The power of 100 calories

March 13, 2012

What do 10 pounds of fat look like? For a rough estimate, imagine 40 sticks of butter or margarine or 10 1-pound cans of vegetable shortening.

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 an excess of about 3,500 calories to gain a pound. Break that into smaller bites and 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 100 calories less each day for a year.

There are some simple changes you can make to decrease your daily intake by about 100 calories.

As you are attempting to eat less, it is also beneficial to increase your activity level.

Some single dietary changes equal to approximately 100 calories include: 

 Modify your milk. Instead of drinking two cups of whole milk, switch to 2 cups of 1-percent lowfat milk or skim milk. The nutrients are comparable.

 Modify your mayo. Switch from 2 tablespoons of regular mayonnaise to 2 tablespoons of low-fat mayonnaise.

 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. (Or, drink a cold glass of water, perhaps with a slice of lemon.)

 Dress, don't "drown" your salad. If you've been using 3 (or more) tablespoons of dressing on your salad, try cutting back to 1 1/2 tablespoons or less. Your salad will taste best if "dressed," not "drowned."

 Size up your cereal bowl. Check the portion you're pouring in relation to the size cited on the Nutrition Facts label. Try eating from a smaller bowl to aid in portion control.

 Count your cookies. A single medium-sized cookie easily can have about 100 calories. If you feel you're not getting enough "crunch" by limiting yourself to one cookie, try eating an apple instead, the calories are similar and the nutrition better.

 Top your potato with fewer calories. It's easy to slather several tablespoons of butter or margarine (200 calories/2 tablespoons) on a baked potato. Try switching to sour cream; you can have as much as one-fourth cup for 100 calories. Another idea is to substitute plain yogurt for sour cream.

 Lessen your liquor. A typical 5-ounce glass of wine has 100 calories; and 1 1/2 ounces of distilled spirits equals a 100 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. To obtain information on the approximate calories and nutrients in foods, visit and click on Food-A-Pedia or check the Nutrition Facts labels on foods you like.

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

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