Avoiding Those Excess Carbs and Calories: Six Tips

For those of us daily managing our blood sugar levels, waistlines, or both there are many simple things we can do to make the task easier.

One common suggestion is using smaller dinner plates - 10 inch instead of 12 inch - to help with portion control. We tend to fill any sized plate to its rim and then eat most of what we’ve taken, so smaller plates keep us from serving-up more than we should chew.

Here are six more tips that can also keep us from overindulging in carbs and calories:

    Drink plenty of water every day since we tend to confuse thirst with hunger, and end up overeating. When feeling hungry between meals, try drinking at least eight ounces of water and wait 15 minutes. If the urge to eat persists, you may actually be hungry. Remember that true hunger comes on gradually, and can be satisfied by any food.

    Consider limiting the use of artificial sweeteners since there is evidence they create digestive confusion. When we put something sugary in our mouth, the body reacts by activating our metabolism, and releasing hormones to manage the incoming calories. When we ingest artificial sweeteners, the body reacts to the sweet taste by revving-up our metabolism, but there are no calories to manage—and that’s confusing.

    If sometimes calories follow a sweet taste, and other times they don't, the body may lose its ability to effectively anticipate and respond to sweet foods. These same physiological processes help regulate our appetite and food intake as well, so the digestive confusion created by artificial sweeteners can potentially instigate metabolic problems.

    Don’t assume it’s okay to eat a lot more than usual when consuming whole, fresh foods since they contain calories too. We can avoid unhealthy fats, added sugars, and excess salt by eating well, but still need to watch portions with foods such as avocados, fruits, nuts, dressings, legumes, brown rice, and other grains.

    Don’t assume it’s okay to eat a lot more than usual after working out since people tend to overestimate the calories they burn while exercising.

    In one study, men and women were asked to estimate the calorie expenditure of a treadmill workout, and then to accurately compensate for the estimated expenditure by choosing its caloric equivalent from a buffet spread. The participants overestimated the calories used during exercise by three or fourfold, and ate two to three times more calories than were actually lost on the treadmill.

    Keep in mind that people generally burn five to ten calories per minute doing moderate exercise.

    Store food and snacks out of sight instead of on the kitchen counter since, according to a Cornell study, the proximity and visibility of food contribute to the amount we consume. We might, for instance, think of cereal as being a healthy snack, but if we eat a handful whenever we walk by the cereal box our carb and calorie count will quickly climb.

    Be careful when spooning mashed potatoes or white rice onto a white plate since we tend to eat more when our plate and food colors match—and eat less when food and plate colors contrast. This can work to our health's advantage: using green plates might trick us into eating extra green veggies.

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” ~ John Irving

Sources: NPR; Livestrong; Clean Plates; Body Composition; Food Navigator
Photo credit: Christophhhhh

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