Achieving medical weight loss requires a combination of lifestyle changes, including modifications to diet, exercise and attitude. Understanding your daily caloric intake and where those calories are coming from is a key part in developing healthier eating patterns.
Some foods are naturally nutrient rich, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Items like sodas, alcohols and certain juices may have little or no nutrient value, but still contain calories.
For the 160-180 calories found in the average can of soda, you could have 16-18 cups of fresh spinach (roughly 10 calories per cup). By eating spinach, you’ll give your body essential nutrients like vitamins C, A and K, along with iron, protein and fiber. With a can of soda, your body will get sugar, and usually zero vitamins and minerals.
If you subtract just one soda per day, you’ll lose 160-180 calories off your normal daily total, which you can leave off or replace with more nutrient-rich food.
The Glory of Self-Monitoring
Perhaps the best way to understand your daily caloric intake is to use a daily food journal, or daily food tracking apps like “Lose It” or “My Plate.” By cataloguing your daily intake, you will start to notice where your extra calories are coming from, which will allow you to target areas for improvement. Be sure to track everything you eat. It’s easy to overlook the slice of cheese on a sub sandwich or the extra mayonnaise that may have been included in a pasta salad, but those calories count.
During medical weight loss, you want the most value for the calories you consume. Additionally, calories from processed sugars and other simple carbohydrates are often easy to consume without much thought, but will still add to the daily caloric bottom line. When you use a food journal or tracking app, you can measure progress and reward yourself when you meet your new caloric intake goals with some self-care activity, like getting a massage or going on an enjoyable outing.
Avoiding Extra Calories
Some of the main areas that many people get extra calories from include:
- Drinks like sodas, alcohols, mixed coffee drinks and juices
- Dips, spreads, dressings or fried oils
- Snack foods with trans fats and oils
- Fast foods with additives, trans fats and sauces
- Low-fat foods with few nutrients like pretzels and popcorn
The best way to avoid these calories is to stop eating them altogether, or significantly lower your intake. Substituting water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks is another easy way to save calories every day You can also try light salad dressings on salads, or use balsamic or apple cider vinegar and lemon or lime juices for flavor instead.
Do your best to skip the snack foods. If you must indulge, take out just one portion size and put the rest away for another day. If getting fast food is part of your weekly routine, see if you can substitute those meals with meals from home by planning ahead. When you snack on low-fat foods during your medical weight loss program, just remember that those foods still contain calories and you’ll be best served by snacking on fresh-cut fruit or vegetables.