Creative dieting ideas

Today I discovered something very cool. I hit the Chick Fil A drive thru and decided my calorie ceiling could withstand a chicken strips salad, but I kind of wanted a sweet drink with it and diet stuff doesn’t taste good to me. I asked if they could give me an iced tea that was half sweet tea and half unsweetened. They didn’t skip a beat and said, “One split tea, got it.” Who knew they had a name for it? I think this is a great piece of info for shaving calories off my daily total.

Of course another trick I use is also illustrated here. I use judicious indulgence. Chicken strips, fries, and a Coke would kill my calorie total, but I can get a salad (getting some veggie servings in) with some chicken strips on top, fat free honey mustard dressing and a split tea, and I don’t feel deprived, but I’m not out of range.

One other way I keep from feeling deprived is I tell myself I’m “allowed” to have anything I want. However, I don’t keep junk food in the house. 99 times out of 100 I’m too lazy or it’s too inconvenient to go out and get ice cream, yet I don’t feel like I’m withholding treats from myself, which might cause me to go all rebellious and binge.

As you can see, a big part of my strategy is not to use black-and-white thinking. I used to try to be overly strict, would feel fatigued and resentful, pig out, and decide while I was “off the wagon” I needed to take the opportunity to go to town on all fatty and sweet food while I had the chance. Needless to say, this added up to some major yo-yo dieting and ultimate weight gain.

So I’m interested in what you do to keep your calories in line. Mental tricks or practical tips, whatever. It’s equally valuable to know what will set off a binge as to know which yogurt has the fewest calories per cup!

My two favorites:

Cereal. When I have the “munchies,” or crave something sweet, boxed cereal is awesome. Sure, Fruit Loops might not be health food, but I can eat them by the handful for far fewer calories and fat that I’d get from cookies. And Chex or Crispix are great for satisfying the need for crunchy crap.

Kids’ meals. When I was losing mucho weight, I could eat on the go easily - kids’ burger meal, fruit, and diet soda (or juice, milk, or water) from a fast food place. The Wendy’s kids meal was pretty good in this regard.

Ah, here they sell Arizona Arnold Palmer half and half tea, half lemonade and half unsweetened ice tea. It’s pretty good and I’m not a huge tea drinker myself, and it’s pretty popular around here.

I like to tinker with food. Bulking up meat dishes with vegetables, substitute low-cal bread for normal, blossom squash for when I’m craving something starchy (250grams for just 100 calories!), shirataki noodles for spaghetti noodles, things like that.

There are some definite successes and failures. Some low-cal breads just don’t cut it to me, so I switched from the 35 cal to 70 cal slices. They’re a little bit higher but if it keeps me fuller longer than it’s worth it. Others have been great successes, like the steamed blossom squash that I cooked in some water, half a tablespoon of oil, and put in a tablespoon of sugar. I like to take from recipes that sound good and see how they are after some tweaking. The sugar/squash comes from one of my favorite foods from Japan called daigakuimo/college yams. I switched out the yams for squash, lessened the oil, and it still came out quite well.
Sometimes I can trick other people into eating healthy, too. :smiley:

Oh, and I’ve started to moniter my eating habits. I notice that I tend to do better and not binge when I go into grazing mode, getting about six meals of 200 calories or four meals of 300 as opposed to the normal three per day. Feels like I have a steadier supply of energy throughout the day. I try to set a goal per day and round off about what I am taking in.

When I’m in weight-loss mode, I can eat anything I want, and as much of it as I want. With a catch. Before I do that, I have to have had at least two veggies or one fruit and veggie per meal, plus a lean protein or dairy. Also, if I snack, it has to be a veggie or fruit with maybe a handful of nuts or whatever item on the food pyramid I think I’ll have trouble fulfilling (usually dairy). After I’ve fulfilled those requirements, it’s open season on the junk. But, by the time I get to the fattening stuff, I’m usually not hungry at all, even though I’ve taken in far fewer calories than I would’ve had I just relied on calorie counting.

It’s mostly a mind game. If I don’t assume anything’s off limits, I won’t feel like it’s forbidden fruit. If it’s not forbidden fruit, it doesn’t have that illicit pleasure associated with eating it. If it’s not indulging, it’s not as…indulgent.

