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10 ways to cut hidden calories from your day

By Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA
It's best  to avoid sweet drinks altogether. If you must indulge, choose the sugar-free variety or stick with unsweetened tea and coffee.

Compared to other countries, America is obsessed with food. Our value-based culture supersizes convenience foods, multitasks through meals and keeps snacks on hand to devour when hunger — or boredom — strikes. In fact, food plays a starring role in nearly everything we do, even at the office.

Of course, the trouble with this approach to food is we tend to mindlessly eat everything we see. So whether you grab a couple of chocolate kisses from your colleague’s desk, sample spaghetti sauce while you’re cooking or nibble on your kids’ leftovers, you’re setting yourself up to gain weight.

Slashing excess calories

Despite the ubiquity of food, cutting calories is easier than you think. Even if you only slash 100 calories a day, you can lose up to 10 pounds over the course of a year. The key to dietary success? Skimming the most calories with minimal deprivation. Here’s how:

  1. Watch your portions.Portion sizes have ballooned over the past few decades, so even dieters who are trying to select healthy meals may be overindulging. Since we’re all accustomed to oversized portions, the best way to trim calories is to learn what a reasonable portion looks like. Just reducing the size of your bowl or plate can save 150 calories or more.
  2. Ask for a doggie bag or order a small plate. When you’re dining out, order an appetizer or small plate, or split a meal with your dining companion. Better yet, stash half of your entrée in a doggie bag before you begin eating and eat the other half the next day.
  3. Go dipping. Pre-mixed salads and main dishes bathed in sauces can pack an extra 300 to 500 calories. So ask for dressings, sauces and gravies on the side and instead of pouring them on your food, use your fork for dipping.
  4. Blot grease. Excess oil means excess calories. When cooking, choose oil sprays rather than pourable oils. But if you must pour, consider using a paper towel to sop up the excess. And whether you’re eating pizza, popcorn or brats, blot extra oil with a paper towel.
  5. Don’t munch while you work. Between break room nibbles, sweets on coworkers’ desks and afternoon meetings with catered snacks, it’s not surprising that people eat an extra 1,300 calories each week at work, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. Eat high-fiber snacks. It seems counterintuitive to eat snacks when you’re trying to slim down, but filling up on high-fiber fruits and vegetables helps you reduce your daily calorie intake. After all, if you eat the recommended five (or more) cups of fruits and vegetables daily, you’ll have less space for higher-calorie culprits.
  7. Skip the bread. Most freebies that arrive at your table — rolls, breadsticks, chips etc. — are typically high in calories and low in nutrients. You can even swap the bread on sandwiches with a lettuce wrap to cut more calories.
  8. Be mindful of beverages. Just one bottle of sugar-sweetened iced tea can boast as many calories as a small meal. Sodas are even worse and often contain artificial colors and flavors as well. Your best bet is to avoid sweet drinks altogether. If you must indulge, choose the sugar-free variety or stick with unsweetened tea and coffee. Fruit-infused water is another great choice.
  9. Ditch dry snacks. Even seemingly healthy foods like popcorn, pretzels and crackers can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Unfortunately, these dry, crunchy snacks don’t impact our fullness sensors in the same way as foods that contain protein, fiber and fat.
  10. Go skinny on coffee. Whether you choose flavorings, sugar or whipped cream, coffee extras add up. Just two tablespoons of whipped cream contain 130 calories.
Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA

Patricia Jurek is a registered dietitian and manages Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Center for Weight Management.

To identify more ways to shave calories in your own daily life, work with a registered dietitian nutritionist at Henry Ford. Visit henryford.com/weightloss, or call 1-800-756-9890 to speak with a registered dietitian.

You can get more nutrition, fitness and healthy living advice by subscribing to the Henry Ford LiveWell health and wellness blog.



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