activities throughout the day and the intensity level. It will instantly calculate an estimate of the calories you used.

Before you can effectively fill out your inventory, you have to understand quantities and serving sizes. After all, recording an accurate diet needs a good standard for measuring food items. The next section will provide a good guide for measuring items like fruits and vegetables.

Dietary Guidelines Quantities Key

By describing servings in familiar household measurements such as cups and ounces, the Dietary Guidelines have resolved a major source of consumer confusion. The previous guidelines talked about numbers of servings, but it wasn't clear what constituted a serving. Now the Guidelines say to eat two cups of fruit. No more guessing about how much makes a serving and how many servings you should eat.

Dietary Guidelines Quantities Key

The following are equivalents to the quantities recommended in the Guidelines:

Vegetables and fruits

One-half cup of fruit or vegetables is equivalent to:

  • 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked fruit or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup leafy salad greens

Grains

One ounce-equivalent is the same as:

  • 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta or cooked cereal
  • 1 cup cereal flakes
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1 very small muffin (1 ounce)
  • 1 ounce dry pasta or rice

Milk

One cup milk is equivalent to:

  • 1 cup milk, yogurt, or fortified soy milk
  • 1-1/2 ounces natural cheese such as Cheddar
  • 2 ounces processed cheese

Meat and Beans

One ounce-equivalent is the same as:

  • 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked dry beans or tofu (count as a protein or vegetable, not both)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds

Oils

One teaspoon equivalent is:

  • 1 teaspoon soft margarine
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons light salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

All cooking oils plus soft margarines that do not contain any trans fats are included in this category. Because these oils contain vitamin E and essential fatty acids, they are not part of the discretionary calorie allowance below.

Serving Size Guide

If you're away from home and can't measure your food, these will help you estimate portion size.

  • 1 cup is about the size of a baseball or tennis ball
  • 1/2 cup is about the size of 1/2 of a baseball or tennis ball
  • 2 tablespoons is about the size of a ping-pong ball
  • 1 teaspoon is about the size of one die
  • 1-1/2 ounces of cheese is about the size of 6 stacked dice
  • 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards
  • 1 medium potato or other fruit or vegetable is about the size of a medium adult fist

Discretionary Calories

The allowance for discretionary calories will depend on the specific calorie-level eating plan you are following. Check the label for the number of grams of sugar listed. The same goes for fat; check the labels of food products for the number of grams of fat.

Alcohol

The Guidelines recommend a maximum intake of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men (see "Alcoholic Beverage Guidelines" below). One serving is equivalent to:

  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 12 fluid ounces of beer

Once you've totaled your consumption over a multiday period, it is time to analyze your diet inventory. The next section will focus on interpreting what all the data you've collected really means.

Alcoholic Beverage Guidelines

Alcohol contains no nutrients, so it is not listed in the food pattern guide. What alcohol does have, however, is calories -- lots of them. Each gram of alcohol provides 7 calories, just 2 less than fat. Alcoholic beverages, then, should be counted as part of your discretionary calorie allowance.

As you can see from the chart below, which shows the typical amount of calories in various alcoholic beverages, one or two drinks can blow your discretionary calorie allowance. Cocktails or mixed drinks contain other high-calorie ingredients, such as tonic water, fruit juice, cream, and sweetened soft drinks, that up the calorie count and can send you way over your discretionary calorie budget. Alcohol is well-known for decreasing one's resistance to food, so chances are good that while you're drinking, you're also eating, and drink accompaniments are more likely to be high fat than high fiber.

However, since studies show that moderate alcohol consumption may help reduce heart attacks and strokes, the Dietary Guidelines do address it. The Guidelines define moderation as 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. This is not intended to be an average over several days but rather the amount consumed on any single day. Excessive intake of alcoholic beverages is dangerous, carries with it many health risks, and will sabotage your weight-loss plan -- so stick to moderation if you decide to drink at all -- and never drink during pregnancy or while operating motorized machinery.

This table is a guide to estimate the caloric intake from various alcoholic beverages. An example serving volume and the calories in that drink are shown for beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Higher alcohol content (higher percent alcohol or higher proof) and mixing alcohol with other beverages, such as calorically sweetened soft drinks, tonic water, fruit juice, or cream, increases the amount of calories in the beverage. Alcoholic beverages supply calories but provide few essential nutrients.

Beverage

Beer (12 oz.)

  • 144 calories

Light Beer (12 oz.)

  • 108 calories

White Wine (5 oz.)

  • 100 calories

Red Wine (5 oz.)

  • 105 calories

Sweet Wine (3 oz.)

  • 141 calories

80 proof distilled spirits: gin, rum, vodka, whiskey (1.5 oz.)

  • 96 Calories

Source: Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR), Release 17. Calories are calculated to the nearest whole number per 1 fluid oz.

The total calories and alcohol content vary depending on the brand. Moreover, adding mixers to an alcoholic beverage can contribute calories in addition to the calories from the alcohol itself.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Analyzing a Diet Inventory

As you've totaled your quantities in your Diet Inventory over the three-day period, you probably noticed some patterns in your eating and activity behaviors. Perhaps you found that you always snack at a certain time of day or that you don't eat nearly the number of vegetables that you imagined. Not all the patterns will be that obvious, but if a few have jumped out at you, you've already begun the process of identifying your major dietary downfalls.

Further analysis of your inventory will reveal habits that already promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as areas that you can improve. Let's look at one category at a time:

How Was Your Timing?

When and how often did you eat? Did you eat within two hours of getting up to keep your metabolism revved up -- or did you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and practice the "See Food Diet" (eating everything in sight) in the evening because you were starving? Ideally, you should eat three moderate meals, including breakfast, and two small snacks each day to keep your metabolic engine running and to avoid getting so hungry that you binge.

How Was Your Food Prepared?

Did you eat breaded and/or fried foods, or items served with sauces? If so, just changing the preparation method or substituting a low-fat topping for a high-fat one can significantly cut calories. Consider baking, steaming, broiling, or sauteeing, rather than frying food.

Were You Really Hungry?

This section will give you insight into your emotional reasons for eating. Knowing your emotional triggers will help you resist them or substitute other activities for eating. Also notice what kinds of food you ate when you weren't really hungry. You may not have realized how often you tend to reach for junk food.

Quantity by Category

This is the nitty-gritty of the food log, where you will find out how your current food consumption compares with the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations for your desired calorie intake level. After completing this section you'll know which foods your diet lacks and which foods you tend to overeat. You'll also find out how active you are and how that compares with the Guidelines' recommendations for physical activity.

Before you begin, you'll need to set a daily calorie intake goal. That's the number of calories that you want to consume each day. Then find the same or similar calorie intake amount on the USDA Food Guide chart and follow the column from top to bottom. This will give you the recommended food pattern for that calorie intake level.

Now record the recommended amounts for each food group in the row called "Recommended Amounts from USDA Food Guide for My Calorie Level" near the bottom of the log. When recording the amount for the Vegetables and the Grains groups, just list the total amount recommended, which you'll find in the top row of each of those groups.

There is no recommended intake for alcoholic beverages. These will be accounted for in the context of your discretionary calorie intake.

Finally, write 60 minutes in the "Recommended Amount of Activity" row. This is the minimum amount of physical activity the Dietary Guidelines recommends for weight loss.

How Did You Do?

With this last step, you'll find out how your typical eating patterns compare with the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations. Subtract the "Recommended Amount from the USDA Food Guide" from the "Amount Consumed" for each food category. The numbers you get will tell you whether you are meeting, exceeding, or lacking in the recommended food intakes.

Negative numbers mean you didn't eat enough to meet the recommended amount. These are foods you need to eat more of. Positive numbers mean you ate more than the recommended amounts. These are foods you need to cut back on -- unless you went overboard on vegetables; you can't eat too many of them! If the total is zero, then you've eaten the recommended amount.

Consider all three days together to see which foods are abundant in your eating routine and which ones are scarce. Then write down the food groups you need to eat more of to be in alignment with your new food pattern. Finally, total up the amount of time you spent in moderate and vigorous activity for each of the three days. Did you meet the Guidelines' recommendations or your goal for the number of calories you need to expend to balance your calorie scale?

