She understood the concept, but wanted samples of low-calorie meals. This is not the first time I've been asked for tips and tricks on eating, so the topic is obviously of great interest to my clients.
My recent recommendations for female clients is to shoot for 250-300 calories five times a day. This gives them 1,500 calories a day maximum.
I do not recommend going below this level because there's little leeway: 1,200 calories is the minimum for basic body function. If you do not meet that minimum level, your body will not perform at a level conducive for health or weight loss and will slow your metabolism down to keep from starving.
Those who work out a few times a week will burn more calories; we always can adjust a little later if needed, depending on the activity level and nutritional needs of the client.
For men, my recommendation is 400-500 calories five times a day. Men also should avoid going below 1,200 calories a day, and should watch carefully how they function at that level; if needed, adjust higher to maintain basic body function.
Here are some ideas for meals. Calorie count is approximate.
- low-fat yogurt (80 calories), a banana (105 calories) and a dollop of peanut butter (85 calories)
- two packages of oatmeal (300 calories)
- multi-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese (320 calories)
- two eggs (140 calories) plus two pieces of whole wheat toast with a dab of butter (200 calories)
- Cheese sandwich: two slices of low-fat cheese and mustard (150 calories) on two slices of bread (100 calories)
- Lunch meat sandwich: two slices of meat and mustard (150 calories) on two slices of bread (100 calories)
- Soup (300 calories per can) (note: watch sodium content)
- Half a sandwich and half a can of soup
- Tuna (80 calories per can) (note: every tablespoon of mayonnaise is 100 calories, so use at your discretion for sandwiches, salad with crackers, etc.)
- Whole wheat pasta (175 calories per cup) with marinara sauce (60 calories per half-cup)
- Bean burritos (120 calories for beans, 120 per tortilla) with low-fat cheese (50 calories)
- Meat (150 calories for three ounces of meat) with steamed vegetables (35 calories per cup) and cooked rice (120 calories per half-cup)
- Your choice of fruit and vegetables, including salad (most of your calories will come from dressing); apples are about 75 calories each, pears are about 80 calories each, cherry tomatoes are 27 calories per cup, lettuce is negligible (so unless you're eating a forest of it, don't worry about the calories)
- Include nuts in your snacks and salads — they're a healthy fat. (Other good fats are fish and virgin olive oil)
- Trail mix (150 calories for a palm-full of the snacking goodness)
- Cereal bar (110 calories each)
- Granola bar (140 calories each)
- Protein bar (up to 300 calories)
Be sure to count your calories for any beverages you consume with your meals. For example:
- Coffee is roughly a calorie per ounce, plus sweetener (25 calories per packet of sugar) and creamer (20 calories per tablespoon)
- Tea is two calories per 8-ounce cup
- Skip soda, Gatorade and other sweetened packaged drinks
When you start counting calories, keep a food journal to make counting easier and more accurate.
Mix and match: toss a little trail mix into your salad, eat a tomato with a little vinegar for a snack, substitute rice for the cheese in your burrito. Don't let calorie-counting become difficult or cumbersome.
Share your low-cal food ideas with me, and I'll share them with the rest of the class.