Losing weight tops many people’s list of things they want when it comes to health, and cutting calories is often perceived as a means to do that. “It would be nice if weight maintenance was as easy as a simple math equation,” said Stephanie Easterly, a registered dietician and Certified Wellness Coach at the Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center. “While it’s important to consider calories in versus calories out, it’s essential to look at the quality of your calories and your body’s response to them.”

Calories are not created equal. Have you ever eaten a high-calorie, sugar-laden dessert and experienced the crash that follows? Compare this to an equally high calorie meal of avocados and lean meat cooked in healthy oils. Although the calorie count might be equal, this doesn’t account for the hormonal and emotional effect the calories have on a person, which can potentially trigger other healthy or unhealthy physical or nutritional patterns.

Do calories matter? Of course they do. You can’t consume an excess of anything well beyond what your body expends and expect to lose weight. However, of equal importance is the quality of the calorie and the source from which it’s derived.

Here are some important tips that will help you get the most out of your calories.

Eat Lowest Calorically Dense Foods First1390249079-calories
Low calorically dense foods provide fewer total calories and greater nutrition in a larger volume of food, said Easterly. Vegetables are considered among this group. A 2004 study from the Pennsylvania State University published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that eating a veggie-packed salad prior to eating other food typically helps reduce the overall calories a person consumes during a meal.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid, individuals should minimally consume two and a half servings of vegetables daily. So, meeting calorie requirements through vegetables is a definite way to promote healthy metabolism and feel satisfied.

Eat Foods High in Fiber
Fiber is filling and consuming a healthy amount slows digestion and promotes feeling fuller faster. This helps individuals stay within a reasonable caloric consumption range. It can ensure that the calories we are eating are nutrient filled (many fiber-rich foods include vegetables and fruits). Some of the best high-fiber options include foods such as broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, apples, cabbage, avocados, pears, bananas and eggplant.

Avoid Cravings
The body adapts over time and it naturally craves what it is used to eating. If you are making a change in your diet by eating healthy nutrient-rich options, expect an adjustment period. “When you expose yourself to empty calories, your body will continue to crave those nutritionally-lacking foods, leaving you constantly searching and craving for more with little to no long-term satiety,” said Easterly. Healthy whole foods should account for at least 80 percent of your choices daily. Over time, your old cravings will subside and you will be more inclined to want healthier options.

Spice It Up
“Herbs and spices are an amazing way to add flavor, nutrients, anti-inflammatory properties, digestion enhancers and a myriad of other additional health benefits without adding empty calories or unnecessary additives,” said certified holistic nutritionist and restaurant owner Kirsten Carey. Cayenne, for example, has long been studied for its fat burning capability. It can add flavor to food, making it more desirable without adding unnecessary calories. Ginger has been regarded as a dietetic and used medicinally for years. Finally, a 2003 study published in Diabetes Care showed that as little as one teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower blood glucose levels, thereby promoting weight-loss.


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(Photo by Natalie Minh.)

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