The next section will talk about setting achievable goals. When it comes to setting goals, they need to be realistic and attainable for your own situation.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Setting Dietary Goals

Identifying your behaviors, positive and negative, and your eating and activity patterns is the first step toward changing them. The next is to set some goals. To lose weight effectively and successfully, your goals need to be specific, attainable, and forgiving.

For instance, as you assessed your inventory, you may have realized that you need to eat less sugar. That's too vague to be a goal, though, because there's no plan for how to accomplish it and no way to measure whether you've achieved it.

However, if you decide to drink only one 12-ounce can of soda pop instead of your usual 20-ounce bottle, five days a week, you'll have set a specific goal that you can actually measure. This goal requires a small enough change that you can attain it. And it's forgiving because you need to do it only five days a week, not seven.

Or, your inventory may have highlighted how little physical activity you do. If you just vow to be more active, you probably won't have many more minutes to add to your log in the next week.

But if you decide to walk for 20 minutes on your lunch hour three days a week or lift weights during your two favorite TV programs this week, then you have made a specific and attainable plan to expend more calories, one that is also flexible.

Your goals should also include the idea of calorie balance. If you want to eat 250 fewer calories and expend 250 more calories a day, your goals will determine how you get there. That 20-ounce bottle of Coke that you were considering giving up is worth 250 calories, as is a 45-minute brisk walk (for someone who weighs 150 pounds).

Your goals need not be static. In fact, they shouldn't be. What you want to do is take small, achievable steps, then raise the ante when you're comfortable. Once you've adjusted to drinking 12 ounces of soda five days a week, for example, you can cut back the number of days and reduce the amount again. And you can add 5- or 10-minute increments on to your lunchtime walk as you're ready.

Now go back and review each category in your log with an eye toward setting a goal. Together, the goals you set will form the basis of a plan for eating fewer calories, increasing your activity, and making wiser food choices that will provide adequate nutrition.

However, do not try to accomplish each goal right away. Start with one or two that seem most important to you or that you are most willing to do. In general, you should only change one or two behaviors at a time. Making too many changes at once can be overwhelming, defeating you before you've had a chance to make real progress.

A step-by-step approach will lead you to greater and more long-lasting success. Try starting out with one or two achievable goals per week related to food and one or two for physical activity. Write out the one or two goals that you are going to do first. Post them in some conspicuous places. Don't let them become "out of sight and out of mind." You may need them posted on the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, in your car, and/or at work.

Set yourself up for success by doing whatever you need to achieve those goals. Do you need to go shopping so you have certain foods on hand? Do you need to purchase new tennis shoes or clear your schedule at 5 p.m. for your appointment with activity? Make a quick list of what you need, and take care of these things within the next few days so you can get started.

Keep Track

As you move through your week, continue tracking your eating and activity -- daily if possible or, at a minimum, three consecutive days each week. Successful weight losers know that a log keeps you on track. It not only makes you accountable to yourself, it helps you spot problem areas. Once you realize some of your obstacles, you can set goals to overcome them.

MyPyramid.gov has a tracking sheet you can use each week. Make sure you enter weight information that results in a chart showing the amount of calories you want to eat. Print the tracking form. On it, you can enter the foods you eat and compare them against the recommended amounts for your calorie level's food pattern.

The tracking form also gives you space to record your physical activity. Keep these forms from week-to-week to monitor your progress. If you'd like a computerized analysis of your progress each week, MyPyramid.gov can keep your information for up to one year.

Now that you've set your goals, how do you actually cut out those extra calories? See the next section for some calorie-cutting tips.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Calorie-Cutting Strategies

You've set your course for weight control. You've used the USDA Dietary Guidelines to determine how many calories you need to eat and how many you need to burn to drop the pounds. You've successfully assessed your dietary intake and physical activity routine. You've adopted a new food pattern to eat fewer calories. You've even set goals to be more active. Now it's time for a little finessing.

The next few pages offer the practical tips and advice from the USDA that will help you successfully modify your behavior so you eat fewer calories and become more active. Some of the tips may be familiar; these will reinforce what you already know. But these pages are chock-full of new tips, too, and these will be your inspiration for cutting your calories.

Before you start, remember to try just a few new strategies at a time. Practice them until they become routine or automatic, then pick a few new ones and do the same. Your habits shape your daily behavior, so work toward gradually internalizing as many smart calorie-cutting habits as possible.

Calorie-Cutting Strategies

With some easy calorie-reducing tricks and strategies, you can tip your energy-balance scale toward weight loss.

Portion Distortion: Consumers are finally recognizing that portions have become increasingly larger over the last decade or so. It's been a gradual increase, and we've adjusted our expectations accordingly. But this trend for larger portions has wreaked havoc with our waistlines.

As restaurants and food manufacturers increase the size of their portions and single-serving foods, calorie consumption has climbed and so have the rates of overweight and obesity. Once you realize that you're accustomed to eating much larger amounts than you should, you can retrain yourself by shrinking your portions. Smaller portions automatically mean fewer calories.

The following are strategies for eating smaller portions:

  • Serve smaller portions than normal. Cut them down by one-third at first. If you ate very large portions before starting your weight-loss journey, eventually cut your portion size in half.
  • Avoid food portions larger than your fist (except for veggies!).
  • Use a smaller plate, such as a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, so that small portions look generous.
  • Spread out your portions, rather than piling them up, so they take up more room on your plate and look bigger.
  • Avoid putting serving bowls on the table. That makes it harder to have seconds.
  • If you do have seconds, choose the lowest-calorie foods. Fill up on the vegetables and salad with low-fat dressing -- or no dressing at all.
  • Discontinue your membership in the "clean plate club." Don't finish all the food on your plate. Either save it for another time or throw it away. Next time, take a smaller portion.
  • Eat half a sweet treat, pastry, or dessert. Share your piece with someone else or save it for another time. You still get to enjoy the flavors you like, with only half the calories!
  • Keep your portion size from growing unintentionally. While cooking, take only the minimum number of small bites you need to taste and adjust flavorings. And put leftovers into small containers so you won't be tempted to nibble on them while you're cleaning up the kitchen.
  • Create obstacles for eating large amounts of high-calorie foods. Divide up a large bag of chips or box of cookies into individual servings and store them in reclosable plastic bags. Not only will you limit the amount you eat, you'll readjust your eyes to the proper serving size. Cut high-calorie foods such as cheese and chocolate into small pieces. Eat only a few small pieces, and put the rest away. Freeze foods such as muffins and cakes. If they're frozen, you can't grab and eat.

Team 'Em Up -- Fiber and Water: There's no doubt about it: High-fiber food helps you feel fuller longer. It passes through the digestive tract more slowly than starch, which digests in a matter of minutes. Your hunger is more easily satisfied when the foods you eat are full of fiber.

Team fiber up with fluids to make it expand in your stomach. As your stomach stretches, it sends a signal of fullness to your brain and you stop eating (if you're listening, that is!). Fluids alone can also expand your stomach, triggering the "full" signal.

Make sure water is one of your main fluids. It helps transport the nutrients you need to metabolize fat, as well as carry away unneeded by-products of the fat breakdown process. The standard recommendation of 6 to 8 cups of water per day will serve your weight-loss regimen well.

Here are some other fiber and water consumption tips:

  • Drink 1 cup of water about 30 minutes before a meal to help expand your stomach and help you feel full on less food.
  • Serve broth-based soups (not cream-based soups) often. The liquid helps you feel full.
  • Keep whole-grain crackers, such as Triscuit and Rye Crisp, on hand. A few crackers and a glass of water will satisfy your hunger between meals.
  • Fruits and vegetables are naturally high in water as well as fiber. If you base your eating pattern on fruits and veggies, you'll get both fiber and water in one package!
  • Create vegetable snack bags that have a variety of colorful veggies. Use washed and cut broccoli, red bell peppers, baby carrots, and some white cauliflower -- or whatever veggies you like. Toss in some unusual ones to add interest and variety. Grab a bag and add it to your lunch, or use it for snacks.
  • Be sure to include at least one high-fiber food at every meal or snack.
  • Avoid drinking more than about 1 cup of water with your meal, so that digestive juices aren't overly diluted.
  • Drink lots of water between meals. Keep water bottles placed strategically around the house or yard so you can see them and remember to drink. Also keep water bottles in the car so you can quench your thirst without spending money or expanding your waistline on sugary beverages.
  • Feel like nibbling? Drink a big glass of water or other nonsweetened beverage instead.

