We are all familiar with the food pyramid that hasn’t changed much over the years. The same can be said for the caloric allowance a person should have every day to maintain a healthy weight. We all know that we on average should consume 2,000 calories a day to have enough energy to get through our daily lives, and while it varies for athletes, growing adolescents and even by gender, the basics still stand.
2,000 calories seems like a lot to allow yourself in one day, yet still many of us (if not most) manage to abuse our caloric intake on a daily basis without even realizing it. This is how we become overweight and even obese. We are consuming far more calories than we need without heed to what’s in the food we stuff in our mouths every day.
According to a 2008-2009 USDA study on American caloric consumption, the average American consumes a whopping 4,270 calories in one day! That is more than double the amount we should be eating to maintain a healthy diet. It’s no wonder we are a nation of obesity and heft, when we are eating far more than we should.
Even athletes are recommended a daily caloric intake under the daily amount the average American consumes (major athletes consume just under 4,000 calories a day typically). In order to burn 4,000 calories and maintain a healthy weight at the amount most of us are consuming, we’d have to involve ourselves in rigorous exercise for 4-5 hours, every single day!
Obviously, intaking less calories in a day is healthy for the body. But how to do this, when most of us don’t quite know how many calories we’re consuming? Diets are all-consuming and often frustrating when we program ourselves to the easy eating lifestyle we already have. We don’t want to clean out our cupboards and replace our whole diet, so it can seem next to impossible to cut down on calories without reaching for a celery stick.
Is it difficult to cut out calories without resorting to a confusing (and often unsatisfying) diet? No, it’s not. It’s quite easy to consume less calories, and it starts with your eating utensils.
A large plate in today’s society is 1/3 larger than a large plate from a few decades ago, which means we are consuming more food without even realizing it. Downsizing the plates and bowls you eat from is an excellent way to eat less at every single meal, because your brain can’t tell the difference between a full small plate or a full large plate. When you consume an average of 800 calories on a large plate, simply moving to a smaller plate which cannot hold the same capacity cuts your caloric intake by 1/3 automatically (if you’re not cheating and heaping the plate overboard), shaving over 200 calories off just one meal! And since your brain thinks you’re eating the same amount, it will tell you you’re full as normal, so you won’t be tempted for seconds.
Cutting down on soda is another great way to get rid of those empty calories you just plain don’t need. An average liter of soda is 400 calories or more! Yikes! Simply even cutting down to a 20 oz (which is on average 250 calories) or better yet, a single can of soda (a meager 95 calories in comparison) can dramatically reduce your caloric intake every single day. If you can’t cut down on soda, at least drink more water to satisfy your thirst, or switch to smaller amounts at a time, so you have a better chance of burning off the calories consumed during the day.
Eat snacks, just not the whole bag. Buy your chips in the single-serving baggies as opposed to a large bag, where you will likely eat 2 or 3 servings in one sitting. We don’t pay attention to that whole sleeve of cookies or that family-size bag of Doritos, so we often consume 3 times the amount for one person without realizing it. By dividing your snacks into single servings prior to indulging you know when a single serving is gone, and you have to consciously decide to eat more, which you may be tempted NOT to do once you realize you’ve eaten your fair share already. 5 Chips Ahoy cookies are 250 calories, and when you eat 10 or more, you are consuming 250 or more additional calories than you need. Same goes for chips- a single serving should be 1 oz, which is between 140-250 calories. Most of us consume 3 or more oz at a time. Watch your snack intake and you can shave off more calories than you’re consuming in a single sitting.
Drinking more water during the day helps curb your appetite and ease those hunger feelings. 70% of people are dehydrated every day, and hunger pains are what you get when your body wants hydration, too. So when your tummy rumbles, drink an ice cold glass of water before you reach for a snack, because you’re probably not truly hungry, but thirsty.
The best way to monitor caloric intake is to consciously watch what goes in your mouth, and simply leaving a few bites on your plate can cut down on those unwanted calories. Remember, the less calories you consume, the less calories you have to try to burn off later.