“Doesn’t this have too many calories?”

My husband asked me that question a hundred times while we completed the trials of the most popular diets around in search of the “perfect diet”. He just couldn’t wrap his head around ditching calorie counting and actually losing weight.

Is that true for you? You are not alone.

For years, counting calories was king for weight loss. And for some, simply counting your calories may be just the right diet.

What is a Calorie Anyway?

That’s the strange part. A calorie is the amount of ENERGY needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degrees C. It is simply a measurement of energy.

What that means for humans trying to lose weight is not as simple. Our bodies are complex systems full of hormones that do affect our weight loss. And, because of the debate of the hormonal theory of obesity, calorie-counting as a means to lose weight has become less popular. Check out this post if you would like to read more on the hormonal theory.

Don’t be disheartened if you are a calorie counter – calorie-counting DOES work for weight loss. And it allows individuals who want to maintain the variety of all food groups to lose weight without the elimination of any specific food type. Sounds great but it can get tricky.

Doctor Mom E’s Diet Scale

the best diet for weight loss for women: counting calories

What I LOVE About Counting Calories for Weight Loss

What I DON’T LOVE About Counting Calories for Weight Loss

the best diets to lose weight for women: calorie counting

What the Experts Say About Calorie Counting

Tips for Losing Weight with Calorie Counting

Most adults should set themselves at 1200 calories per day for Women and 1500 calories per day for Men

Based off The Obesity Society/ACC/AHA 2013 guidelines, most adults will lose weight most effectively with these guidelines. Apps will tell you different calorie goals and those can vary drastically. Just use the app for counting, not the goal guidance. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/1930739x/2014/22/S2)

Harvard Nutrition Source has a technique for calculating your calorie needs as well. If you are interested, check it out: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/calorie-counting-made-easy

Or create a 500 calorie deficit from your current diet

Another option is to determine your current dietary calorie intake and decrease that by 500 calories a day for weight loss.

Some diets will tell you to restrict further – you can do that later if needed

There are diets that will have you go lower calories (think 500 per day). Studies do show faster weight loss with those diets initially. But, they are difficult to maintain and show greater regain. You can restrict further if and/or when you hit a weight loss plateau.

Set a goal of about 2 pounds weight loss per week

That is considered a safe and reasonable goal for weight loss in the long term. You may lose more initially due to water shifts in the body. When you start struggling with reaching this goal, then it is time to further restrict.

Eating a varied diet with healthy options is best

I love the Harvard Nutrition Source Health Eating Plate for an example of a health varied diet:

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Let’s keep it healthy

Consider cutting out snacks while calorie counting

Snacks are typically wasted calories full of high-carb low nutrient foods. They are typically eaten on the go and unlikely to be accurately documented in your daily calories. Plus, snacking all day maintains higher insulin levels contributing to the hormonal obesity theory. You can cut out snack with calorie counting, too.

Don’t subtract exercise from your calories

When your app subtracts the exercise you do from your calorie intake, ignore it. You don’t need to eat that many extra calories. The only time when subtracting exercise is necessary is if you have severely restricted calories and we are not doing that. Exercise is a bonus to weight loss. Don’t risk overestimating and not losing the weight.

Use your App scanner to scan bar codes

Most apps will actually scan the bar codes of the items you are eating – making calorie counting even easier.

If you add in intermittent fasting, subtract that those meals from the daily calories

Please don’t eat a 1200 calorie dinner after fasting all day. I would recommend a 300-400 calorie dinner. If you choose 2 meals a day and are doing that most days, go with 800 – 900 calories.

the best diets to lose weight for women: counting calories
A few of our favorite under 400 calorie per serving quick meals

Calorie Counting Meal Plan Favorites

Unlimited options here. Just make sure that you keep your portion sizes accurately. You can check out my Pinterest board for SO many options for meals at 400 calories or less per serving.

5 Low Calorie Breakfast Favorites

Thomas Bagel Thins – less than 1/2 the calories of a full bagel

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Egg and Turkey Sausage Breakfast Tacos

Double Foods Kolaches – for a quick breakfast – from Costco

Jimmy Dean Delights – most grocery stores

5 Low Calorie Lunch Favorites

Turkey Pesto Pinwheels – I use Carb Balance or low carb tortillas

Chicken Bacon Wraps

Slow-cooker Pulled Pork

Real Good Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas – most grocery stores

Chicken Tikka Masala – one of the highest rates meals from Trader Joes – and low calorie. Double win if you ask me!

5 Low Calorie Dinner Favorites

Chipotle Fish Tacos

Jalepeno Popper Chicken

Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

Grilled Italian Flank Steak Pinwheels

Salmon on the grill with grilled veggies

Eating Out While Counting Calories

This has never been easier as many food establishments have posted calories AND your app will likely have them as well.

As an example, I chose a few of the Under 400 Calorie options from the most popular food chains in America:

Highest Rated Calorie Counting Apps

To check out the highest rated apps in multiple areas, check out these list.

Simple Solution: Counting calories is still an excellent tool for weight loss. Use the new apps to give your brain a rest. Make sure to get your portion sizes right and drop the forgotten about snacks altogether for accuracy.

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