By Jessie Price, Deputy Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine
As a food lover and food editor of EatingWell Magazine, it's probably no surprise that I'm not a big fan of any diet where you have to give up a bunch of different foods. No bread or pasta? Forget it. Cabbage soup for two meals a day? No way. That's why I'm a big believer in the weight-loss and maintenance approach that EatingWell has taken both in the magazine and in our diet books, including EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners, which I co-authored with Nicci Micco. The idea is that you can eat anything you want. That includes dessert or a glass of wine with dinner. One of the secrets to losing weight on this diet? Portion control, which can naturally help you limit the number of calories you eat each day, your ultimate goal. To find out how many calories you need to eat to lose a healthy 2 pounds a week, click here.
Here are a few tricks for making sure you're eating the right portions:
Make dinner in cute portion-controlled servings. Research has shown that when dieters ate two portion-controlled meals a day they lost about 5 pounds more than their counterparts who ate the same number of calories but had to portion out their own food. Cook frittatas in the oven in ramekins, bake mini meatloaves in muffin tins, stuff a bell pepper (each person gets one) or make packets of foil or parchment paper to bake with fish and veggies inside.
Recipes to Try: Check out these great individually portioned recipes.
Diet Dinner Plan for Foodies
Use your hands. If you're not near a measuring cup, scale or spoons, use your hands to estimate portions: 1 teaspoon equals the tip of your thumb, 1 tablespoon equals your whole thumb, 1 cup equals your fist and 3 ounces of meat (which is an appropriate serving size) is the size of the palm of your hand.
Know the size of your utensils and dishes at home. You use the same ladle every time you scoop out some soup, right? So why not measure that ladle (fill it with water, then pour that into a measuring cup) right now so that each time you serve yourself some soup you know exactly how much you're getting. Also try this with your bowls. If you're a cereal eater, know what size bowl you eat out of. Should you be using a smaller bowl to make it easier to stick to that 1-cup serving?
Memorize the calorie counts and serving sizes of foods you eat over and over. For example, I like to eat a piece of fruit midmorning. In the winter, it's often an orange and I know that one medium orange has 62 calories. A medium apple has 95.
Related: 10 Tips to Make Losing Weight Easier
If you need a lot of food to feel satisfied, stack your plate with veggies. This is certainly a gross oversimplification, and you still want to keep portions in mind, but the bottom line is that most vegetables are less calorie dense than other types of food. For example, ½ cup of cooked pasta has 87 calories while ½ cup of cooked broccoli has just 22. So you can eat 2 cups of broccoli to get the same amount of calories that are in just ½ cup of pasta (and that is a puny amount of pasta!).
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Go for the power salad. Following up on my last trick, I would never suggest you just eat a ton of plain broccoli. The best way to put that veggies-have-fewer-calories maxim into action is to make big, satisfying power salads. That means tons of lettuce, other veggies and a little bit of protein to help keep you satisfied.
Salad dressing on the side, please. That's something you hear all the time when you're out with someone who's dieting. And with good reason. While those salads I was just talking about tend to be less calorie dense than other foods, most dressings are the opposite. One teaspoon (the tip of your thumb) of oil has 42 calories. That's nearly the same as a whole cup of broccoli. So do control the amount of dressing you use, whether that means asking for it on the side at a restaurant or measuring the amount you use at home. Which salad dressing to use? I tend to be a homemade vinaigrette type of person. But when it comes to having a really tasty low-cal salad dressing, the very best way to do that is to make a homemade creamy dressing with ingredients like low-fat mayo, nonfat plain yogurt and low-fat buttermilk and skip the oil altogether. All these ingredients have a fraction of the calories of oil.
What's your cooking secret to losing weight?
By Jessie Price
Jessie Price is the deputy editor of food for EatingWell magazine, where she directs all food content. Besides her work on 11 other EatingWell books, she is the author of the James Beard Award-winning The Simple Art of EatingWell and EatingWell One-Pot Meals. She lives in Charlotte, Vermont where she stays busy growing her own vegetables in the summer and tracking down great Vermont food products when she's not working.
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