USDA Weight-Loss Tips

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.

This article offers 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 this article is 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.