Tuesday, December 4, 2007

10 Ways to Cut Calories

By: Mark Sisson

Ultimately, optimal health is more about what you put in your body, not how much. But “how much” does matter to some extent, regardless of what you are eating. A grass-fed steak may be one of the most nutritious foods on earth (bring on that saturated fat), but it shouldn’t cause your grocery cart to list to one side.

I eat about 50% of my calories from fat these days, and I’ve never been healthier or leaner. Eating so much fat keeps me sated so I don’t crave huge portions or plates piled high with goodies. That’s a nice side effect of eating for my health first and foremost. If you’ve adopted the Primal Health philosophy of consuming plenty of natural fats, protein and produce, you’ve taken care of the “what” part of eating, and your body will benefit for years to come because you’re eating for your body’s blueprint.

However, if you are still carting around a spare tire or not-so-lovable handle the “how much” still matters. Back to that grass-fed steak. While it’s healthy, none of us needs more than a few juicy ounces of it at a time (jeez, I’m making myself hungry here). Eat as healthy as you want to eat, but to lose weight, the old rule is still true: you must cut calories. Of course, certain foods will optimize your metabolism. Carbohydrates are a recipe for metabolic and immune disaster. But at the end of the day, calories do count. Here are some easy ways to cut back if you’ve got a few clingers:

10. Cut meat portions in half.

I’m a huge proponent of plenty of protein – at a minimum, 100 grams daily. But often, meat portions are too big. This is especially true in restaurants, but Carrie and I have noticed the prevalence of gargantuan steaks and step-aside-turkey chicken breasts at the market these days, too. (Attack of the bionic meat?) 3-6 ounces is plenty. Focus on source, flavor, and quality, not quantity.

9. Cut out the (hefty) toppings.

I love loading up my daily salad with plenty of ingredients – usually at least a dozen. But I choose low-calorie vegetables, and a good source of protein, rather than fried, crunchy, caloric toppings. Top your salads with veggies, not cheeses and nuts, if you are trying to lose weight. Top ‘em even if you aren’t, in fact.

8. Eliminate starchy vegetables.

If you are lean and healthy, things like yams and carrots are fine. But they do tend to have more calories than greens and cruciferous vegetables, so mind those starchy squashes and tubers if you want to lose a few pounds.

7. Cut legume portions in half.

Peas and other legumes like chickpeas and kidney beans are rich in vitamins and fiber. They also contain good vegetarian protein and healthy fats. But they’re very caloric. If you want to lose weight, cut those lentil, pea, and bean portions in half.

6. Eat only one snack daily.

Snacks can often be as caloric as a meal, particularly things like cheese and nuts. A handful is fine; anything more is a meal. Pay attention to the small bites you take throughout the day because they do add up more than you think.

5. Replace a meal with a protein shake.

If you really want to drop some serious weight (more than those last 5 or 10), replace a meal with a quality, dense shake. Mine packs a generous serving of protein and fiber for minimal calories and virtually no sugar.

4. Replace fruits with vegetables.

Fruits contain sugar, which is fine in limited amounts. But fruits are simply higher in calories than vegetables, something many folks don’t know. Replace those fruit snacks with vegetable snacks for equal – or better – nutrition and fewer calories.

3. Use less oil in cooking.

Try using a tablespoon of oil on a lower heat setting instead of liberal pours. I personally don’t watch my fat portions much, but my metabolism is set at a high level through years of training and living the Primal lifestyle. As your body adjusts, you’ll be able to eat more calories.

2. Watch the nut portions.

Nuts are an amazing nutrient source – protein, fat, fiber, vitamins galore. But they are incredibly high in calories. A serving size is a handful, not a pack.

1. Drink only water.

To really lose weight, make sure you aren’t drinking your calories! (Unless those calories are replacing a bulk meal.) Limit alcohol and eliminate dairy and juices.

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