Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2015
Let’s face it: You aren’t going to quit eating chocolate cold turkey or change your diet overnight. At the start of a new year, we’re all tempted to pledge allegiance to the scale and make plans for big changes ‘ especially after holiday indulgence turns into spiking glycemic index regret. But the truth is, that’s why so many diets sputter out by Valentine’s Day. We forget to remind ourselves of a mantra we live by in every other part of our lives: It’s the little things that count.
‘Most attempts at weight loss management fail because people try to do too much too fast,’ says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology at California State University Los Angeles and author of You Are WHY You Eat. ‘I am all about small changes for big results.’ She argues that using easy lifestyle hacks to cut unnecessary calories while still enjoying the food you love is the best way to achieve sustainable success.
Dr. Joey Shulman, a Toronto-based registered nutritionist and author, agrees. ‘A mild calorie restriction is a good idea and should not result in deprivation in any way.’ Plus, the benefits go well beyond fitting into your skinny jeans. ‘Studies have shown that it is one of the best ways to prolong life.’
Cutting just 100 calories a day is equivalent to a loss of 10 pounds within the year. The best part is, with these minor adjustments, you’ll barely even feel the pinch.
* Calories saved are approximate and based on a female with a base weight of 150 pounds. Some calculations are averages of many different activities.
Stop drinking your calories and bring a little piece of the spa home. Soak cucumbers, lemons, pineapple or strawberries in a jug of filtered water and refrigerate. By trading in your morning OJ, you’ll be getting a head start on your daily water intake with just a couple of added calories.
Calories saved: 112
Walk for at least five minutes, five times a day. Just 25 minutes of brisk walking burns 100 calories, so every time you park a little farther away from the office, take the stairs or walk the block during your coffee break, you’re working toward that total.
Calories burned: 100 per 25 minutes
Rethink pasta night and swap out traditional pasta spirals for spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. A single cup of whole-wheat spaghetti will run 174 calories, while a cup of spaghetti squash is just 42. A vegetable spiralizer is a solid investment, as it makes trading in those heavy carbs for something lighter easy. Having the right tools is half the battle.
Calories saved: 132
Add squats or lunges to your arm workout when you’re at the gym. Not only will you get a full body workout but working your largest muscle groups, such as your quads and hamstrings, means burning more energy and building muscle that will benefit your metabolism even hours after leaving the gym.
Calories burned: 115 per 15 minutes
It’s okay to be a little high maintenance when you’re out for dinner. The portion sizes at restaurants are often huge, and the added butter and oils you don’t see can up the calorie count of a reasonably healthy-sounding dish. Ask for half of your meal to be wrapped up at the time you order. Who doesn’t love leftovers?
Calories saved: 300-600
Embrace household chores. The floor will always need scrubbing and, during winter, the driveway usually demands shovelling. It might be a chore, but it’s also exercise. In fact, by spending an hour a week to vacuum or mow the lawn, you’re burning roughly the same amount of calories and melting fat, too.
Calories burned: More than 130 per chore
Buy a pedometer. Sometimes actively thinking about how many steps you’re taking will encourage you to take more. Studies have shown that people walk an extra 1,500 steps a day once they have a pedometer. And some activity trackers can also measure your sleep patterns and calorie consumption. They’re not just gadgets but also a way to keep your health top of mind.
Calories burned: 120 per 3,000 steps
They say slow and steady wins the race. But if your routine includes a trip to the treadmill or elliptical machine when your favourite show is on the gym TV, add in a day or two of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to avoid a plateau. Just 15 minutes can burn extra calories and keep your metabolism firing for hours.
Calories burned: 155
Hitting the park with your kids? Don’t be tempted to sit and watch while they play. Hit the trampoline, throw a Frisbee or start a game of kickball and, after just 30 minutes, you’ll both be working off extra energy.
Calories burned: 120
Skip the nuts and cheese at the salad bar. A sprinkling can easily turn into a three-digit calorie add-on when you’re not measuring the amount. Instead, choose a lean protein and load up on a wide variety of vegetables to keep your salad flavourful.
Calories saved: 100 per 2 Tbsp
Have your cake and eat it, too ‘ cookies and muffins included. Swap out vegetable oil for unsweetened applesauce in any recipe for baked goods to save big on calories for every tablespoon required. Plus, you’ll find that the end result is even more moist than the original.
Calories saved: 114 per Tbsp
Tweak your mocha and just say no to whipped cream. You can still indulge in a sweet treat at your favourite coffee shop, but avoid packing on extra calories when it’ll taste just as delicious with a few tweaks. Choose low-fat or soy milk instead of whole milk. Ask for extra foam instead of that dollop of whip.
Calories saved: 110
Not all calories are created equal
‘The quality of calories is also part of the equation,’ advises Dr. Shulman. ‘You can’t simply eat sugary foods or fast food, even at the right caloric amount, and expect to lose weight.’
Your body works better with whole foods and nutritious ingredients. Those 100-calorie packs of cookies might seem like a good idea, but the hidden sugars and preservatives will cause your glycemic index to spike. This means that your body will hold on to calories rather than expend them during digestion.
The same can be said for exercise. The intensity of your workout will directly reflect the number of calories burned. For example, 30 minutes of circuit training will burn 100 calories less than 30 minutes of cardio kickboxing. Don’t be afraid to sweat when you get to the gym.