Few of us can just eat whatever we want without consequences, and there are lots of ways out there to keep track. The gold standard is counting calories, and it’s a great way to be very aware of what you eat, but if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details of looking up food values and adding everything up. Here are a few other options.
Simple food diary
Just writing down what you eat can help in two ways: it’s a record that you can look back on, and the fact of writing out “handful of Hershey’s kisses” might make you think twice about whether you want that on your list.
For many people, portion control is easy … for meats or salad. It’s when refined or processed carbohydrates come out – especially cookies and chips – that self-control goes out the window. Have you heard someone say “I went low carb, and the pounds melted off!” The foods you end up eating are satisfying – meats (which satisfy both with protein and fat) and plant sources, which have plenty of filling fiber. If you can stick with a low-carb plan (getting most of your carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables), you will often find yourself eating less calories overall fairly easily. It doesn’t have to be meat and vegetables only; it could just be choosing a few “problem foods” and eliminating those.
Weight Watchers Points
Weight Watchers is a long-running program that combines social support groups with rules about how to think of different foods. The centerpiece of the eating portion is “points.” Foods are assigned different numbers of points, starting with zero, and after figuring out how many points you get per day, your job is to eat them all (WW wants you to eat your points – not try to “be extra good” by staying under). Those low- and zero-point foods still have calories, of course, but they tend to be fruits and vegetables – it’s the same principle as the low-carb plans, basically: the idea is to encourage you to eat the filling, fiber-rich foods you need for health, meeting that nutrition goal while leaving less room for the high-points foods.
Try out making a simple list first. That may help you decide how much more you want to do to eat more thoughtfully.