Does this economy have you working hard to stretch your household budget? Many of us have been making every dollar count by clipping coupons and shopping the sales. We can think about managing our calorie intake in a similar way. Our "budget" is the number of calories we need each day to fuel our bodies, and we want to get the most nutrition possible from those calories.
The first step in managing your money is setting your monthly budget and the initial step in budgeting your calories is knowing how many calories you have to spend each day. The website http://www.mypyramid.gov/ can help you calculate how many calories you need daily. Calorie calculations are based on age, gender, weight, height, and physical activity level. Or if you prefer to use pencil and paper, calculate your approximate calorie needs by multiplying your current weight by 12. For example, a 150-pound person should eat 1800 calories a day to maintain his or her weight. If you are very active you can multiply by 13 or 14. The more active you are, the larger your calorie budget. If you want to lose weight subtract 500 calories from your daily calorie budget for a one pound/week loss.
The next step is knowing how to spend your calories wisely. Think of calories as the dollars you pay, and make sure you’re getting the most you can for your "money". Take the time to read labels and see what nutrients – vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber - are in the foods you select. Avoid foods with large amounts of fat and sugar, and instead choose plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. These foods will be naturally higher in nutrients, lower in fat, and full of fiber to help you feel full. For example, in comparing the following snacks, each has approximately 100 calories, but the ones on the right are much more likely to fill you up and provide the nutrients your body needs.
1 1/2 cups oil-popped, buttered popcorn vs. 3 1/2 cups air-popped, unbuttered popcorn
6 Club crackers vs. 1 apple with 1 teaspoon peanut butter
9 potato chips vs. 5 Triscuits
1/3 of a 2 oz. Milky Way bar vs. 1 cup strawberries with 1/2 cup fat free yogurt
Don’t forget to save room in your budget for the occasional splurge, just like you treat yourself to a new outfit or fishing rod! Enjoying your favorite higher-calorie foods once in a while in moderation may make it easier to stay on track the rest of the time.
Staying within a financial budget requires self-discipline as well as hard work, and your diet is no different. Don’t let that discourage you! It won’t be long before your new habits become second nature, and you‘ll be enjoying the new healthier, slimmer you.
Janice Turner is a dietetic intern in Dallas who completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva Cochran in March.