Don't think we're done discussing calorie-cutting tips! The next section will introduce even more ideas, including grazing throughout the day and fighting that ever-present temptation to eat junk food!

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Boosting Nutrients and Fighting Temptation

Luckily for you, we've got a seemingly endless supply of calorie-cutting tips. Let's jump right back in with a look at more ways to trim your waistline.

Grazing Is a Good Thing: Eating small, frequent meals and snacks keeps your metabolism revved up. Continually eating small amounts of calories throughout the day will reassure your body that food is not in short supply, so it can keep humming along at a rapid rate. A faster metabolism burns more calories. Keep yours going by eating three small meals and two small snacks each day.

The foods you choose need to be nutrient-dense -- low in calories and rich in nutrients. Eat small amounts to stay within the calorie limits of your selected food pattern. Eating frequently also ensures you won't get overly hungry and then binge on high-calorie food or whatever's on hand. Don't skip meals. Eat small, eat often.

Here are some more grazing tips:

  • Eat something within two hours of getting up. It doesn't need to be an entire meal, just a few calories to let your body know that starvation is not imminent. This keeps your metabolism running at a faster rate. People who skip breakfast continually lower their metabolism to the point that they can gain an extra pound every seven weeks without eating any extra food.
  • Partially prepare your breakfast the night before so you don't run out of time in the morning and skip it.
  • It's better to eat three modest meals and two small snacks or mini-meals instead of eating one or two large meals. Make sure your meals have foods from every food group and that snacks have foods from at least two groups. Make wise choices so that you stay within your calorie allowance.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Eat before you get excessively hungry.
  • Prepare lunches the night before to take with you. Bringing your lunch ensures that you have something healthy and low-calorie to eat during the day, and it saves you time, money, and calories.
  • Toss extra food into your lunch bag so that you have healthy snacks to graze on.
  • Grazing is good, but avoid eating late at night. Set a time limit for yourself, about one hour after dinner, and do not eat after that time.

Boost Your Nutrients: By selecting nutrient-dense foods, you'll meet your body's requirements for vitamins and minerals. Adequate nutrient intake may make you less likely to crave certain foods and overconsume calories. And it will help metabolize stored fat and ensure a healthy weight loss. Nutrient-dense foods are low in calories. Make it easy for yourself to choose these types of foods rather than other, higher-calorie foods.

There are more ways to boost your nutrients:

  • Make a snack basket in your refrigerator. Fill it with small bags of prewashed and cut vegetables for easy eating. Add containers of light yogurt, fruits, and low-fat cheese sticks for quick healthy snacks.
  • Fill up on nutrient-dense foods first, leaving less room for higher-calorie foods. Serve salads and soups as a first course -- you'll soon find that you're content to eat small portions of the higher-calorie main dish.
  • If you have to grab something on the go, choose items that aren't fried, creamy, or full of sugar. Look for the fresh stuff -- salads and fruit bowls with low-calorie toppings.
  • Put away foods that are treats -- out of sight is out of mind -- hopefully!
  • Choose nutrient-dense foods that are as low in calories as possible (the leanest or lowest-sugar versions). This will leave a little room for discretionary calories -- those foods with added sugar or fat or alcoholic beverages.
  • Eat with an eye toward balancing your calorie scale. If you overindulge in discretionary foods or even in nutrient-dense foods, don't get frustrated. You can regain your calorie balance by increasing the amount of calories you burn. If you know you can't be active on a certain day, skip the discretionary calories.

Eat Mindfully: Paying attention to what you eat and eating it deliberately satisfies your senses and, ultimately, your hunger. When your mother advised you to chew your food thoroughly and put your fork down between bites, she was right. It's those types of behaviors that keep you tuned into what you're eating. Focusing on food increases the fulfillment you get from it. Have you ever eaten an entire meal or bucket of popcorn, then suddenly realized there's none left -- but you hardly feel you've eaten and you're still hungry? This is exactly the type of scenario you can avoid by eating mindfully.

Turn off the television, put away your book, and pay attention to your food. Eat slowly and deliberately. You'll find you'll feel fuller and more satisfied on less food, which means taking in fewer calories.

More tips on eating mindfully include:

  • Eat sitting down rather than gulping food over the kitchen sink or in front of the refrigerator.
  • Eat in a designated eating place -- not in front of the TV.
  • Make an event out of your meal so that your meal feels more significant and fulfilling. Set the table attractively and include a simple centerpiece, even if you're eating alone.
  • Think about the taste and texture of your food. Chew slowly. Take small bites. Savor the flavor. Put your fork down between bites.
  • Make pleasant conversation at the table, and don't talk with food in your mouth -- this will slow down the rate at which you eat.
  • Check in with yourself -- are you getting full? You don't need to feast at every meal. No need to get as full as after a Thanksgiving dinner! Just get satisfied, then stop eating. It takes about 15 minutes for your stomach to signal the brain that it's no longer hungry. By eating slowly, you don't overeat before your body has time to send up the "full" flag.

Turn Down the Temptation: Certain foods may always be tempting to you. Perhaps it's their flavor, or the fact you ate them growing up, or that they're part of a comforting routine. There are ways to avoid tempting foods, or at least minimize their hold on you. And it's okay to give in every once in a while by spending some of your discretionary calories to enjoy small amounts of the foods that tempt you the most.

There are ways to fight the temptation. They include:

  • Don't make certain foods forbidden -- you'll only want them more. Instead, eat them less often and in smaller amounts.
  • Eat what you're craving but in a small amount. Eating around your craving usually means eating many extra calories before finally giving into your craving -- and all those extra calories, too!
  • Decide to eat dessert just once a week.
  • Keep small containers of healthy snacks in the car so you're not tempted to stop for fast food or at convenience stores or vending machines where high-calorie foods are often the only choice.
  • Don't bring home tempting foods. Having to go out to the store is a major obstacle that will keep you from impulse eating.
  • Avoid activities that trigger food cravings, such as watching cooking shows or smelling cinnamon rolls baking.
  • Distract yourself from going into the kitchen just to browse. Make a list of alternative things to do. Your list might contain tasks that you frequently put off because you lack time. Pick one and do it, telling yourself that you can go to the kitchen later, when that task is done. Chances are you'll forget about eating, or it will be meal time when you've completed the task. And you'll have accomplished something you've wanted to get done for a long time!
  • Find things you can do instead of rifling through the cupboards. Call a friend, do a hobby, turn on the radio and dance -- whatever makes you feel good.
  • Mute television commercials and do something else while they're on so you don't see and hear the constant barrage of tempting food advertisements.
  • At gift times, ask your friends and family to give you nonfood treats instead of special or tempting foods. Suggest gifts such as flowers or movie tickets. Treat yourself with nonfood items or events as well.

Think we're done with ways to cut calories? Hardly. In the next section we'll look at fat-fighting tactics like shopping wisely and modifying recipes.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Smart Shopping and Recipe Modification

The path to effective weight loss begins long before food hits your plate. Here are some tips for buying and preparing food that will help you on your way toward a thinner, healthier you.

Be a Smart Shopper: Grocery stores aren't designed to help you stick with your diet. Marketing ploys surround you, trying to get you to buy foods that are not a part of your pound-dropping plan. Why? Processed foods have a higher profit margin than many of the unprocessed foods such as vegetables and meat.