Also, eating all those fruits & veggies gives me tons of energy and makes me more likely to make good choices. So, even if I decide to have something sweet, it’s usually some hot chocolate made with skim milk at home.

I think the biggest issue is planning - it takes some work to make sure that all I’ve got to hand are fruits, vegetables and a handful of nuts or serving of lean meat or beans.

Planning has been the number one thing that has finally made it possible for me to lose the first 35 lbs of 60. I made my own weekly planner for meals that feeds into a shopping list. I stick it up on the refrigerator and have become accustomed to thinking in terms of “this is what is for lunch/dinner” instead of asking myself “what do I want for lunch/dinner”. Then I pre-prep as much as possible, take lunch to work, and only keep what is on the list in the house.

The second best trick is the same as Unauthorized Cinnamon’s - never tell myself I can’t have something. If I really want it, I work a small amount into the calorie allottment for the day. Pizza, for instance. I will savor one piece after eating a large salad at the table instead of scarfing 3 or 4 pieces in front of the TV. I enjoy it more and acid reflux is a thing of the past.

I discovered long ago what Weight Watchers just announced last week. They modified the old point system to remove all points from fruits and vegetables. I found out that if I stick to fruits and vegetables and grain, I can eat as much quantity as I can possibly consume and not gain weight. This includes a fair amount of nuts as well. Another guide is not to eat anything that comes with a long ingredient list. Boxed cereals are one of the most fattening things around. And look at that long list of ingredients. It’s nice not to have to count anything or restrict quantities. Just eat until I’m fuller than full.

Soooo oo o o o o …

That’s one vote for “eat cereal!” and one vote for “don’t eat cereal!”

Well, it’s a lot easier to get fat eating Honey Nut Cheerios than it is while eating steel cut oats. But it’s also a lot easier to get fat eating cookies when you’re jonesing for something sweet (they can run 150 calories each, and you might have milk with them too) than to have a single serving of Honey Nut Cheerios. It all depends.

Also, I can’t keep sweet cereal in the house. I’ll overeat it on impulse/sweet tooth. However, it might be sensible for me to keep Shredded Wheat around, since it’s a quick and easy snack or light meal, composed of whole grain and lean dairy, and might give me an alternative to the drive thru or wolfing down a bucket of cheese. In reality, I keep Luna bars on hand - they’re palatable without being overly tempting, and come in single serving size to help me limit my intake.

I can’t keep cold cereal in the house, it’s one of my trigger foods. If I could a handful and stop, it might be a good munchie. But, when I eat cold cereal, I want MORE cold cereal. My other foods I avoid are: crackers (especially stuff like Wheat Thins which are like crack to me), packaged baked goods, cookies, chips, pretzels. These foods make me want to eat and eat and eat.

I am one of those people that put a bunch of food on my “no” list and find it freeing. I don’t eat fast food (except for"healthy" fare like certain items at Chipotle, Panera, stufff like that), cream based sauces, sugary soda, packaged baked goods, most candies. I limit foods like ice cream, baked goods, fried foods, cheese (mostly because it doesn’t agree with me these days), booze, high quality candy (like Black & green dark chocolate).

Before I started in 2004, I had some pretty appalling eating habits. If you had told me then that I would never eat scones or muffins again or McDonalds french fries, I would have thought you were insane. Those were my favorite kinds of foods. Now that I’m a slim, healthy person who has kicked her food demons (more or less) I don’t miss those foods at all. I don’t know how they make me feel.

I love carbs, but white carbs are too addictive. However, I’ve found that 100% whole-grain carbs I can eat in moderation. I made a box of whole grain pasta on Sunday, and I’ve basically been eating about a serving a day, no more.

At Chipotle, I get the salad, minus the sweet dressing, and instead dress it with a scoop of guacamole. Probably the same amount of calories, but much more healthy and filling.

Yeah, I often find that if a salad has enough interesting vegetables, and especially if it has salsa or something on it, I don’t need or want any other dressing.

My best techniques are (1) tracking food, which really is necessary for me, and (2) giving up on convenience foods and making practically everything myself. This eliminates all the processed crap that gets put into many boxed foods AND eliminates the “how many calories were in that restaurant meal” problem. Saves money, too.

