If you’re having trouble controlling your weight with a walking routine, you may be overeating without even realizing it! Walking is a great way to lose weight and burn fat, but a healthy eating plan will go along way towards improving your overall health. It’s possible to eat back the 150-250 calories you’d burn in your 30 minutes of recommended daily walking in just a minute or two if you’re not careful.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy what you eat. If you’re putting in the effort to walk 10,000 steps a day or build up to brisk walking, build off of that by putting a bit of effort into eating better. Here are a few ways that you might lose track of how much you are consuming, and some simple rules you can follow to help control what you’re eating without even counting calories.
Don’t have the Pacer app yet? Download Pacer for free! (on mobile)!
A Few Reasons You May be Accidentally Overeating:
1. You drink your calories
A 16-oz bottle of soda has 180 calories and almost all of that is pure sugar. That’s the same as a medium donut (but with even more sugar). A bigger issue is that juice, soda and many other beverages are not very filling. We often drink them without thinking when we’re thirsty without even considering the calorie content because they’re not “real food.”
Make sure to take into account the calorie content of what you’re drinking as well as what you’re eating. Switch to low or zero-calorie beverages like (unsweetened) coffee or tea, and look for lower-sugar options if you do need to drink soda or sports drinks. Also remember that while coffee and tea have essentially zero calories, most coffee or tea beverages you can buy at the store are not zero calorie at all. Many even have sugar or milk as the first or second listed ingredient.
2. Your portion sizes are too big
Even if you’re making smart, healthy choices on what to eat you can be derailed if you’re eating very large portions of those foods. Understanding proper portion size is key to eating healthy. This is especially important when eating out at restaurants, as restaurant portions are often extremely large.
Many restaurants list calorie counts on their menu, which gives you an idea of how big their portions may be. A good rule of thumb is that a portion is often the size of your fist. That’s not always true for calorie-dense foods, like nuts, oily foods or desserts.
3. You always clean your plate
While you may have heard “clean your plate” growing up, always eating everything on your plate in one sitting can cause you to take in more calories than you should. Restaurants love to serve big portions to impress customers, and hosts often serve too much because they want to be generous to their guests. You’ll often feel obligated to finish everything on the plate, which was way more than you actually needed.
Not cleaning your plate doesn’t mean wasting food. Many restaurant dishes are big enough to serve two. You can always share, or take the uneaten portion home to eat the next day. You can make a dinner host feel great by filling your plate with green veggies. Most guests will probably flock to the sweetest options, so your host will appreciate you eating more of their healthier sides.
4. You’re not counting your snacks
It’s easy to reach for snacks when we’re tired or bored. Most people don’t bother to remember how many chips they’ve munched on or how many calories they’ve eaten or how many calories they’ve taken in. If you’re used to purchasing large bags of chips, cookies or other snacks you may not realize how much you’ve eaten more calories than a full meal until the bag is empty.
You can avoid this by snacking smart – eating healthier snacks where possible and parceling out servings so you know how many chips or nuts you’re actually eating. Setting aside 100-calorie portions of your favorite snacks is a great way to understand what you’re eating. Sometimes just buying smaller bags of snacks can help alert you to how much you’re eating.
5. You’re not drinking enough water
You may be reaching for snacks when you’re actually thirsty. Other times, a glass of water or tea can tide you over until your next meal. Drinking water is good for your health for many reasons, but one of the best is that it helps take up room in your stomach so you feel more full. If you’re swapping out high-calorie drinks for water, that’s even a bigger win.
6. You douse your food with dressing
Butter, salad dressing, and condiments all add calories to your meal, and they frequently add more than you realize. They also often add fat and sugar, which renders a relatively healthful meal a bit less good for you. You need to be especially on the lookout at restaurants, where a healthy “salad” may have more calories than a burger because of huge amounts of salad dressing and a host of add-ins.
This doesn’t mean you need to eat like a rabbit all the time. Try to find lower-calorie options for your frequently-used salad dressings and sauces, and try measuring out a portion size at least once to see how much you should be eating. Experiment with cooking methods that require less sauce and oil where possible as well!
Simple ways to avoid accidentally overeating
Given how restaurants and food manufacturers often encourage you to overeat, it can be hard to stick to a healthy eating plan. Fortunately, there are a few ways to take control of how much you consume. Most of these ideas don’t require strict calorie counting either.
