Managing Your Weight

young man preparing food

Burn more calories than you eat. Also:

  • Choose leaner proteins
  • Choose lower fat dairy products
  • Limit added fats in recipes
Think of weight control like a balance scale. When the amount of calories you eat matches the amount of calories you burn, your weight stays the same. Eating more calories than you burn tips the scale and causes weight gain. To lose weight, you must tip the scales in the right direction by burning more calories than you eat.

To lose weight, how many calories should I eat a day?

Theoretically, a deficit of 500 calories per day should promote one pound of weight loss per week. Here are the numbers:

  • 500 calories x 7 days = 3500 calories = 1 pound of body fat

Even small changes in your diet can add up over time. If you eat just 150 calories less each day for one year that translates to almost 16 pounds you could lose.

Follow these heart healthy and calorie-saving steps to launch you towards your goals of a healthy weight.

Simple Steps to a Healthy Heart and Weight

The Plate Method

One of the best ways to control calories is to control portions. Try serving foods with these tips in mind:

  • Fill one quarter of your plate with lean protein. This portion size fits within palm of your hand. Lean protein sources include poultry, fish, seafood, lean beef (round, loin, flank), lean pork (tenderloin, Canadian bacon), tofu and eggs.
  • Fill another quarter of your plate with starch. Starches are foods like bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, yams, and beans. Choose most of your starches from whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or tortillas, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain and bran cereals, or beans. Expand your whole grains to include barley, bulgur, quinoa, millet, teff, and farro.
  • Fill the other half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, like salad and other greens, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes.
  • If desired, add a fruit or cup of milk or yogurt to your meal, or enjoy as a snack later.

View more information on the Plate Method.

Eating the right amount and getting adequate exercise helps with weight control. Overeating can lead to weight gain. Choosing lean meats and lower fat dairy products helps with weight control and heart health. That’s because the animal fats tend to be “saturated” fats which are not heart healthy. Control calories and improve nutrition by following these tips:

  1. Choose leaner proteins:
    • Avoid fatty meats like bacon, sausage, ribs and hot dogs.
    • Choose lean cuts of meat, such as “loin” and “round”.
    • Eat up to 6 to 8 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish daily.
    • Trim visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.
    • Try vegetarian protein alternatives, like soy products and tofu.
  2. Choose lower fat dairy products:
    • Use nonfat or 1% low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese.
    • Buy reduced fat or low-fat versions of your favorite cheeses. Some cheeses, like mozzarella and ricotta, are naturally lower in fat.
    • Avoid cream, cream sauces and creamed soups.
  3. Limit added fats in recipes and watch the condiments:
    • Strictly limit butter and hard stick margarine. Choose margarine labeled “no trans-fats”.
    • Avoid tropical oils (coconut and palm oils).
    • Choose liquid oils instead of solid fats (but control intakes as all fats are equally dense in calories).
    • Try reduced fat or nonfat versions of condiments, like salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces and gravies.

More helpful tips:

  • Avoid fried foods. Try baking, broiling, barbecuing, steaming, boiling, light sautéing, grilling, poaching and braising.
  • Use a non-stick cooking spray to coat a pan instead of butter, margarine or oil.
  • Drain and discard visible fat when cooking.
  • Limit dining at fast-food restaurants.
  • Read Nutrition Facts labels on food packages. Choose foods with low or no saturated fat, trans fat,  or hydrogenated fat. A low-fat choice is 0-3 grams of fat per ounce of meat or cheese, or 0-3 grams of fat per serving for other items.
  • Soluble fiber can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Foods high in this type of fiber include oats, dried beans, split peas and lentils.
  • Include at lease 5 servings per day from a combination of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise more. Exercise does not have to be strenuous. Walking is an excellent form of exercise. Try to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Self-assessment Quiz

Self assessment quizzes are available for topics covered in this website. To find out how much you have learned about Managing Your Weight, take our self assessment quiz when you have completed this section. The quiz is multiple choice. Please choose the single best answer to each question. At the end of the quiz, your score will display. If your score is over 70% correct, you are doing very well. If your score is less than 70%, you can return to this section and review the information.

©2007-2020 Collective work Martha Nolte Kennedy,
The Regents of the University of California.
All rights reserved.