But with planning and a few tricks in reserve, you can make it through the store unscathed -- buying mostly nutrient-dense, low-calorie food to further your weight-loss efforts. Before heading to the grocery store, you should follow these calorie-cutting tips:

  • Make a list before you go to the store, and stick to it for the most part. Avoid impulse buys of food you don't need.
  • Try to go to the grocery store only once a week. Planning your meals and snacks for the week will help you get what you need in one trip and avoid the temptation of repeated trips to the store.
  • Don't go to the grocery store hungry. You'll be less likely to buy impulsively.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store first. Fill your cart with foods low in calories and brimming with nutrients, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, nonfat dairy foods, lean meats, and whole-grain bakery goods without a lot of added fat and sugar. These are the basic foods of your food pattern.
  • Shop the interior aisles of the grocery store with care. Stick to wholesome foods such as rice, pasta, beans, and peanut butter. Avoid processed foods in packages and boxes, such as cookies, chips, crackers, packaged snacks, soft drinks, and most convenience foods. Processed foods often have added fats and sugars, which will tip your calorie-balance scale in the wrong direction.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts panel on food products, but don't obsess about reading them all at one time. Choose a few items on your list each week to compare and make the wisest choice.
  • If you do buy processed foods, read labels and choose those that have less fat, sugar, and calories.
  • Don't buy problem foods that you know will call your name from the cupboard. Leave them and their calories on the grocery store shelf.
  • Shopping with young children? Make a firm agreement with them ahead of time about consequences if they pester you or throw a tantrum. Appropriate behavior earns a treat, such as picking out a new fruit that they want to try. Treats don't have to be food at all, and certainly not junk food.
  • Enlist older children to be label lookers and help you find the smartest choice of a product. This not only makes your job easier, it teaches them lifelong skills they'll need to manage their weight.
  • Say "No, thank you" to food samples offered throughout the store.
  • If possible, choose a checkout line that doesn't have candy or snack displays.
  • Small shopping trip? Carry a basket rather than pushing a cart. It uses more muscle, burns more calories, and limits the room you have for impulse buys!

Modify Your Recipes: You'll be surprised at how many calories you can save by making simple changes in your recipes, without sacrificing flavor or texture. Fat and sugar are usually the ingredients that contribute the most calories, so this section will give you techniques for cutting back on both of them.

To decrease sugar in a recipe:

  • In baking, reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3. There's no need for any substitutions. (However, don't reduce sugar in bread made with yeast, because the sugar is "food" for the yeast, which makes the bread rise.)
  • Add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to your baking, fruit, or even to vegetable preparations to give the impression of sweetness.
  • Instead of frosting, lightly dust baked goods with a bit of powdered sugar.
  • Use frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate as a mild sweetener. Try it in tea or plain sparkling water.
  • Serve sweet foods warm -- it makes them taste sweeter even if they have less sugar in them.
  • Add fruit and decrease the sugar content. For instance, add raisins to rhubarb-apple crisp so you can get by with less sugar.
  • Replace chocolate chips with raisins or chopped dried fruit.

To decrease fat:

  • Begin by using low-fat versions of ingredients, such as mayonnaise, milk, and cheese. Use caution with nonfat products that normally have a high fat content (such as cheese and mayonnaise). When all of the fat is removed from such products, they often do not produce the flavor or texture you expect. If you try a nonfat item and don't like the results -- don't give up! Try another brand or use a low-fat version of the ingredient.
  • Replace whole milk in recipes with low-fat or nonfat milk.
  • Use evaporated skim milk to replace cream in soups and other dishes.
  • Replace sour cream with nonfat yogurt. If using yogurt in a heated dish, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch to each cup of yogurt to prevent separation.
  • Use smaller amounts of strongly flavored full-fat cheeses instead of a large amount of a mildly flavored cheese.
  • In baking, decrease the fat by one-quarter for cakes and by half for many quick breads, muffins, and soft cookies.
  • Use unsweetened applesauce in place of fat in baked goods. In homemade goods, replace about half the fat with applesauce. For boxed mixes, replace all the fat called for with applesauce because fat is already in the dried mix.
  • Reduce the number of egg yolks, since it's the yolk of the egg that contains fat. Use two egg whites in place of one egg. Baked goods made from scratch will probably still need at least one egg yolk, because eggs help provide structure, tenderness, and leavening.
  • Use vegetable oils instead of solid fats. To do so, use about one-fourth less than the recipe calls for. For cakes and pie crusts, use a recipe designed for oil, because sugar proportions are different and mixing techniques may vary.
  • Use only one part oil to two parts water and/or vinegar when making homemade salad dressings.
  • Cook with little or no added fat. Use nonstick pans, cooking spray, vegetable broth, water, or wine to sautee or brown foods.
  • Chill soups, stews, and gravies, so the fat rises to the top and hardens. Skim off the fat before reheating.
  • To thicken soups, stir in instant mashed potatoes.
  • To thicken sauces and gravies, use cornstarch or flour stirred into a small amount of cold water. Stir this mixture slowly into your sauce or gravy, and return to a boil to thicken.
  • Use instant mashed potatoes to replace all or some of the egg yolks in deviled eggs.
  • Use a low-fat cooking method such as baking, broiling, steaming, or grilling.

Now that you know the basics, take a look at your recipes. Identify the high-calorie ingredients. Gradually adjust quantities of major ingredients. Be sure to write down your modifications so you can either repeat them or continue modifying your recipe.

So how do you cut back on calories when you're not at home to prepare your meals thoughtfully? Don't fret -- there is hope. Find suggestions for snacking on the go in the next section.

Breakfast can be quick, simple, and low-calorie. Just don't skip it! Here are some slimming and nutritious breakfast ideas:

  • Whole-grain toast with light margarine, 1 cup nonfat milk, banana.
  • Apple slices with thinly spread peanut butter and a glass of nonfat milk.
  • Half a bagel with a slice of reduced-fat cheese, melted, plus a small glass of juice.
  • Container of light yogurt in your favorite flavor, with toast.
  • Cold cereal or low-fat granola with nonfat milk and sliced fruit.
  • Leftovers from last night. Heat 'em and eat 'em.
  • Smoothie made with your favorite juice, your favorite fruit, a banana for creaminess, and nonfat plain yogurt.
  • Oatmeal made with nonfat milk and raisins. Top with a little maple syrup.
  • Homemade pancakes and waffles from the freezer toast up quickly. Top with yogurt and fruit.
  • Breakfast roll ups. Spread pinto beans and cheese or scrambled eggs and salsa across a whole-wheat tortilla and roll them up.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Low-Calorie Snacking on the Go

If you've been using the USDA food pyramid to achieve your weight-loss goals, you may be wondering how you can apply the same strategies to eating out. Balancing your calorie scale away from home can be more challenging. A vacation, a business trip, and even a local outing all take you away from the familiarity and discipline of your usual routine.

But you can maintain control over your calorie intake no matter where you are or what you're doing. You just need some additional strategies to keep you on the weight-control track. In the next few pages, you will learn how to eat healthy outside of your own kitchen. Let's get started with some basic tips:

Calorie Control on the Road

Whether you're running errands or off on a trip, you're never far from food. The temptations are everywhere, from gas stations to street vendors to full-service restaurants. So be like a Boy Scout and be prepared! Here's how.

An Ounce of Prevention. You'll have much more success staying within your daily calorie requirements if you don't let yourself get overly hungry when you're away from home. Nutrition wisdom flies right out the door when you're starving. Your instincts will guide you to foods that will fill you up fast, and those tend to be foods that are higher in fat, because fat makes you feel full and satisfied.

By eating before you get to that "I'm starving" point, you'll ultimately make wiser choices and eat fewer calories. In general, choose snacks that have only 100 to 150 calories per serving. Eat just one serving, and drink plenty of sugar-free fluids along with it.

Halting the hunger monster. Keep nonperishable, low-calorie snacks with you wherever you go. You'll need something to stave off hunger, whether you're in the car, on a plane, or in a hotel room. You don't need to get fancy. Something as simple as a baggie of whole-grain crackers and a water bottle can hold you over until you can have a normal meal. And a mixture of raisins and nuts (roasted without oil) will provide protein and beneficial fats to tame your appetite.

Granola bars and power-type bars are easy to tote, but check their calorie content before you decide to eat one. Some bars, especially power-bars, can harbor an entire meal's worth of calories in a few bites. If you're using the bar as a meal replacement, then a high calorie count is fine; but if you're not, choose wisely or eat only part of the bar.

Be similarly cautious about those ubiquitous small bags of trail mix, nuts, or yogurt-covered pretzels at convenience marts or newsstands. Many of those foods are prepared with added fat, so be a label looker. Plain pretzels or dry-roasted nuts are better options.

"Single serving" bags of chips, crackers, and cookies also can carry a calorie punch, so read the label to check how many servings the bag contains -- many actually have more than one -- and to determine which will give you the fewest calories.

