On the Table

Cut 500 calories a day

CORRESPONDENTMay 12, 2010 

In the summer, it isn't easy to cover up the extra pounds.

But beyond appearances, carrying around extra weight is particularly uncomfortable when it's hot outside. As you slow down this summer, step up your weight-loss efforts.

You can accelerate that goal if you make a modest - but substantial - reduction in your calorie intake. The magic number is 500.

Cut 500 calories a day, and you should lose about a pound a week. Even if you attain that goal only on half the weeks this summer, it could translate into a weight loss of 6 pounds.

At the very least, reducing calories should help you maintain - and not gain - weight over the summer.

Tips for trimming

How easy is it to cut 500 calories a day? It's not. But you know that already.

Examples of 500 calorie parcels of food: A large order of fries; a pork barbecue sandwich; two lattes made with whole milk; a large coffee shop muffin; a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit; a bagel and cream cheese; one cup of premium ice cream.

To shave 500 calories a day from your diet, look for the easiest ways to have the biggest impact. For example:

Switch from regular to diet drinks. A 16-ounce serving of sweet tea or cola contains about 200 calories. How many servings do you drink in a typical day?

Cut entree portions in half. Think of how much money you'll save. Use a smaller plate if you have to, but take half as much as usual at meals.

Take half the lasagna and save 350 calories. Pair it with a diet drink instead of regular lemonade or sweet tea, and you're there.

Skip lunch. Really, it's OK for most of us. Yes, restrained eating may not be the right strategy for people with eating disorders. Most of us, though, would benefit from skipping more meals.

Pass up a grilled cheese sandwich and small order of fries and save 500 calories.

Avoid fast food. A KFC Crispy Twister or Double Crunch sandwich with crispy strip or two slices of Domino's cheese pizza contain more than 500 calories each.

One Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich? That'll set you back 800.

And that's before the fries and drink.

Staving off grumpiness

As anyone who has lost weight knows, working through the rough spots is one of the major challenges. Assume you'll get hungry when you cut back.

Hunger makes you grumpy and prone to impulsive eating decisions. If you feel distracted by a grumbling stomach, do something about it.

Pop a few hard candies, chew a piece of gum - or three - or go for a walk. Get over the hump.

Don't count on exercise, though, for all of your calorie-reduction needs. The truth is that you'd likely have to walk much of the day to burn off most fast-food meals.

Instead, use exercise to bridge the gap. When it gets hot outside, start a habit of nighttime walks, aiming for a good long stroll of 45 minutes or more most nights.

Your reward will be the good feeling that comes with success - and baggy pants.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the Department of Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net.

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