Easy weight-loss formula: 10 calories per day

April 15, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE

Balancing the calories you eat against those you burn translates into watching portion sizes and including physical activity for weight control.

Watching portion size is a small change, but it's a lifestyle choice that can make a big difference. We are challenged daily to remind ourselves that we don't need to eat the whole thing. Huge portions served by restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffets and extra-large, so-called single servings of chips, candy bars and other snack foods all contribute to overeating.

There is some evidence that, once accustomed to these large portion sizes, we also overeat at home without even being aware we're doing it. Just an extra 10 calories per day translates to one pound gained in one year. Make a conscious effort to downsize your portions, and at the rate of 10 calories per day, you'll see a big difference in your body weight over time.

You can avoid portion distortion by practicing these simple tips:


Learn what normal portions look like so that you'll know when to count something like a jumbo bagel or muffin as two or three servings instead of one. For examples, go to the Web site of Lean Cuisine, at, click on Nutrition, then click on "Keeping an eye on portion sizes."

Become aware of how much you're eating. Separate eating from distractions. Turn off the TV at home during meal time. Choose not to eat while driving or talking on the phone.

Today's plates are larger, and that encourages us to eat more. Find a smaller plate. When you fill up a smaller plate, you'll feel like you're getting more.

Do your heart and your wallet a favor. Bypass the super-sized, "value" meals. Order a regular-size portion instead of the mega-meal.

Remember that caloric beverages in giant sizes can show up on the waistline. For just a few cents more, you will consume more calories than you might think. There are 410 calories in McDonald's Super Size 42-ounce Coke, according to Pass up the deal and purchase a smaller-size drink. Better yet, drink calorie-free water more often.

Learn how to read food labels, specifically how many servings a package contains. What is inside the package isn't necessarily a single serving, though it might be the amount you eat in a single serving. The number of calories listed on the package might be for two or more servings. Do the math, or, better yet, eat only one serving.

Make it easy by measuring out a single serving, then put the package away. It's too tempting to just keep munching when you eat out of the package.

If you don't want to give up the higher-fat condiment choices, like sour cream, mayonnaise, salad dressing or cream cheese, eat half the amount. That change alone will prevent consuming a lot of calories.

If you're feeling deprived but don't trust yourself to eat less of a favorite high-fat, high-calorie food like ice cream, split one order with a friend.

Reaching a healthier weight is a balancing act. The secret is learning how to balance your "energy in" and "energy out" over the long run.

Go to for advice on how to balance that energy. Develop a personal MyPyramid plan that will help you manage your daily intake by recommending the amount of food you need from each food group. To stay within your energy needs, the total amount you eat during the day should match the total amount recommended for each food group.

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

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