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Trim calories without going hungry

September 17, 2008|By LYNN LITTLE

When people think of cutting calories, some envision themselves struggling through mid-afternoon hunger pains and fighting cravings.

Recommended daily caloric levels differ from person to person depending on age, gender and activity level. Many adults today eat more calories than they need, especially if they're not physically active most days of the week. It's simple math: People will put on extra pounds if they're consuming more added fat, sugars and alcohol than their lifestyle requires.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site, MyPyramid.gov, customizes daily food guides at a variety of calorie levels, listing the amount of servings from each food group that an individual should try to consume each day. You will also find a sample seven-day menu plan designed for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Eating foods that contain dietary fiber will provide a sense of fullness or satisfaction and reduce cravings. Foods such as whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber.

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As part of an overall healthy diet, fiber can also help reduce blood cholesterol levels and might lower your risk of heart disease. Instead of choosing low-nutrition, high-calorie snacks - such as pop, chips or candy - try eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are low in calories, generally higher in dietary fiber and make good "on-the-go" snacks.

It is also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. You might think you're hungry when your body is really just thirsty.

The following healthy choices for planning meals can help control the calories.

Breakfast:

  • When eating cereals, choose skim or 1-percent milk instead of whole milk.

  • Use a smaller sized glass when drinking juices and try juices labeled "no sugar added" or "100 percent fruit juice."

  • Eat half a bagel for breakfast and save the other half for a snack.

  • Make scrambled eggs using only the egg white or an egg substitute.

    Lunch and dinner:

  • For sandwiches, choose a light, whole-wheat bread and fat-free or light mayonnaise.

  • Eat a salad with low-fat cheese and more fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Use only half of the amount of butter or margarine called for in a recipe.

  • Try adding zucchini or mushrooms to spaghetti sauces instead of ground beef.

  • Eat meals on a smaller plate.

  • Substitute grilled chicken for breaded or fried chicken.

  • Eat a cup of fresh fruit for dessert.

  • Instead of eating several scoops of ice cream, try having just one scoop.

    Slow down and take some time to enjoy your meal. It takes a little while for your body to realize that it is full or satisfied and to reduce your urge to eat more. Remember, you don't have to eat all of the food on your plate. When you feel full or are no longer hungry, stop eating.

    Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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