"Bank" your calories. When you know you're going to be eating away from home, consider saving or "banking" some calories for the event. You can bank a few or a lot of calories, depending on how you go about it. Eat a smaller or lower-calorie breakfast and/or lunch to put away some calories for a higher-calorie lunch or dinner out. You can even do this for a couple days or more in advance.

Burning more calories by stepping up your physical activity in advance -- either on the day you're dining out or for a few days ahead -- is another good way to bank calories. And if you combine a reduction in caloric intake with an increase in calorie expenditure, you'll have a sizable calorie bank account to use.

Vending Machine Values. Vending machines aren't known for stocking the healthiest or least-caloric snack choices. And you'll most likely find yourself in front of one when your resistance is lowest. Reading the Nutrition Facts panels on vending machine stock is out of the question, so how do you choose the items most likely to have less than 150 calories? Look for the words baked, light, low fat, or roasted on the front of the package, and choose the smallest size available.

The following are common vending machine items that will do the least damage to your weight-control plan:

  • Pretzels
  • Light popcorn
  • Baked potato chips, baked corn chips, baked Cheetos
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Graham crackers
  • Animal crackers
  • Cereal bar
  • Low-fat granola bar
  • Low-fat cookies
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit bars, small size
  • Roasted nuts and sunflower seeds, small size -- or eat just part of the package

If the vending machine you're facing is refrigerated, you'll have additional choices. The best are:

  • Nonfat or low-fat milk (be careful; many containers are two servings)
  • 100% fruit juice, small
  • Fresh fruit cups
  • Vegetable packs
  • Light yogurt
  • Bottled water or seltzer water

When you're on the road, preparing a home-cooked meal isn't an option. The next section will cover eating healthy at restaurants, no matter which type you choose.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Low-Calorie Dining Out

Eating at a restaurant isn't license to blow your calorie budget. Staying within your caloric means while dining out -- and enjoying your dining experience -- comes down to making a wise restaurant choice followed by wise menu choices.

Since you haven't let yourself get overly hungry, you can carefully evaluate the restaurant choices available. If possible, choose a restaurant that offers a wide variety and prepares food to order -- it will be easier to find healthy options.

Whether you end up at a fast-food joint in town, a food court in a mall, or in a neighborhood of fine restaurants, a wise restaurant choice will give you the chance to have better menu options.

Restaurant Tips

The following are some general guidelines for staying on your calorie budget:

  • Take your time surveying the selections. Look for "heart-healthy" or "light" selections. Or, if there's a senior section on the menu, opt for the smaller portions offered there.
  • Be assertive. Ask your server questions to clarify how things are prepared. You're the customer, so don't be shy about making special requests or substitutions -- just keep them reasonable. For instance, ask for fruit or tomato slices instead of hash browns at breakfast; any restaurant should have those options on hand. Or ask for a menu item to be baked or grilled instead of breaded and fried.
  • Order first so you're not influenced by others in your party.
  • Consider ordering a la carte. It may cost more, but it can sometimes give you better food options.
  • Drink a glass of water before your meal arrives.
  • Choose an appetizer as a main dish and accompany it with a salad or broth-based soup (not a cream-based soup) that's full of beans or vegetables, such as minestrone or gazpacho. Make sure the appetizer is not deep-fried.
  • If others are eating appetizers before the meal, order a small salad or a cup of broth-based soup.
  • Ask the server to remove foods that are tempting, such as a basket of chips or bread and butter.
  • Choose small or medium portions. A 16-ounce steak is enough meat to give four people a 4-ounce serving (which cooks down to the recommended 3-ounces). And that 1-pound steak can pack about 1,000 calories, whereas the 4-ounce piece will have only about 250.
  • Share an entree.
  • Ask for the vegetable of the day to replace higher-calorie items that come with your meal. Have the vegetable steamed or otherwise prepared without fat.
  • Don't join the clean plate club. It's all right to leave food on your plate. No one likes to be wasteful, but it's better to leave it on your plate than put it on your waistline.
  • Take half home. To avoid temptation, ask your server to put half your meal into a box before bringing it to the table so you won't eat more than you plan. (However, if you won't have access to refrigeration within two hours, leave the leftovers behind.)
  • Be picky about splurges. Enjoy foods you don't normally eat at home, and save the regular "treat" items such as potato chips for another time, since you can have those anywhere.

No matter what kind of restaurant you go to or what the cuisine, there will be higher- and lower-calorie choices on the menu. And there will be menu choices that better fill your daily nutritional needs as well as choices that are primarily empty calories. The trick is knowing what to look for on the menu. The next section covers the decisions you should be making when faced with certain food choices.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Restaurant Advice: Mexican, Chinese, and More

Different restaurants mean different choices. You wouldn't eat the same way in an Italian restaurant than a Mexican restaurant, would you? This section will give you some good advice when you find yourself eating away from home.

Mexican Food

Flavorful foods from south of the border can fit into your healthy lifestyle. Mexican restaurants typically have a variety of options that won't expand your waistline if you know what to choose.

Best bets:

  • Ask the server to bring steamed corn tortillas to nibble on before dinner.
  • Order soft tacos, burritos, or fajitas, all of which are made with steamed tortillas -- or go one step further and order corn tortillas instead.
  • Order corn tortillas or corn tostadas, which are lower in calories than those made from flour.
  • "Ranchero" or "cholesterol-free" beans. Add salsa for extra flavor.
  • Ask to have sour cream and guacamole to be served on the side.
  • Chicken enchilada with no cheese on top.
  • Fish and chicken Mexican style.
  • Dishes full of vegetables, such as a taco salad or tostada.

Waistline expanders:

  • Tortilla chips.
  • Fried tortillas or tostadas, whether they're flour or corn. Tostadas are usually made with a fried corn tortilla; chimichangas are made with a fried flour tortilla.
  • Flour tortillas.
  • Refried beans, which are made with lard (high in saturated fat and cholesterol).
  • Dishes where sour cream and guacamole are a major component and can't be served on the side.
  • Beef or cheese enchiladas with cheese melted on top.
  • Sauce-and-cheese-smothered enchiladas or deep-fried chili rellenos.
  • The fried flour tortilla "bowl" of the taco salad and the fried corn tortilla of the tostada.

Chinese

Chinese food is often loaded with vegetables and can be low in calories. But many popular dishes are full of fat and calories. Use your newfound menu-sleuthing skills to avoid fried and crispy items. If sodium is a concern, avoid soups, "lo mein," and soy sauce -- which has about 1,000 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.

Best bets:

  • Steamed vegetable dumplings.
  • Egg drop or won ton soups.
  • Chop suey.
  • "Sizzling" items.
  • Vegetarian delight.
  • Use chopsticks; you'll eat more slowly and may consume less.

Waistline expanders:

  • Fried egg rolls or won tons.
  • Foods served in a bird's nest.
  • Dishes containing nuts.
  • Crispy Chinese noodles.
  • Duck.

Japanese

Many Japanese dishes are low in fat because they are braised, steamed, or simmered. As with Chinese, avoid fried items.

Best bets:

  • Miso.
  • Shumai (steamed dumpling).
  • Chicken teriyaki.
  • Yakitori (grilled chicken skewer).
  • Sushi.
  • "Sizzling" items.
  • Soba, udo, and ramen noodles in broth.

Waistline expanders:

  • Pan fried or agemono (deep fried).
  • Tempura or katsu.
  • Fried bean curd.
  • Fried noodles.
  • Fried rice.
  • Sukiyaki.

Thai

Thai food can be low- or high-calorie, depending on what you choose. If the names of the foods are foreign to you, ask your server or hostess for low-calorie or low-fat recommendations.

Best bets:

  • Broth-based soups.
  • Spicy sauce, oyster sauce.
  • Foods stir-fried in broth.
  • Fresh spring rolls.
  • Pad thai.

Waistline expanders:

  • Coconut milk-based soups or curries.
  • Peanut sauce.
  • Items cooked in coconut oil.
  • Fried spring rolls.
  • Satay.
  • Tod (fried dishes).

Italian Dining

Whether it's pizza or pasta, there are a few more tips to add to your menu-sleuthing. You can eat fewer calories while eating Italian, but you need to know some pitfalls to avoid.

