Learn ways to manage your calorie intake and take other steps that will help you stay at a healthy weight.
If you eat more calories than you use, you’ll gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you use, you’ll lose weight. But staying at a healthy weight is more than just calories in and calories out. It’s about making healthy food choices. Here are some tips for making your calories count.
Not All Calories Are Created Equal
When it comes to weight management, 100 calories of cake are not the same as 100 calories of cauliflower. Making wise food choices is a big part of healthy weight management. Aim for the following eating goals:
- Limit processed foods that have been changed from their original, raw form. They often have high amounts of added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats. Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the sugar, salt, and fat content of foods before you buy.
- Eat whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, or rolled oats. Limit highly processed carbohydrates like breads, cereals, and pastas.
- Choose lean proteins such as fish and chicken. Limit your intake of red meat and processed or cured meats like pepperoni and deli meats with additives.
- Choose fats that come from plant sources like nuts, olive oil, and avocado. Avoid saturated and trans fats, because they increase the risk for heart attacks, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Mix It Up
Research shows that people get full from the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in. This means it’s important to eat foods with fewer calories. It doesn't mean you have to eat less food. To cut calories without eating less and feeling hungry, you can replace some higher calorie foods with foods that are lower in calories. In general, lower calorie foods contain a lot of water and are high in fiber, like vegetables and fruit. The latest dietary guidelines for adults can help you make better food choices and add variety to your food plan. Creating smart eating patterns can help you maintain good health and reduce the risk of disease.
Think About Your Drink
Most people try to reduce their calories by focusing on food. Another way to cut calories may be to change what you drink. You could be taking in quite a few calories from the beverages you have each day. Making better drink choices can help you reduce your calorie intake. If you replaced a daily 12-ounce can of soda with water, you could save 52,560 calories per year!
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Pay Attention to Portions
Larger portions can make it easy to eat or drink too many calories. Larger helpings also can lead you to take in more saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. You can learn how to manage portion size whether you’re at home or on the go.
Avoid Emotional Eating
Similar to how some people smoke in specific places or to cope with their emotions, some people use eating to handle situations. Emotional eating often includes the least healthy foods, and lots of them. If you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, emotional eating can set you back in your progress. Try these tips:
Take away temptation. Avoid keeping unhealthy comfort foods at home, and don’t go to the grocery store when you’re stressed or feeling down.
- Learn your patterns. Keep a food diary of what and when you eat, your level of hunger, and how you're feeling when you eat. This can help you gain a better understanding of how your emotions affect your eating.
- Find other stressbusters. There are many ways to deal with your feelings. Try practicing meditation, deep breathing, listening to music, calling a friend, or going for a walk when you are stressed or down.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip. Forgive yourself if you stress eat and start fresh the next day. Think of it as an experience to learn from and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future.
Watch the Clock
People who snack after 8:00 p.m. have higher body mass indexes (BMIs) than people who don’t eat at night, even if they don’t eat significantly more total daily calories. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Having a large meal close to bedtime also can make it difficult to go into a deep sleep because your stomach is still working to digest your food.
More Than Calories
Other things besides calories can affect weight management, like your sleep and stress. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or if you’re stressed a lot, it can be harder to be physically active and make smart food choices. Also, your body responds to sleepless nights and increased stress by increasing cortisol levels, which are hormones that can slow metabolism.
Want to learn more? Explore all of Smokefree.gov’s weight management strategies to help you take control of your health and manage your weight.