(3) Determining the calories in Food I eat. This is something that has gotten easier the more I've done it. I eat quite a few of the same things over and over - so I can ballpark calories fairly easily at this point. There are several online resources to help determine calories: My Fitness Pal is the one I use - it has a large database and is really useful for both looking up calories and for tracking them (I'll talk about that in #5). There are several others at well: Calorie Count, Fat Secret, WebMD Food-O-Meter... It is also helpful to know some basic rules of thumb when you are eating out. For example (and this is probably obvious) Fruits and especially vegetables are very low calorie and it is pretty much safe to eat as much as you want when you are out. Salad dressings (INCLUDING vinaigrette, because it contains oil) are often fairly high in calories - generally around 75 calories per Tbsp - and a Tablespoon is not a lot of dressing, the small condiment cups you often see usually hold at least 3 or 4 tablespoons - this is why you should get your dressing on the side - then you can control how much you use. ONE ounce of cheese is 100 calories (one ounce is the size of the tip of your finger). Here are some more rules of thumb:
- 5 Calories: 1oz. Lemon, Tomato
- Most Fruits and Veggies are between 10 and 40 calories. Generally, the more water a fruit or vegetable contains, the lower the calorie content (ex: Melons and Lettuce are 10 calories / oz. - on the other end of the spectrum, Broccoli is 40 calories / oz, Corn and Potatoes are much higher in calories than most vegetables at 135 calories / oz.)
- 25 Calories: 1 oz. White Fish (tilapia, for example)
- 45 Calories: 1 oz. Avocado
- 50 Calories: 1 oz. Dark fish (ex. Salmon), chicken (dark meat is a little more), 1 Tbsp of Sugar, Jelly, Cream Cheese, Cream Sauce, Gravy
- 65 Calories: 1 oz. Onions
- 70 Calories: 1 oz. Whole Wheat Bread
- 75 Calories: 1 oz. Lean red meat, 1 Tbsp. Salad Dressing
- 85 Calories: 1 oz. Dried Fruit
- 100 Calories: 1 oz. Red meat, cheese, Winter squash, Muffins, 1 Tbsp. Butter, Margarine, Mayonnaise, Peanut butter, Heavy Cream
- 125 Calories: 1 oz. Fatty meat (sausage, prime rib...), Cakes, Pastries, 1 Tbsp. Oil
- 150 Calories: 1 oz. Potato Chips, Chocolate, Pie Crust, cookies, crackers
- 175 Calories: 1 oz. Nuts
- Alcohol: The higher the alcohol content, the more calories. (Ex: Blue Moon Wheat Ale is about 15 calories/oz, whereas Vodka and Whiskey are about 65 Calories / oz. and Liqueurs are about 100 calories / oz.)
(5) Write Down (Track) Everything: I have said it before - but I will reiterate here: It is very important to track what you do. Write everything down or track everything on a computer app. This way you can see your patterns and it will help you to see where you may need to adjust something. Also, it keeps you accountable for what you are eating and how much you are exercising.
Again, not everyone is the same. I have found these guidelines to be very useful, but you will need to find the healthy balance that works for you, and you will probably have to adjust as you lose weight. I have had to adjust quite a few times.
One side note: The National Institutes of Health recently released some research about weight loss - I'll talk about that in a later blog entry - but if you would like to read about it, you can find it here.