Best bets:

  • Salad, with dressing on the side.
  • Marinara or tomato sauce.
  • Pasta lightly tossed with olive oil -- ask your server to be sure only a small amount of oil is used in preparing your pasta.
  • Pizza without cheese. Get extra tomato sauce and plenty of veggies instead, and maybe some grilled chicken, too.
  • Pizza with thin crust or whole-wheat crust.
  • Plain Italian bread.
  • Dishes in which vegetables or beans play a starring role.
  • Pasta stuffed with vegetables, such as spinach or squash.
  • Dishes made with grilled chicken, meats, or seafood and fresh or steamed vegetables.
  • Italian ice or fresh fruit.

Waistline expanders:

  • Antipasto, which usually includes high-fat meats, olives, and cheeses along with marinated vegetables.
  • High-fat white sauces, such as Alfredo.
  • Pasta swimming in olive oil.
  • Pizza with extra cheese or only cheese.
  • Pizza with thick crust or cheese-stuffed crust.
  • Pre-buttered garlic bread.
  • Meat-based dishes, especially veal.
  • Pasta stuffed with cheeses.
  • Dishes made with breaded and fried meats or eggplant, as are often used in lasagna or "parmesan" dishes.
  • Tiramisu, cannolis, and gelato, which are made with high-fat ingredients.

Middle Eastern Fare

Middle Eastern restaurants are a good place to find a variety of grain-, vegetable-, and bean-based dishes with a healthy dose of garlic. Pita breads, which are common and a healthy choice, are used for dipping savory delights.

Best bets:

  • Hummus (spicy garbanzo bean dip).
  • Baba Ghanoush (spicy eggplant dip).
  • Tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber dip).
  • Lentil soup.
  • Plaki (baked fish with tomato).
  • Souvlaki (marinated, grilled meat with veggies in pita bread).
  • Gyro (lean, seared beef with veggies in pita bread) with sauces served on the side.
  • Dolmades (seasoned rice-stuffed grape leaves).
  • Tabouli (seasoned wheat-grain dish with cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs).
  • Couscous (steamed wheat grain).
  • Olive oil and feta cheese used lightly -- ask your server to have your food prepared with only a small amount of these.
  • Rice pudding.

Waistline expander:

  • Falafel (deep-fried garbanzo bean balls).
  • Tahini (ground sesame seeds).
  • Black olives.
  • Loukanika (sausage).
  • Ground beef and lamb.
  • Dishes with phyllo dough, such as spanakopita.
  • Bechamel (rich white sauce) used in dishes such as moussaka.
  • Heavy use of olive oil (lathera) and feta cheese. Don't order items in which these are a main ingredient. For instance, a feta cheese spread will be higher in fat than a spread made of feta, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Baklava (phyllo dough dessert).

In the next section, we will offer tips for eating at two of the biggest restaurant offenders: the all-you-can-eat buffet and fast-food joints.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Restaurant Advice: Fast Food and Buffets

When you're eating on the road, you can find yourself in many dietary dilemmas. Here are some tips for when you're forced to eat at buffets, fast food restaurants, or take-out places.

All-American Buffet

A buffet is an invitation to overeat, so it can be a very dangerous place for people trying to lose weight. Don't take a buffet as a challenge to get your money's worth by overfilling your plate. Instead, survey the buffet offerings and come up with a plan. Choose the foods most interesting to you, and leave the rest alone. Focus on vegetable-based dishes without sauce or fried accompaniments. Take small or modest amounts; don't heap your plate. And if you go back for seconds, take only the lowest-calorie foods. Choose only one item for dessert.

Best bets:

  • Broth-based soups.
  • Baked, grilled, or broiled meat, fish, or chicken.
  • Peel and eat shrimp.
  • Baked potato.
  • Tossed salad.
  • Sauteed vegetables.
  • Nonfat frozen yogurt, sherbet, or fruit ice.
  • Cream soups.
  • Quiche and salad.
  • Fried meat, fish, or chicken.
  • Buffalo chicken wings .
  • Creamy coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad.
  • Croissants.
  • Cake, pie, cheesecake, ice cream.
  • French fries or potatoes and gravy.

Fast Food

Fast food is often high in calories, fat, and sodium and lacking in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you're not careful, you can end up consuming an entire day's worth of calories -- or more -- in one fast-food meal. Since eating on the run is sometimes necessary in our fast-paced days, there are ways you can keep fast-food calories from landing on your hips.

The next time you visit your favorite fast-food haunts, ask for a nutritional analysis brochure -- all the fast-food places have them. Check the brochure to determine which choices are lowest in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Jot down a list of items you like that are modest in calories. Order from this list each time you frequent the restaurant.

Alternatively, you can plan ahead and visit the fast-food restaurant's Web site. Look for their menu planner or nutritional analysis section. Here you'll find all the same information as in their brochure.

Plan ahead and know what to order before you get there. You can always balance high-fat items with low-fat choices. Perhaps you're having a burger, which is typically high in fat. Instead of fries or chips, choose a salad. Just beware the dressing. Make sure it's a low-calorie dressing choice, or just use half the packet or none at all.

Choose a sandwich or sub shop if it's an option. It's easy to order lean meats such as turkey on your sandwich, plenty of veggies, and no cheese or mayo. You can even buy half a sandwich and team it up with baked chips and iced tea for a filling, low-calorie lunch. The next time you find your car steering itself to the drive-thru, keep these pointers in mind.

Best bets:

  • Small or junior sizes of burgers, fries, and sugary beverages.
  • Foods that are "grilled," "broiled," or "flame-broiled."
  • Chicken fajita pita.
  • Baked potato with vegetable or yogurt topping.
  • Pretzels, baked chips.
  • Nonfat frozen yogurt, fruit cups, or fruit and yogurt parfaits.
  • Water, 1% or fat-free milk, or juice.
  • "Deluxe" and "supersize"menu items. Even if those options cost less now or are a good dollar value, consider the health-care costs down the road.
  • Foods that are fried.
  • Fried chicken pieces or nuggets.
  • French fries.
  • Potato chips.
  • Apple pie, cookies.
  • Milk shake, soft drinks.

Put the Brakes on Discretionary Calories

It's often the little things you do that can amount to big calorie savings or wreak havoc with your calorie budget. Fat and sugar easily creep in when you're dining out unless you keep up your weight-control defenses.

  • Request sauces, gravies, and dressings on the side so you control how much of them you eat.
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then just dip your fork in it and pick up a forkful of salad -- you get the flavor with a minimal amount of dressing. Or drizzle a little dressing from your fork onto the salad.
  • Be selective at a salad bar. Go easy on or avoid the creamy salads, such as potato or pasta salad, as well as marinated salads, cheese, bacon bits, and croutons. Choose a low-fat dressing if you can, and put it on the side. Or just enjoy the salad without any dressing at all.
  • On sandwiches, hold the condiments such as mayonnaise and special sauces. Instead, ask for lettuce, onion, tomato, or other veggies, along with mustard or a splash of vinegar.
  • Ask the server to remove the butter from the table.
  • Get a salad instead of mashed or fried potatoes, white rice, or bread.
  • Be adventurous when it comes to toppings. For instance, instead of the traditional high-calorie butter and sour cream for your baked potato, try salsa, taco sauce, or chives and pepper. Ask for lemon wedges, and squeeze onto vegetable side dishes or salads.
  • Cut fat and calories in half by sharing an order of fries or other high-calorie side dish.
  • Eat lower-calorie options first, such as vegetables and grilled meat. Then move on to the higher-calorie items, such as mashed potatoes, which have added fat. That way, you'll eat less of the higher-calorie food.
  • For dessert, order fresh fruit, a fruit-based dessert, or fruit ice.
  • Share dessert or take half home.
  • Skip the alcoholic beverages and sodas. Instead, choose nutrient-rich beverages such as small sizes of juice or nonfat milk; plain water, coffee, or tea are low- or no-calorie options.

Take-out Food

Whether you're traveling or just pressed for time, you can satisfy your hunger and still eat healthfully by getting take-out foods from a supermarket or delicatessen. To keep your fat cells empty, choose salads smartly, focus on vegetables without creamy sauces, and choose fruit for dessert. At the bakery counter, choose a bagel or roll -- particularly one that's small and made from whole grains -- rather than a Danish, cinnamon roll, donut, or croissant.

