Monday, January 24, 2011

Calorie-Counting Diet

by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD

What Is a Calorie-Counting Diet?

The premise of the calorie-counting, or calorie-controlled, diet is to stay within a target number of calories each day. Although this diet works well for some, most registered dietitians recommend a more individualized eating plan.

Why Should I Follow a Calorie-Counting Diet?

Following a calorie-counting diet can help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, reducing the number of calories you consume will help you lose weight, thereby also lowering your risk of several health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. If you are underweight, increasing your calorie intake will help you gain weight.

Calorie-Counting Diet Guide

The calorie-counting diet breaks food into different food groups and allots a certain number of daily servings from each group. This method helps ensure a balanced diet and also makes it easier to keep track of calories.
A balanced diet includes a variety of foods from each of the main food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and beans, and oils. Based on your calorie needs, a dietitian can help you determine how many servings you can have from each of the groups. Depending on your situation and calorie requirement, you may also be allotted some discretionary calories that you can use for foods not in these main groups (eg, sweets, desserts, and certain beverages). Alcohol, if permitted by your physician, should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Tips and Suggestions

If your goal is to lose weight, researchers have found that reducing your caloric intake is the key to success, not reducing a particular nutrient (like carbs).
To become more aware of how many calories you are consuming, follow these tips:
  • Read food labels for calorie information per serving.
  • Focus on the serving sizes you are eating—they directly impact calorie intake.
  • Spread out your calorie intake throughout the day. Find what works for you, whether it is consuming your calories in three standard meals a day or spread out into six mini-meals.
  • Work with a dietitian to create a calorie-counting plan that takes into account your lifestyle and preferences.
  • Eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. This will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need and will also leave you more satisfied.

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