1. Fist-size Portion Control
Your stomach is about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide at its widest point. It can expand to take in more food, but you can think about your stomach size as a bit bigger than the size of your fist.
A great rule of thumb is to consider your palm or fist as the serving size for various meal components. This guide from Lifehacker gives you more detailed advice, but your fist is a good starting point. You can eat at bit more for green, leafy vegetables and less for proteins and starchy carbs. For foods you know are high-calorie (like fried foods), eat even smaller portions if possible. A similar trick is to use small salad plates to hold your meals so you are forced to plate only what you can eat.
If you recognize that your portions are much better than they need to be, consider sharing or taking half home. This allows you to enjoy your favorite, tasty meal and make your money go a bit farther. You’ll usually find that the first bite of your dish is the best, and each additional bite adds less and less enjoyment.
2. Slow Down
It takes a few seconds for the brain to register that the stomach is full. Eating slowly, chewing your food thoroughly, and taking a break between helpings will give your brain time to catch up so you don’t feel like rooting around the kitchen for dessert.
A side benefit of eating slowly is that you can enjoy your meals more and savor your favorite dishes. Drinking water can also help in this regard. Not only can water help fill you up as you eat, but the time it takes to drink some water helps you eat more slowly.
3. Drink Zero Calorie Liquids
Plain tea, black coffee, and carbonated water are all essentially zero-calorie drinks. There is some evidence that diet or zero-calorie sodas are not good for your health, but they’re probably better than full-sugar versions. Plain water from the tap or from the refrigerator is great.
Avoid drinking empty calories and you’ll go a long way toward eating healthier. Note that many drinks that are advertised as “healthy,” like juices and fruit smoothies, are actually packed with calories and sugar.
4. Look For Healthier Condiments And Toppings
There are ways to perk up a food item without drowning it in dressing or sauce. Use seasoning mixes, garlic or other flavorings to spice up your veggies. Meats are often great grilled or baked with a spice rub or plain salt and pepper. When you do add sauces, look for reduced-calorie versions or reduce the amount of dressings you add.
Sometimes you can prepare foods in a new way that will make a sauce unnecessary: roasted vegetables are fine without dressing, for instance. By varying different combinations of spices and flavors you can create delicious, zero-calorie-added dishes that taste great!
5. Focus On One Dish in Your Meals
When eating out, pick your one favorite menu item and build a healthy meal around it. If you choose a meat option, look for healthier sides. If it’s a large appetizer, consider eating it as your main course or choose a smaller, healthier main dish. You can even build around desserts by skipping your appetizer and going with a smaller main dish.
You usually don’t need to order an appetizer (or multiple appetizers), a main dish, a large side, a dessert, and a drink. If you can actually eat that much, you probably won’t be able to focus on your favorite dish anyway. By making your favorite the star, you can reduce calories, get the dish you love and feel better on the way home as well.
6. Cut Back On Sugar
Sugar (or other high-cal sweeteners) adds empty calories to whatever you’re eating (or drinking). Try switching to lower-calorie sweeteners when you prepare food at home, and look for foods with no sugar added. If you do need to add sugar or sugary toppings to a dish, try to add it yourself when possible so you can use as little as possible.
7. Eat Your Greens First
Make a point of eating the vegetables on your plate first. This allows you to fill up on the healthful, vitamin-filled green veggies before you even start working on the higher-calorie elements of your meal. Try to add green veggies to as many meals as possible because they’re filling while also being lower in calories (as long as you don’t pile on butter or sauces).
8. Make Grazing Harder
People tend to snack more when snacks are easy to reach for, so make snacking take a bit more work. Maximize your willpower at the supermarket (or ideally before you go shopping) and choose healthier snacks. If you know that you can’t stop after a few chips, make an effort not to keep chips around at all.
If you’re at a buffet or party, try talking to people away from the food area when possible. Use smaller plates to force yourself to take a bit more effort to eat way more than you expect. You’ll notice that if a snack isn’t easily available, a lot of the time you can make due with a simple glass of water.
Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t always easy, but following these tips will help you eat only what you need without having to count calories too often. Pretty soon, these new eating habits will feel natural, and achieving your health goals will be that much easier.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.