Share with a Group

Gathering around food is a way to share cultural, religious, and family traditions. Eating together creates bonds. Offering food to someone is a sign of acceptance and love. It's no wonder that many social gatherings revolve around food. Potlucks or covered-dish affairs are common. You can attend social events that include food without wreaking havoc with your weight-loss plan. It would be a shame to miss such gatherings because of a fear of food. Use everything you've learned so far, plus a few extra tricks.

  • Take the edge off your hunger before events -- eat a light meal or healthy snack beforehand so you won't be so hungry that you'll wolf down bowls of dips and chips or trays of cookies in one fell swoop.
  • Before going to a gathering, make a plan for yourself. Deciding on your behavior beforehand makes it easier to resist your impulses.
  • Anticipate the types of food to choose, such as vegetable dishes.
  • Take small portions.
  • Skip seconds.
  • Choose only one small dessert.
  • If you're contributing food to the event, bring something you like that's low in calories, so there will be at least one thing you can fill up on.
  • Pick out a few of your favorites, like you do at a buffet, and skip the rest.
  • Eat small amounts of appetizers and sweet treats.
  • Bring your own calorie-free beverage to make sure you have a choice that's right for you.
  • If you're at an event and realize that you're eating more than you intended to, find someone to visit with, go play with kids, or take a quick walk so that you are no longer focused on food.

True Menu Claims

In 1997 the FDA finalized regulations for nutrition labeling of restaurant menu items that bear a health or nutrient claim.

If you see these terms on a menu, you know they have to be accurate:

  • Low Fat: 3 grams or less of total fat
  • Low Cholesterol: 20 mgs or less cholesterol AND 2 grams or less saturated fat
  • Low Sodium: 140 mgs sodium or less per serving
  • Light: either 1/3 fewer calories or 1/2 the fat of regular items. It can also mean that a serving of a low-calorie, low-fat food provides half the sodium normally present. Check the label for sodium content. Be wary of terms such as "Lighter Fare," which can merely mean dishes with smaller portions, as long as that clarification is made on the menu.
  • Healthy: Low in fat and saturated fat, has limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium, and provides significant amounts of one or more of the key nutrients vitamins A, C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber.
  • Heart Healthy: Either the item is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and fat plus it provides (without being added) significant amounts of one or more of the key nutrients listed in the "Healthy" claim OR it has all the previous benefits and also is a significant source of soluble fiber. Again, check the label for fiber content.

Changing your food habits is only part of your plan to lose weight. Exercising is the other part, and it's essential if you want to burn calories. In the next section, we'll look at ways to increase your physical activity, starting with making time in your day for exercise.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Finding Time to Exercise

Being physically active is fun and feels good. Remove the evil word exercise from your vocabulary, substitute the words physical activity, and see how your attitude immediately becomes more positive. Most people don't like to exercise, but who doesn't like to move their body? Just imagine for a minute, if you couldn't move, how much you would suddenly want to. Since you are graced with the ability to move, take advantage of it. Explore different activities and find those that feel good to you.

On the Move

Since you're looking to be active 30 to 90 minutes each day, you'll want to have a variety of activities in your repertoire. You can do many activities by yourself, but others are better suited to a group or a partner.

In fact, it's a good idea to find an "activity buddy" who wants to make lifestyle changes, too. There may be a day when you're not in the mood to be active but your buddy will encourage you to get moving. One of the special things about physical activity is that it boosts your mood as well as your metabolism. Your mood will perk up after the activity, and you'll be glad your buddy encouraged you. Undoubtedly there will be a chance for you to return the favor. Have an alternative plan if your buddy can't make it. Don't let that impact your routine -- go ahead and keep your appointment with yourself.

Lack of time is the most common reason people are not physically active. But taking care of your body through activity is just as important as nourishing it or keeping your doctor's appointment. What can you do to make time for activity?

  • Get up half an hour earlier. That might mean turning off the TV a half hour earlier the night before so that you still get the rest you need. You can record the end of your TV show, and watch it the next day.
  • Delegate a few duties to other family members to give you the time you need to take care of yourself and be more active.
  • Use your lunch hour. Take a walk or go to a nearby gym if you can.

A Little More Here, A Little More There...

There are many opportunities to be more active in your daily routine. You'll be surprised at how easily you can fit in a little bit of activity here, a little more movement there. At first it's 10 minutes, then 20, then suddenly you've worked 30 extra minutes of movement into your day without doing any structured type of activity. Make a game of it -- it can be fun! Encourage family members to join in, and you'll all become healthier together.

  • Put away the remote controls. Getting up every time you want to adjust electronic equipment burns more calories than pressing a button.
  • Talking on the phone? Put on a headset so that you can walk or do household chores instead of sitting.
  • Waiting for the microwave? Walk or dance around the kitchen, or use cans from the cupboards as weights and pump up your arms until the microwave's done.
  • Be active when you're watching TV. Lift weights, walk on a treadmill or other home aerobic equipment, jump rope (not every day, as this is hard on the joints), stretch -- there are lots of things you can do while in front of the tube.
  • Give up just a percentage of your TV viewing per week and be active instead -- take a walk or do an aerobics video. This is especially painless to do if you tape your favorite shows, then watch them later and fast-forward through the commercials. You'll minimize your sitting time without missing your programs!
  • When you're riding in the car, move your lower body frequently. Tap your toes, do heel-toe presses into the floor, squeeze the muscles in your buttocks together, then squeeze one side at a time, alternating sides. If you're the driver instead of a passenger, do these moves while waiting at a stoplight -- just keep your foot on the brake! Once you're at work, do the same moves occasionally while sitting at your desk.
  • If feasible, walk to work or ride your bike.
  • When at work, take a walk instead of sitting in the breakroom, and take a walk during part of your lunch period. Recruit a coworker or two to go with you. Soon the social aspect of talking while walking will keep you wanting to walk.
  • At a sporting event? Find a place where you can pace along the sidelines rather than watch from the sitting area.
  • If you're out shopping, take a couple of quick laps around the mall first. Not only does this burn calories, it has the added bonus of letting you check out the displays and plan your shopping venture.
  • Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators whenever possible. Take the stairs several times throughout the day or walk them intentionally on your break.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in the car. Pull them out whenever you have some extra time.
  • Park farther away from your destination, as long as it's safe to do so, to build in a little extra activity time. Or get off the bus or subway several stops before the one closest to where you're going. Allow extra time to walk the final distance.
  • After work, school, or dinner, take a walk with the family or neighbors before settling in for the evening.
  • Take the long way around when you're walking. Whether it's around the city or merely to the water cooler at the office, find the longest way possible to get there. Include hills or stairs if you can.
  • Waiting at the bus stop? Walk around instead of standing or sitting.
  • Get up and walk to a coworker's desk instead of calling or e-mailing.
  • Sitting at a table, desk, or computer? Do the same activities described for sitting in a car -- toe tapping, toe-heel presses, and buttocks squeezes. Be sure to stretch, too; repeat several times.

Make sure you have rewards for yourself that have nothing to do with eating. Whether you're rewarding yourself for a job well done at work or for pounds lost, do it without involving food. Consider some of these nonfood rewards:

  • Attending a movie, sporting event, play, or concert.
  • Spending time with friends or family--or alone, whichever feels special.
  • Taking a nap.
  • Listening to music.
  • Reading a good book.
  • Doing hobbies or crafts.
  • Taking a relaxing bath with candles and soft music.
  • Making a chart of your goals and put stars or stickers on it when you achieve them.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Taking a vacation.

In addition to being more active during your day, you'll want to make a consistent plan for daily exercise. Learn some strategies for working out regularly in your own home in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Exercise Strategies

Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue, you want more of it. Increased muscle mass will use up more calories, making it easier for you to lose weight and keep it off. Toned muscles make you look more trim even before you lose all the pounds. Upper arms look firmer and less flabby. Toned muscles in your lower abdomen help trim the tummy, making it appear flatter as the fat disappears.

No one has to go to a gym to get toned muscles. You can improvise weights and other gym equipment right in your own home.

