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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Checkin' the Digits


You'd never buy a car or even a sweater without knowing how much it cost, right? Well, I feel that way about food and calories. After a long day yesterday, my hubby and I decided to go out (again – it's been one of those weeks). This time it was to another chain with healthy options - PF Chang's. So, before we left, I hopped online to "check the numbers" (I love that PF Chang's publishes both the Nutrition Facts and ingredients – that's especially important for people with food allergies like me, but I also really like seeing exactly what went into my dish).

I prefer to eat smaller frequent meals, so I try not to eat more than about 400 calories at a time. With that in mind, I checked the digits! I love, love, love PF Chang’s Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps which provide 420 calories, but Jack and I split them. So, I knew I’d be spending half of my budget right there. I also knew the rest would come from my favorite dish, steamed Buddha’s Feast (in the photo). Look at all those veggies! It provides just 200 calories, but I can never eat it all (it has to be at least 3 cups). So, 100 more spent. That left about 100 for brown rice (yay, a whole grain – at a chain restaurant!). A serving provides 350 calories, so I planned to eat a quarter of it (88 calories). Grand total – 398 calories, right on target (and another Goldilocks meal).

Calorie budgeting isn’t for everyone, but I will say this – a LOT of my clients greatly over or underestimate the number of calories they take in (usually the latter but both can be dangerous). For example, Panera Bread is another chain that’s popular in my area, and many of my clients eat there often. On many occasions, I’ve heard the phrase, “I don’t understand why I can’t lose weight, I don’t eat big meals.” That may be true, but excess calories don’t always come from huge portions. In many cases, it turned out that their healthy lunch of half a turkey sandwich and half a Greek salad, estimated to be 500 calories, actually provided 740. That difference, just once per day, is enough to keep an extra 24 pounds on a less active person, or 16 pounds on a moderately active person. To put it in perspective, if you over spent (money) by 240 dollars per day, you’d rack up $87,600 worth of debt in a year – yikes!!! Even once a week adds up to $12,480.

Bottom line – sometimes taking a closer look at your “spending habits” can be an eye opening and valuable experience. For more, check out my previous post What’s Your CQ?

Happy weekend!

P.S. My fortune said, “Don’t worry. You’ll always have everything you need.” Nice!
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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