I wish there was a GPS system for navigating food choices. Let’s say your meal plan for the day directed you to consume 2000 calories nicely mapped out to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks. But, then you decided to veer off course and grab a couple of mid-morning donuts and a cappuccino. The GPS voice would loudly announce, “Recalculating! Recalculating!” All of a sudden, your edible journey is re-routed to skip the afternoon snack and dessert at dinnertime might disappear, too. This kind of a GPS system- I’ll call it Good Plate Sense – might also reward you for taking a sensible short cut when available such as skipping the cheese slices on your burger at lunch which shaves off about 100 calories. “Recalculating! When you arrive at the dinner destination, you can add a glass of wine.”
Write it if you bite it.
Keeping track of food intake including what you eat, drink and how much of each can be a hassle. But, research shows that spending a little time on self-monitoring adds up to significant gains in weight control success according to a review of 15 studies on dietary self-monitoring in weight loss research programs. The results published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found associations in all of the studies between recording what you eat and weight loss. Some weight loss subjects used paper diet diaries to write down their food intake and some used electronic PDA diaries or internet based diaries; but the review found no difference in the amount of weight lost between groups. They did find that the dieters with the PDA diaries were more likely to keep up with daily food intake recordings, but it didn’t affect the weight loss overall. That’s good to know if don’t have a fancy PDA and have to write down what you eat on the back of an envelope or the restaurant receipt.
Are we there yet?
Keeping track of what you eat helps you know when to say ‘when’. Even if it’s not printed on the menu, most chain restaurants share nutrition information on their websites which you can access from a smart phone when dining out. For instance, if you know your daily calorie cap is 2000, then it’s easy pretty easy to figure out that ordering the full rack of baby back ribs at Outback Steakhouse which contains a little over 1,500 calories doesn’t leave you much room for other meals that day! Outback’s Interactive Nutritional Menu Tool on the company’s website helps you steer toward leaner choices such as the 9 ounce steak with a side of green beans for less than 500 calories. Brian Castrucci, Director of Maternal and Child Health within the Georgia Department of Community Health says the nutrition information on the menus at IHOP affected what and how much he ordered, “I saved 50 calories by choosing ham instead of bacon and 500 calories by saying no to a stack of three more pancakes. I never would have thought it would impact my eating habits, until I saw it impact my eating habits.” A recent study by the New York City Department of Health showed that 15% of fast-food patrons in the city who use nutrition information posted in restaurants eat an average of 106 fewer calories than those who ignore the calorie content. I believe access to nutrition information helps us plan our journey just as a car’s GPS system tells us how many miles to go before we get to our final destination.