  • Use large-size cans of food as small hand weights. As you can handle more weight, use milk jugs.
  • Use bags of frozen vegetables as weights draped across your ankles as you do leg lifts. Be sure to clearly mark these particular vegetable bags as your weights so that you don't inadvertently eat them. After partially thawing many times, they won't be good to eat.
  • Keep hand weights next to the couch, and make TV time strength-training time, too.
  • Buy a good-quality jump rope, and use it often for a heart-pounding workout.
  • Keep sports and play equipment by the door, ready to put to use.

">Make a Date

Being more active is one-half of your weight-loss plan. That makes it important enough to put on your calendar. An appointment with

yourself is just as important as an appointment you would keep with someone else. Don't cancel on yourself. Try not to reschedule. If weight loss is

a priority for you, then activity dates become a priority, too.

Consistency is vital to getting results from your activity. Being active two days this week and one day next week is good, but it won't peel away the pounds. To see results, you must consistently be active. Gradually work up to being active for 30, 60, or 90 minutes a day -- whatever your goal is -- on most days of the week. Scheduling activity time is a good way to be consistent. Write your activity times on your calendar, and protect them from other obligations.

  • Allow yourself flexibility with your routine. You don't have to be active at the same time every day, unless that works best for you. You might aim for being active before work on several days of the week and after work on the remaining days.
  • Line up options. What happens if the weather is bad or the kids are home sick? Set up an alternate plan, such as doing an aerobics or martial arts video, or dancing to music. You can also go to your local mall and walk several laps. Many malls open early to accommodate mall walkers, and weekday evenings are usually another good, uncrowded time to walk. Think ahead now, so that when something unexpected happens, you'll be ready and able to stay on track.
  • Vary your activities so that you stay interested. A variety of activities will also use and tone different muscles.
  • Set aside one hour each non-workday to take care of things around the yard or house. You burn calories and the chores get done -- what a deal!
  • Check out your local parks and recreation department. They typically offer community classes in everything from dancing and yoga to aerobics, swimming, and team sports. Community colleges, too, often offer noncredit courses that will introduce you to new activities.
  • Walk your kids to school instead of driving them. Do the same to pick them up. If time is a concern, choose one of the two.
  • Join a walking club such as the American Volkssport Association -- this noncompetitive club conducts walks you do at your own pace in all 50 states. Find a Volkssport group in your area at www.ava.org.
  • Host a "potluck" of activity equipment. Rather than food, have everyone bring a game that requires physical activity. There will be a smorgasbord of games -- maybe lawn darts, badminton, croquette, hula hoops, balls, and pogo sticks.

TV Time

Watching TV doesn't have to be a sedentary activity. In fact, you can get double the reward by watching your favorite programs and working out, too.

  • Put your stationary bike or treadmill near the TV. Be active on it during a half-hour TV show; work up to an hour-long show.
  • Do sit-ups, push-ups, and jumping jacks or jog in place during commercials instead of heading to the kitchen.
  • Let different family members lead activities during commercials. Rotate at every commercial break so that everyone gets a turn

Keep Calorie Balance in Mind

So you did it, you overate some of those discretionary calories in the form of a giant piece of cheesecake at the party. You knew it was loaded with calories, but you just couldn't resist. Don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, beat a path to some extra activity.

If you eat more than you intend to now and then, you can always bring your calorie scale back into balance by adding some extra physical activity. By either increasing the duration or intensity of your activities, you can burn more calories.

  • Be proactive. If a holiday or special event is approaching and you know you may eat more than usual, add 10 minutes of extra physical activity to your daily routine for a week or more in advance. Or, increase the intensity of your normal physical activity routine. Either way, you'll be balancing your calorie scale in advance.

Making exercise part of your daily life is an essential part of your weight-loss plan. However, a business trip or vacation can really mess up a routine. In the next section, learn how to keep up your exercise plan even when you're on the road. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Exercising While Away

Traveling is great once you get to your destination -- but getting there can mean an extensive amount of sitting, no matter what your mode of transportation. Once you put your mind to moving more, you can fit in bits of activity in all sorts of places -- both on the way and once you arrive.

If you decide that taking a vacation or a business trip is a good excuse to take a break from your physical activity plan, think again. You lose aerobic capacity and muscle strength much more easily than you gain it. Your aerobic capacity declines after just a few days of not exercising, and it's possible to lose up to 25 percent of your aerobic capacity within three weeks.

Planning ahead is key to staying active while you're away from home. A change in routine or surroundings can be a challenge -- or an opportunity. Sometimes being in a different location gives you a chance to do different things. If you live in northern climates and are cold and snowed-in during winter months, a trip to a warmer climate will give you the opportunity to actively enjoy the outdoors.

The following are some things to think about and plan around before your next venture away from home:

  • What will the weather be like where you are?
  • What days and times will you be able to be active?
  • Who will you be with and are they fidgeters or sloths?
  • What type of places are nearby where you can be active?
  • What clothing or special gear do you need to bring along for your anticipated activities?
  • How can you make staying active fun?

Once you've thought these things over, write an effective goal or two. You might consider setting goals such as:

  • While I'm at the conference, I will walk for 30 minutes in the morning on three of the four days.
  • During vacation, I will use the stretch bands every other morning and take the hotel stairs at least twice a day.

Having a plan before you leave puts you in the driver's seat. Now you just need some strategies to take along.Getting ThereTraveling to your destination is primarily a sedentary activity. But you can build physical activity into your travels to help expend calories and to keep your blood flowing.

  • When you're driving, stop at rest stops, scenic places, or parks, and get a move on. Walk briskly for 10 minutes every two or three hours, even if it's quick laps around a parking lot.
  • Turn waiting time into activity time. Whenever you're waiting for transportation, take a walk! Check your luggage or put it in a locker, and walk around the station or airport. Doing laps through several airport concourses can really add activity to your day. Or pace back and forth at the bus or train stop. Instead of dreading wait time, look forward to it as a chance to fit in activity.
  • On the airplane or train, get up and walk the length of the plane or train every 30 minutes or so. Do some stretches while in your seat. This at least gets your blood moving.
  • Keep walking instead of getting on the moving walkways at airports.

At the HotelHotels and motels, even the budget kind, offer plenty of opportunities to be active. So take advantage of them!

  • If there's a fitness room, make time to use it. Set your alarm and get up early or finish off a day of meetings by working out. If there isn't a fitness room, ask if your hotel has an agreement with a nearby gym that you can use for free or a small fee.
  • Swim laps or walk in the shallow end of the pool. Or ask front desk staff if there are safe routes to walk in the area, or even walking trails. Some hotels have maps of nearby neighborhood trails.
  • Once your luggage is installed in your room, take the stairs often instead of the elevator. If you're in a tall building, walk up the first several flights of stairs, then exit the staircase and take the elevator the rest of the way.
  • Toss resistance bands into your suitcase, and do your regular routine with them morning and night. Full water bottles can stand in for small weights.
  • Put a jump rope into your suitcase, too. Jumping rope burns calories fast; just be sure to warm up first. And try to jump rope outside or on the ground floor to avoid disturbing others.
  • Do your regular stretching and strength-training exercises -- at least a little bit. Walk in place for a few minutes to warm up your muscles. Do at least one set of each exercise and enough reps to feel the muscles burn. To get the most out of your routine, do each activity slowly. Slow movements make your muscles work harder.

During Your Days Away

  • Make activity the focal point of your vacation. Perhaps a walking tour or a kayak paddling trip would interest you.
  • If your vacation takes you to sunny places, walk the beach instead of sunbathing -- at least some of the time.
  • On vacation, plan at least one physical activity per day. Take a hike or a walking tour around a historic district, or go shopping on foot. If you don't plan an activity, get up in time to have a good walk before starting the day's adventures.
  • Include vacation-type activities that automatically include activity, such as snow or water skiing, snorkeling, golfing, bike riding, playing tennis, or beach volleyball. It doesn't matter if you're not a pro at these things, just try them out and have fun. Get moving and take advantage of all your resort or hotel has to offer.

Most people understand the fundamentals of losing weight -- burning more calories than you eat -- but who couldn't use a little help now and then? These USDA weight-loss tips don't exactly help you cut corners. They simply help you stick to the healthy plan that's right for you. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.