When it comes to saving calories, I don’t use any of the more traditional methods of counting calories and fat grams, fad diets or even picking up low-calorie packaged foods at the store.
I’ve tried liquid diets, meals in boxes and low-calorie processed foods to achieve long-term weight loss and failed miserably. I have, however, come up with a way of eating that has allowed me to maintain a 60-plus pound weight loss for more than nine years.
Saving calories, eating delicious foods and feeling full and healthy is possible.
Here are my secrets:
When I tried traditional calorie and fat-gram counting, I felt deprived and hungry. Instead, I have educated myself on food in a more general way. For example, I know that chicken is a lean meat and beef brisket is quite fatty. That doesn’t mean I never eat brisket. It just means that I don’t eat it as often as I eat chicken. I also cook lots of plant-based meals and choose nutrient-dense foods, or foods that have lots of health benefits for the calories over empty- calorie foods.
If a product is not gluten free or has lots of fillers and starch or a long list of ingredients, I leave it on the shelf. This means that I’ve had to rethink many foods I used to eat, but it also means I’m saving calories and eating healthier. I’ve developed my own recipes for condiments like ketchup so I can still have my favorite foods without the added sugar.
Eat whole foods
Whole foods are simply foods in their natural state, or as close to nature as you can get. Many people gain weight when they switch to a gluten-free diet because they swap out things like wheat-based pretzels or cookies for gluten-free versions, which are typically starchier, higher in fat, and have added sugar to make up for the lack of gluten. Spend your money on whole foods. Your waistline and your health will thank you for it.
Add healthy fats to your diet
This may seem counterintuitive, but it works. Fat makes you feel full and keeps hunger at bay. I add nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and avocados to my meals on a regular basis. One of my favorite portable snacks is an apple and a handful of raw almonds. The carbs from the apple help keep my energy up, and the fat from the almonds satiates my hunger until my next meal. Another way to incorporate healthy fats is to add sliced avocados to salads or spread mashed avocado sprinkled with sea salt on a piece of gluten-free toast.
Eat 4 to 6 times a day
You can’t save calories by skipping meals. Eventually hunger will cause you to have a calorie-laden binge. Also, our bodies won’t burn calories as efficiently if they thinks they’re starving. Instead, eat healthy, whole foods-based meals four to six times a day. I eat three smaller meals and two snacks and don’t get too hungry between meals. My energy level also stays stable.
Choose healthy food most of the time
Dessert is a treat, not something I eat regularly. When my diet is healthy all day long, a scoop of ice cream and a small slice of cake at the end of the day doesn’t hurt. I don’t feel deprived, and I’m not sneaking around eating dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’ve also learned to eat fruit for dessert. There’s nothing better than sweet, fresh berries in the summer or cinnamon-baked apples in the fall.
Cut fat and calories in dessert
I look for delicious, creative ways to make my desserts healthier. Try replacing 25 percent of the fat in your favorite cake recipe with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt or mashed bananas. Instead of high-glycemic cane sugar, try an unrefined alternative such as low-glycemic coconut palm sugar. Add healthier flours to your recipes, like quinoa, buckwheat and garbanzo-fava bean flour. Or try using beans to make brownies instead of gluten-free flour. They’re delicious, moist and no one will suspect you put beans into your dessert.
Saving calories doesn’t require careful calorie calculation of every food you decide to eat. Instead, try eating a healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense foods. If you’re like me, you’ll find an immense freedom in being able to eat the foods you love.
Amy Green has been living gluten- and refined-sugar free since 2004. She is the founder of SimplySugarandGlutenfree.com and is the author of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free: 180 Easy & Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less.
Eating healthy is only half the battle — staying fit really moves the needle.