Healthy Cook: Sticking to diets that work

Okay folks.  The fun is over.  It’s time to get back to the real world.  That means tightening the belt you let out a couple of notches over the holidays.  Controlling weight is a year-long process and, unless there is a medical reason, is a matter of math.  Calories in versus calories out.  If you take in more than you use, you gain weight.  Burn off more than you take in, you lose.

A pound is 3,500 calories either eaten or burned.  If you eat a 100-calorie cookie every day as part of your routine, that’s normal.  Remove 35 of those cookies from your diet, and you should lose a pound.  Walking, jogging or running a mile burns 100 calories.  Walk, jog or run 35 miles and you lose a pound.

There are all sorts of diet books out there that promise miracles.  Pills and potions make it look easy.  All the promises in the world won’t work unless you’re willing to work at it.  Beware the snake oil salesman.

Here’s a little more math:

  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Alcohol: 7 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram.
  • Water: 0 calories per gram.

Man does not live by water alone.  But a glass of water before a meal takes up space that could be filled by calories.  If you make a fat-free soup or take the fat off soup before it’s served you get a nice first course that takes the edge off before you start eating your meal.

The word “fat’ is confusing.  The white stuff that tastes so good on beef is fat.  But vegetable oil is fat, too.  We should have a word for animal fat and another one for vegetable fat.  A tablespoon of oil has 120 calories.  That’s all fat.  A tablespoon of butter has 100 calories . . . it’s not all fat.  Some of it is water and milk solids.

Read the label.  It’s possible to have an almost fat-free dish, a soup for instance, overflowing with flavor.  Sauté onion in a tablespoon of butter, now start adding garlic, vegetables, pasta, and beans.  Finish with herbs and a splash of hot sauce.  Really good bread doesn’t need butter for spreading or oil for dipping.  Dunk it in the soup.  The only fat is the one tablespoon of butter at the start.

Portion control makes a big difference, too.  Remember when fat-free devils food cookies came out a few years ago?  People lined up and waited for the shelves to be filled just so they could buy boxes and boxes.  What they didn’t realize is that taking out the fat left a void that was filled by carbohydrates and calories.  A couple is cool.  A bunch is a bummer.

Lean turkey and chicken breast, for instance, are low-fat and low-calorie.  But pile it on a sandwich and cover it with mayo and you have a lunch that could stay around your waist for ages.  Cranberry sauce has no fat.  Lots of carbohydrates, but no fat.  Use cranberry sauce instead of mayo to moisten the sandwich.

If you must have a ham and cheese sandwich, sprinkle on a grated strong cheese instead of slices of something mild.  The stronger the cheese, the less you need for flavor.  Zap it in a microwave to melt the cheese for a new sensation.

How you cut your food can make a difference in how much you eat.  Take a chicken breast and cut it into six pieces.  You get six “bites.”  Big deal.  Cut it into 12 pieces and have some vegetables on each forkful and you get 12 “bites”— plus, more satisfaction.

Shrimp usually costs a lot.  Cut each in two horizontally and you get twice as many bites from a pound.  And they curl up into cute little corkscrew shapes.

Potatoes are almost fat free.  The potato is not the problem.  It’s the butter and cream that go to make mashed potatoes so good.  Mash them with a little fat-free broth that you keep in the fridge for quick soups.  Or serve them plain sprinkled with herbs.  Herbs provide fat-free interest.

Whole grains taste good and keep you from being hungry for a long time.  Start your day with oatmeal and fruit.  Have whole grain bread with lunch, and brown rice with dinner.  A word of caution.  Read the labels to see just what is in what you buy.

A little nutritional nip and tuck is fine here and there, but for serious dieting consult your doctor.


article by TRENT ROWE

Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Health News.

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