Be the queen of lean: Small changes in your diet can really add up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By Susan Shinn
For lots of us, the beginning of a new year means the beginning of a new diet. Michelle Musselwhite is more than happy to help.
Musselwhite is a registered dietician in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation with Rowan Regional Medical Center.
She suggests that the easiest way to lose weight is by making small changes in your diet.
One pound is equal to 3,500 calories.
“If you spread it over a week,” Musselwhite says, “that’s 500 calories a day. You need to figure out where you can take away those calories.”
If you need to lose weight, setting a goal of losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a realistic one.
Musselwhite advocates setting “very realistic, specific goals” as part of an overall weight-loss program that includes eating healthy and exercising at least three days a week for 30 minutes.
Musselwhite is a big proponent of people keeping diet journals ó writing down everything they eat and drink during the day.
If you’ve never kept a food journal before, you might be surprised at extra calories that can sneak into your diet without you realizing it.
Musselwhite says that there are online tools you can use to journal if it’s convenient for you to keep track online.
Musselwhite says that www.fitday. com is just one Web site you can use to keep a food journal ó and it’s free.
By keeping a food journal, Musselwhite says, “you can look very easily and see common areas where you can cut down.”
Also, Musselwhite says, “You have to get out those measuring cups and measuring spoons. Most people underestimate how much they are eating.
For example, a serving of meat ó 3-4 ounces ó is about the size of a deck of cards.
Most restaurant portions are easily twice that.
While the 100-calorie snack bags are popular, Musselwhite says, you could eat a piece of fruit instead and save yourself 20 to 40 calories.
“You’re talking about small changes throughout an entire day,” Musselwhite says.
Consider lunchtime, and the amount of salad dressing you’re using on your salad ó which can start out healthy, at least ó or the amount of mayonnaise on your sandwich.
If you insist on using the “regular” versions, Musselwhite says, “ease off on the amount.”
Adding in non-starchy vegetables ó cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions, okra, green beans and the like ó will fill you up without many calories, and make you feel less hungry with their increased fiber.
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
“You might feel hungry,” Musselwhite says, “but you’re actually thirsty.”
If you’re trying to cut calories, it may be best to stay away from that good ol’ sweet tea and all those free refills.
“It’s hard to know how much sugar you’re getting,” Musselwhite says.
Likewise with servings of juice. Musselwhite suggests drinking a 4- to 6-ounce serving. It’s also OK to dilute the juice if you like using an equal amount of water.
Musselwhite lists other, common-sense suggestions: switching from whole milk to 2 percent or skim; trimming off all visible fat on meat and removing skin from poultry; using cooking spray and small amounts of olive or canola oil.
“Small things can be a very easy way to reduce calories and fat grams,” Musselwhite says. “If you don’t want to switch to lower-fat versions, cut back on your portions.”
And become a label reader.
Choose frozen and canned fruits and vegetables with no added salt or sugar.
“Any type of reduction is going to be beneficial,” Musselwhite says.
A new year, she adds, “is always a good opportunity to start with a fresh slate.”