For those making changes in the way they eat, many find they do better by tracking their food (some call it a food journal or a food diary). The idea of writing things down helps you see where you can reduce calories, shows you areas of imbalance, and forces you to be honest…did you really only use two teaspoons of dressing, or was it more like two tablespoons? And two Girl Scout thin mint cookies have the same calories as a one-ounce slice of bread, so if you eat half a sleeve of them…you get the drift!
Websites like My Fitness Pal (www.myfitnesspal.com) and Sparkpeople (www.sparkpeople.com) can make this easier by allowing you to set up groupings (e.g. if your go-to breakfast is a bowl of Cheerios with half a banana and a cup of 1% milk, you can select what goes into that meal, save it under whatever name you choose, and go back to it whenever you eat that again, easily logging it in your daily plan.
When I was journaling regularly to help me get to my goal, I did this, but I’ve found a way that takes less time. Based on Richard Simmons’ “Deal-a Meal” diet aid from yester-year, the idea is to make cards based on your servings from each of the food groups that approximately add up to your calorie-quota for the day, and as you eat (or as you plan your meals for the day), collect the cards for that particular meal (or snack) and set them aside. And, as Richard would say (can’t remember the exact quote), “When your cards are gone, you’re done eating for the day!”
Here’s how it works for me. I try to stay in the 1500-calorie range, and to get a good assortment of foods from the various groups, I’ve chosen these servings: two 1% milks (100 calories each), three fruits (60 calories each), six breads/grains (80 calories each), six one-ounce equivalents meat/proteins (45 calories each), four non-starchy veggies (25 calories each), and three healthy fats (45 calories each). This leaves me with about 150 calories for snacks, which can be a little treat, or an extra couple of servings from the above groupings.
In the photo above, you’ll see my not-so-professional cards. If you decided to use this method, you could make ‘em fancy, add photos, detail what constitutes a serving, laminate them, etc., but since I’m a pretty ordinary, no-frills person, this works for me!
A final note: if you have cards left over after you’ve selected an evening snack, and you aren’t hungry, then good for you! Don’t feel you must use all the cards. Or on days when your cards are gone by mid-afternoon, don’t beat yourself up about it, and feel you can’t eat supper; our bodies need different amounts for different days for a variety of reasons – these are just a guide.
For more details on food groupings and serving sizes, go to www.choosemyplate.gov.