Nutrition Facts on the food label list the calories in a single serving. In addition, "calorie lingo" on the package can alert you to lower-calorie food products as you search supermarket displays.

Label Term



Reduced or fewer calories

Light or lite

Low-calorie meals

Light meal


Less than 5 calories

40 calories or less

At least 25% fewer calories*

One-third fewer calories or 50% less fat*; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50% or more

120 calories or less per 100 grams

"Low-fat" or "low-calorie" meal

  • As compared with a standard serving size of the traditional food samples. Write out your shopping list when you're not hungry.
  • Stick to a regular eating schedule. (There's no hard-and-fast rule about eating three meals a day.) Studies show that missed meals can lead to impulsive snacking and overeating and may lower the rate at which your body burns energy. Eat breakfast!
  • Eat from plates, not from packages. When you nibble chips or crackers from a package or snack on ice cream from the carton, you don't know how much you've eaten. It may be more, much more, than you think!
  • Serve preportioned sensible amounts of foods on the dinner plate. You'll likely eat less. Use smaller bowls and dinner plates so small portions look like more. See "Get Portion Savvy" earlier in this chapter for more on portion control.
  • Eat slowly. Savor the flavor of each bite. After all, it takes about twenty minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you're full—which curbs your urge for a second helping. Slow down by putting down your fork between bites. Eat with chopsticks if they slow you down. Sip, rather than gulp, beverages. Swallow before refilling your fork.
  • Eat when you're hungry; stop when you're full. Learn body signals for fullness and real hunger. Forget the "clean-plate club." You don't need to eat everything on your plate if you're satisfied.
  • Sit down to eat, rather than nibble while you do other things. Focus on your food. That way you know that you've eaten.
  • Make eating the only event—and enjoy it. Eating unconsciously while you watch television, read, talk on the phone, or drive may lead to eating more than you think.

Low-"Cal" and Low-Fat: Not the Same!

Read the label! Compare the calories. Being fat-free doesn't make a food calorie-free. A fat-free or reduced-fat product may have as many (even more) calories per serving than regular products. Many people eat larger quantities of fat-free or low-fat foods, believing they are healthier.

Fig cookie (1)

Fat-free 48 calories

Regular 56 calories

Vanilla frozen yogurt (V2 cup)

Nonfat 110 calories

Regular 117 calories

Caramel topping (2 tablespoons)

Fat-free 105 calories

Homemade with butter 102 calories

Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)

Reduced-fat 166 calories

Regular 188 calories

Cereal bar (1.3 ounce)

Low-fat 133 calories

Regular 140 calories

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 2005. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18, and food industry Web sites, as appropriate.

  • Choose foods that take more time to eat. For example, peeling and eating an orange takes longer than drinking a glass of orange juice.
  • Stop eating when you leave the table. Avoid the urge to nibble on leftovers as you clean up.
  • When you get the urge to nibble (especially if you're not hungry), do something else. Jog, call a friend, walk the dog, or step out into your garden.
  • Be aware of the influence of others. You don't need to eat cake, muffins, or bagels in the break room just because your officemate brought it to work.
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