Cheap in Calories… What?

So far, I’ve covered a variety of topics that will help you save money in the short or long-term. But I had a thought today about being cheap with calories. I’ve always thought of calories as being a limit that I can’t exceed, so why not discuss how to be cheap with (or cut) calories? Here are a few ways to frugally cut down on your daily calorie intake to lose weight the smart way.

To start with, “they” say you should eat a meal every two to three hours. But a meal to me isn’t the same as it would be for you. It took me a while to find the perfect portion size, but once you find it, make sure you stick with it. You should also drink plenty of water throughout the day, and green tea will help fight cravings if you can’t make a meal every three hours. Just remember if you’re counting calories and don’t like plain tea, one serving of sugar (2.3 grams) is 9 calories.

Breakfast: If you’re the type of person who has to eat something to wake up, choose oats with fruit or a granola bar. Personally, I drink a protein shake for breakfast and, if that doesn’t wake me up, a cup of coffee. I find that if I were to eat breakfast, I would have a muffin or cereal, which aren’t good choices if you’re trying to cut the calories. By drinking a protein shake (one scoop of protein is 150 calories, mixed with water) you can cut down on hundreds of calories right off the bat.

Besides the obvious healthy breakfast foods you can choose from, I’ve found that 100 calorie packs by Nabisco are pretty satisfying with a cup of coffee. You can also choose any Special-K breakfasts, although I would stay away from their protein shakes because of the large amount of sugar in them. Stick with foods that are high in fiber for a morning routine to jump start your metabolism. Click here for some healthy breakfast recipes.

Mid-Morning Snack: This is the time of day I like to have a piece of fruit or yogurt. I like bananas, apples, oranges, or grapes. All have lower levels of sugar than, say, some pineapple or melon, but will still satisfy both your sweet tooth and your hunger. You can also find 100-calorie yogurts that are delicious. (Most of the time they’re on sale also!) I find that it’s helpful to stash a box of protein bars in my desk for the times I forget to go food shopping. Instead of having a snack, I’ll eat a protein bar or have a protein shake.

Lunch: I get yelled at by my coworkers for bringing the same ole boring meals every day. I don’t usually cook lunches for myself, so I stick with a peanut butter sandwich, banana, and granola bar. It isn’t a bad lunch, but variety is the key to success (thanks, Chrissy). Whatever you decide on bringing for lunch, make sure it’s hearty enough to hold you over until your afternoon snack.

Recipes that I’ve been interested in include chicken and shrimp, but you can also have turkey. It’s important to choose meals that are high in protein because that’s what fills you up and keeps you satisfied for hours. Stay away from carbs (basically anything that’s white: rice, pasta, bread, etc.), especially if you’re like me and sit at a desk all day. Alternatives include brown/wild rice, whole wheat pasta, or whole grain bread. Even though it might taste a little different, you’re saving so many calories by making the healthy decision.

Mid-Afternoon Snack: This is my breaking point. Usually by 2:30 p.m. I’m craving something sweet. I’ve been snacking on fruit bars instead of going for the candy I know is in the vending machine. I found that Quaker’s Real Medleys multigrain fruit bars satisfy my sweet tooth without pushing my calorie count overboard. One bar is only 160 calories and has nuts, oats, honey, and dried peaches in it. Make sure when you’re picking snacks that the ratio of sugar to protein is low. You should aim to pick a bar with at least 5 grams of protein and virtually no sugar.

Dinner: For dinner grill up some salmon or chicken to top off a garden salad or make something from scratch. It’s just as important to keep your diet consistent through the night. If you do find that you’re hungry an hour or two before bed, don’t eat anything.  If you eat right before bed, you won’t be able to burn off the calories you just ate, therefore storing them as fat. TIME has a really good article on this.

Some people say that dinner is the most important meal of the day, especially if you exercise right after work (guilty!), so it’s important to know what to eat at what times of the day. Right after a workout, you should load up on protein to feed your muscles since protein will help them grow.

To put things more into perspective for you, there are 4 calories in each gram of protein and carbohydrate you eat, while there are 9 calories per gram of fat. And there are good carbs and bad carbs. Even though you should stay away from anything “white” (like white bread, pasta, white rice, or potatoes to name a few), you should eat more good carbs, which are inadvertently cheaper in calories, too. Good carbs are high in fiber and can be found in whole grains, vegetables, and beans. Your body absorbs good carbs slowly vs. bad carbs materialize into sugar, heightening your chances of “crashing.”

I don’t claim to be a professional nutritionist by any means. Always consult a dietitian or nutritionist before starting any new diet or exercise regimen. I’ve been working out for about four years now, and my personal trainer/boyfriend loves the science behind body building—hence why it’s rubbed off on me. You can always ask a personal trainer at your gym or visit any of these sites for research purposes:

www.bodybuilding.com/fun/berardi71.htm
www.webmd.com/diet/default.htm
www.acaloriecounter.com/diet-guide.php

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