Since I've counted calories before (and am currently doing so), I thought I'd put together a list of some tips for anyone who is interested in trying.
- Determine how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight. Here's an example of a formula you can use to calculate your caloric requirement. My personal goal is to eat somewhere between 1,300 - 1,800 calories per day, but I am quite active. If you have a desk job and drive everywhere, you may want to reduce your caloric intake below that.
- Have a calorie counting resource, such as a book or website that lists caloric values for the types of food you eat. I used to have a paperback book but now I simply Google "how many calories are in ____ " and take it from there.
- Write down what you eat.
- Measure what you eat and drink. This is so important for the sake of accuracy. It's very easy to get it wrong if you have to guess.
- If you can't measure something and must guess, overestimate how many calories it has (instead of underestimating).
- Record EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth: the cream in your coffee, the peanut butter you licked off the knife when you made that sandwich for your kids, etc.
- Be organized: I have a notebook and pen, as well as measuring spoons and cups, in a handy spot in my kitchen.
- Know that protein makes you feel full longer. For example, if you eat 100 calories worth of carbs, you'll be hungry sooner than if you eat 100 calories worth of protein. I personally don't believe in completely cutting out any food group - I think a diet should be balanced to be healthy - but if you raise your protein intake and lower your card intake, you'll find it easier to eat fewer calories.
When I record what I eat, I use four columns (I've arrived at this by trial and error, and this works best for me):
- Time - this helps me pace myself, so that over the course of the day I don't exceed my goal.
- Food item - I write down what I've eaten so that if I'm hungrier that normal I can analyze why (for example, protein suppresses appetite whereas carbs can stimulate it).
- The caloric value of each food item.
- A running total - this lets me know how much I've eaten so far and how many more calories I can eat.