Saturday, June 2, 2012

Watching calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
After you decide a low-calorie diet is for you, you probably need to cut calories where you most indulge. For example, do you eat a big bowl (or container) of ice cream every night? Are you snacking too often on crackers and chips between meals? Does your sirloin steak take up your entire plate? Your excess calories probably aren’t coming from big bowls of salad, unless you’re filling your salad bowl with cold cuts and topping it off with gobs of dressing. And you’re probably not gaining weight from vegetable side dishes, unless the only vegetables you choose are the starchier, more caloric ones like French fried potatoes and buttered corn.

Look at your diet to examine your food preferences and figure out if you overindulge when it comes to a particular food group. Keeping a food diary (see Chapter 4), and reviewing it with this purpose in mind, may yield some surprises about just how much of a particular type of food you actually eat.

The number of calories a food supplies depends on the amount of carbohydrate, fat, or protein in that food. That amount is shown in grams, which is a measure of weight.

  • A gram of carbohydrate supplies four calories.
  • A gram of protein supplies four calories.
  • A gram of fat supplies nine calories.

Keep in mind that a gram of alcohol supplies seven calories, which makes it closer in calories to fat than to protein or carbohydrates. Cutting back on calories from alcohol can help you lose weight.

When you compare carbohydrates or protein to fat, you can see that, gram for gram, fat supplies more than twice as many calories. That’s why cutting back on fat works for some people as a diet tool. But cutting fat is strictly a tool for people who are eating too much fat to begin with; it can’t work alone as a strategy for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.

The following sections explain how to save calories and where to cut calories from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Choosing the best carbs

Contrary to some popular diet myths, cutting carbohydrates from your diet will only help you lose weight in the long run if you’re eating too many carbohydrates to begin with! If you know you overdo it when it comes to cakes, cookies, pies, and even breads and pastas, then you probably already know you have to change your diet to trim some of those carbs for a better balance.

Cup for cup, starchier vegetables — potatoes, winter squash, corn, and green peas — are much higher in calories than other vegetables, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them. You just need to watch your portion sizes when you choose these foods as side dishes.

On a low-calorie diet, the best carbohydrates are fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and high-fiber grain foods. For instance, if you like to eat pasta, choose whole-wheat varieties. You can mix whole-wheat pastas with regular pasta if you don’t want to go completely whole-grain. You can also mix brown rice with white rice or mix rice with grains such as barley and cracked wheat to boost the fiber.

Increasing protein

If you eat a lot of one type of food on a calorie-controlled diet, you have to eat less of another food to stay within your calorie limit. Because fat is already limited in most sensible diets, the choice becomes whether to increase protein and decrease carbohydrates, or to eat more high-fiber carbs and fewer foods that are high in protein. A balanced diet gets 15 to 20 percent of its calories from protein. On a 1,500-calorie diet, that translates to at least 56 grams.

The best sources of protein on a low-calorie diet are seafood, poultry, lean meats, reduced-fat dairy products, and vegetarian sources such as soy foods and grain products. Chapter 5 contains plenty of information for making healthful protein choices at the supermarket.

If you tweak your low-cal diet to include more protein, know that it’s a short term solution for weight control. Like other trendy diets, a high-protein plan (a diet that gets more than 20 percent of its calories from protein) doesn’t help you control your weight in the long run and can have a negative impact on your long-term health (see “Comparing low-calorie diets to other diets,” earlier in this chapter, for more info on how it impacts your health).

Trimming fat

Fat supplies more than twice as many calories as either protein or carbohydrates, so if your diet is high in fat, you can start cutting there. You can make the cuts in more than one way. To cut down on the amount of fat in your diet, you can

  • Choose naturally reduced-fat and fat-free foods. In addition to naturally lowfat foods like fruits, vegetables, and leaner cuts of meat, you can take advantage of lowfat dairy products and other foods that may be lower in calories because they’ve been modified to reduce the amount of fat they contain. (Just be careful to compare labels to make sure lower-fat foods are also lower in calories.)
  • Eat a wider variety of foods so that fat takes up less space in your diet. Fill up on naturally lowfat foods, such as salads, broths, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, so that you’re not tempted to satisfy your hunger with higher fat foods.
  • Control your portion sizes. Doing so ensures that you’re not getting too much fat from any one food. For instance, eat 1⁄4 of a bag of French fries, not the whole thing!

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