Dieting by the Numbers:
5 Tips for Making Calorie Counting a Breeze
By Elizabeth Kelly
The verdict is in: calories do count when it comes to dieting. Burn off more of them than you take in, and the result is weight loss. The more calories you can cut from your diet or burn off on the treadmill, the better (and faster) your results.
For some, this is old news. Those who may have already tried to lose weight by counting calories know that one of the biggest problems is simply the difficulty of keeping track of them. Try these five tips for making the counting simpler, and you won't feel like you need a degree in calculus just to figure out your tally for the day.
There's no need to measure some foods over and over again if you simply use the same dishes. If you like having cereal in the morning, for example, measure out one serving in a measuring cup, then eat it from a bowl with a visible marking, such as a design or stripe. Next time you have cereal, fill it to the same level, and you'll know the calorie count without measuring. If you have an inexpensive bowl, you might even mark it with a permanent marker.
Nothing is more annoying than having to stop and scribble in a journal every single time you have a meal or a snack. Eliminate the annoyance factor by planning out your meals ahead of time. Decide what you will eat for the day (or week), crunch the numbers, and then stick to the plan. You'll only need to add to the tally if you eat something off the list. Having a plan on paper also makes a diet easier to stick to, so the list does double duty.
Make it easier to add the numbers by rounding off to the nearest ten. Why add 197 + 41 + 19 when you can breezily add 200, 40, and 20? Rounding off means you can keep track of the numbers in your head more easily, and because you'll be rounding up just as often as you round down, there shouldn't be any cost to your weight loss.
The more you eat the same kinds of foods, the easier it will become to know your calorie count offhand. It may seem hard now, when you have to look up the value of so many ingredients, but eventually you'll know how many calories are in some of the dishes you make the most. Be brand loyal: buying the same kind of bread, low fat cheese, etc. means you won't have to keep checking the label for the right numbers.
The easiest way to count all of your beverages is to avoid drinking your calories in the first place. Stick to zero-calorie drinks, and you won't have to write down anything at all. Unsweetened tea, coffee, most diet sodas, and water are all free of calories. Stick to caffeine-free types and you'll stay extra-hydrated to boot.
Those who have successfully lost weight by counting calories report that it becomes easier the longer you do it. Keep a small journal with you at all times, or find an online resource for calorie tracking (many good ones are free). By the time it becomes old hat, you'll be looking at a new you.
Elizabeth Kelly is a nationally published magazine writer.