As soon as I have this baby, I’m totally doing a month of the new Weight Watchers program, just to see exactly how it works. I never found a way to work the old Points system that didn’t make me unbearably miserable.

I don’t like salads, I don’t like lettuce all that much. Sometimes for a brown bag lunch I’ll bring carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatos, maybe some raw broccoli or cauliflour. Raw cauliflour has a nutty taste. When I do have salad I use raw spinach instead of lettuce.

I can think of two substitutions that have worked for me long term, the first is that since I really love a creamy sweet dessert I’ve found that greek yogurt does the trick without all the sugar of a pudding or ice cream, with fruit it’s a real treat.

The second is a weird salad I make with spinach leaves and a small piece of salmon, but salsa instead of regular dressing. For some reason the spice of the salsa makes it more satisfying than a regular salad, and the fish makes it more filling so the salad can be my whole lunch.

I keep a can of raisins at my desk. If I get munchies I’ll pop three or four.

Some television show recently mentioned that in the “old days”, dinner plates were generally much smaller. They suggested that might have been one reason people kept their weight even, or at least didn’t gain a lot, as they psychologically felt “full” after eating a (smaller) plate of food.
Maybe try getting rid of the large plates in your house, eating off small ones. That would be an easy trick to reduce portion size of no matter what you eat.
Worst trick I have ever seen was a friend who was on a diet, but her boyfriend (a tall thin guy) wasn’t. He would have lots of calories bombs around the house, and one night the woman really wanted some chocolate cake. So she put a huge piece on a plate, put it on the bathroom scale and said to me, “See - it doesn’t weigh hardly anything, so I can eat it!”

The best dieting idea I know of came from this very message board. Freeze grapes, orange segments, banana chunks for treats. The banana isn’t a bad substitute for ice cream/cheesecake. Most appropriate for warm weather, but YMMV.

Here’s something that I lost 15 pounds with (although I gained it back later). Cut out cane sugar entirely (except for rare special days like Christmas). No cookies, ice cream, soda, etc. You’ll go through a slight quasi-withdrawal for a few days, but after that everything else will taste a lot sweeter. That makes the previous tip more effective.

Oh yeah, cutting out sugar makes a massive difference, I’m not overweight and a few weeks ago I started to have a spoonful of sugar in my tea and drank about four mugs a day and I’ve put on about three inches. It happened before and as soon as I cut out the sugar the fat melted off.

Also, if you’re really struggling with the calorie counting and preparing food then buy ready meals, the healthy kind with the calories and fat all printed for you on the box :smiley: it’s not ideal but it’s a good way to start off.

What does not help is having “days off” where you eat what you want, it’s too easy to fall back into old habits that way.

As other people have pointed out, choose better carbs, if you love baked potatoes use Sweet Potatoes instead of white.

Protein is a really filling breakfast.

Porridge, you can never go wrong with porridge, it’s so good for you and also really filling.

Mint tea is a great palate cleanser and makes me feel less like snacking.

Also, if you love regular soda (pepsi or coke) grab a diet version and add one or two teaspoons of sugar. It tastes nearly the same (or sweeter!) and is only 30 calories versus 150.

Get a kitchen scale. Weighing food is the only way to consistently know what you are eating. It’s also easier and less messy than measuring cups.

Plan, plan, plan, and if your plan is hard to stick to, adjust it until it’s not. Once you find the sweet spot where you are eating enough to be mostly satisfied but little enough that you can lose weight, it’s like a dream. The weight just falls off. For me, it turns out I can eat a LOT more than I thought. I always went very low calorie (because I have to be tougher than everyone else, right?) and then couldn’t sustain it and then hated myself. It took 20 years to learn that there is a middle ground between 900-1200 calories and “whatever you want”. Turns out that even now, at slightly over normal BMI, I can lose at 2000 calories/day (with an hour of cardio). I now understand why I was so hungry at 900.

Don’t rely on tricks too much. For me, any attempt to trick myself, I find a way to work around. I’m too good a planner. For example, the “don’t eat after X” thing would never work for me because I would NEVER fail to eat a big meal before the deadline “just in case”. And the “no points on fruits or vegetables” thing would never work for me. I could eat a pound of grapes (400 calories) in a sitting and want to eat an hour later.