What does 10 pounds of fat look like? For a rough estimate, imagine 40 sticks of butter or 10 1-pound cans of vegetable shortening. This looks like a lot — yet how many of us add this much weight in a year without realizing it, until our pants fit a little tighter or our belt runs out of notches?
It takes about 3,500 calories to gain one pound. Consuming 100 extra calories a day can put on about 10 pounds a year. The good news is losing 10 pounds can be as easy as eating less than 100 calories each day for a year.
There are some simple changes you can make to decrease your daily intake by about 100 calories. The amounts of calories saved are approximate so be sure to check the Nutrition Facts labels on specific foods for exact serving amounts and calories.
Modify your milk. Instead of drinking 2 cups of whole milk, switch to 2 cups of 1-percent lowfat milk or skim milk. The nutrients are comparable.
Rethink your drink. Substitute a 12-ounce can of a diet soft drink at 0 calories for a similar amount of a regular soft drink at 150 calories. Better yet, drink a cold glass of water, perhaps with a slice of lemon.
Modify your mayo. Switch from 2 tablespoons of regular mayonnaise to 2 tablespoons of low-fat mayonnaise.
Dress, don't drown your salad. If you've been using 3 (or more) tablespoons of dressing per 2 cups of salad, try cutting back to 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing or less. Your salad will taste best if "dressed," not "drowned."
Watch your bread and spread. Limit to one serving the amount of bread or rolls and spread you eat before the main course when dining out.
Count your cookies. A single medium-sized cookie easily can have about 100 calories. Often we eat two or more before we realize it. Try eating an apple instead, the calories are similar and the nutrition is better.
Top your potato with fewer calories. It's easy to slather several tablespoons of butter or margarine on a baked potato. Try switching to sour cream and you can have as much as 1/4 cup for 100 calories. For even fewer calories, use a light or fat-free sour cream.
Practice portion control with popcorn. Popping microwave popcorn can be a daily occurrence in many workplaces and homes. It's easy to eat half a bag or more at a sitting. While even 2 cups of the more buttery popcorns may weigh in at 100 calories or less, the entire package might yield 10 or more cups, or possibly more than 500 calories.
Think about the foods you eat on a regular basis. Are there small changes you could implement? Perhaps you have ideas for other changes that might work for you. For help visit www.choosemyplate.gov and click on Super Tracker. The Super Tracker can help you plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.