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A Dietitian's Tips for Successfully Managing Calories

07/21/2013 11:18 EDT | Updated 09/20/2013 05:12 EDT

The Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec recently came out with an eye-opening study which concludes that the number of obese people in La Belle Province has doubled over the last 23 years.

The answer to helping Quebecers and anyone who is frustrated with the number on the bathroom scale is not new: balance the calories you are eating with those you are burning. Understandably, you want fast results, but it's important to understand how many daily calories you need based on your age, sex, height and overall lifestyle. Cutting too many calories and losing too much weight too fast can undermine your health goals.

I encourage my clients to safely lose up to two pounds per week using these simple tips:

Know Your Number:

The first step to losing weight is knowing how many calories you should consume on a daily basis. In general, sedentary men between the ages of 25 to 35 need about 2,400 calories; those who are somewhat active need about 2,650; and active men about 2,900 calories. For women of the same age, they need about 1,850 if sedentary, 2,050 if somewhat active and 2,300 if active. If you are looking to lose weight, subtract 250-500 calories from what you need.

Once you know your ideal calorie intake the next step is to learn how many calories are in the foods and beverages you are consuming.

Read Calorie Labels:

One of the easiest ways to start understanding calories is to read nutrition fact tables or information on the front of food and beverage packages. Once you understand the number of calories in the foods and beverages you eat you will understand that all foods can fit in a balanced diet, but you may decide to consume some of your favourites in moderation.

Watch Portion Sizes:

One way to eat fewer calories is to cut down on the portions that you consume. This can be difficult to do at first, but trying using a smaller plate or bowl. This will make it feel like you are eating more, than if you used a large plate. Also portion out your food into bowls or baggies, rather than eating foods directly from the packages, which can help you be mindful of what you are eating.

You can also manage calories by buying smaller, portion-sizes packaged foods and beverages. For example, consider keeping mini cans of Coke around the house or forgo the wholesale sized bag of candies and opt for a smaller, depanneur-sized, 100-calorie bag.

Finally, putting less food on your plate can also be a big help. This forces you to get up if you want more food, and it's one more obstacle in the way to overeating. You can also try cutting down on food at meals by making less food. Simply cook appropriate portions for each meal, or if you like to cook in advance, pack lunch-size portions immediately so you can have leftovers later in the week.

Get Moving:

Trying to reduce the amount of calories you take in is really only half the story. Increasing how often you move can help to create what is called a "calorie deficit." Exercise doesn't have to be boring though, nor does it mean that you have to hit the gym for hours. Summer is finally here, so get outdoors with the family. Take hikes, go for a bike ride or toss a Frisbee around the park -- whatever gets you moving.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

It is important to note that the best way to manage weight is to avoid any slow and steady weight gain as we age. It is easier to avoid the weight gain than to try to lose weight later in life. Reading labels, understanding how foods high in calories can lead to over consuming calories, and finding strategies that work for you in the long run are your best bets!

There are no quick fixes to weight loss, but there are easier strategies that can help you avoid the weight gain.

Registered Dietitian Lisa Rutledge consults for food and beverage companies including The Coca-Cola Company.

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