Chips. Trail mix. Pasta. Popcorn. Puffed wheats. Zucchini. Would you have guessed that each of these portions contains 200 calories? Probably not. Which is a problem when you're trying to lose body fat faster.
When people first start out with a “diet’, they are totally unaware of just how calorie-dense typical food options that they’re used to eating really are. In turn, taking them out of a calorie deficit - no matter if they are aware of it or not. This is one of the main reasons why many who “eat clean” or “work hard” can't lose weight and struggle to see results.
Now, this is the reason why I prioritize nutrition in every single BWS program. There's no escaping it: if you're not eating in a calorie deficit, you will never lose fat. If you're interested in optimizing your nutrition for every meal of the day and, in turn, transforming your physique in the most time-efficient manner:
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This is Kelly.
She’s our lead dietitian, and I wanted her to share some of the common problems she finds working with clients who can't lose weight.
"Most people think when someone goes to a dietitian, the dietitian changes everything that they eat, which isn’t entirely true. Part of a dietitians job is to figure out the exact things you like eating, and then make a plan for you to eat it while hitting your goal. One of the biggest things I’ve found after working with hundreds of clients is people make poor food choices, which makes it extremely difficult to not only achieve a calorie deficit (the thing you need to do to lose fat), but also makes adhering to that deficit even more challenging especially when hunger and fatigue sets in later on in the diet.”
So, to help you out with this, in this article, we’re going to showcase what 200 calories actually look like with the most commonly reported “problem” foods from clients of our team of dietitians. This is so that you can see just how easy it is to overeat with these foods. We’ll then show you what 200 calories looks like with much better options. In turn, allowing you to visually see just how much more food you could be eating, and calories you could be saving, with the right swaps.
We’ll start off by looking at the most common problem protein sources that were reported from clients (who 'can't lose fat') of our dietitians. We have:
These protein sources are packed with a ton of additional fat. And, hence, bring up their calorie counts quite a bit. You can see that for 200 calories, you’re not getting much at all. This thus makes these meats very easy to unknowingly overeat. Which makes it challenging for you to lose fat faster (or even at all). Some better options would be to sub the:
... While also just being mindful of how many calories fattier cuts of steak can quickly add up to. In addition, some other excellent leaner protein options are egg whites and most seafood like shrimp for example. Both bring in a ton more volume for just 200 calories. You can see just how much more of these leaner protein sources you’d be able to eat for an equivalent amount of calories.
Plus, these sources can also definitely be made just as tasty with the right seasoning and cooking methods.
Next are carbs. Some of the most problematic snacks we found with clients who can't lose weight were foods like:
For 200 calories, you’re either getting a:
When used in moderation these foods are fine. But let’s be honest. When you’re snacking on these foods, there is no way you’re stopping at these serving sizes. This just goes to show you how quickly the calories can add up without you being aware of it. Not to mention, the impact these foods will have on your hunger will be minimal. If anything, they’ll make you even more hungry after eating them.
In comparison, here’s what 200 calories of strawberries look like.
Here’s what 200 calories of carrots look like.
Here’s what 200 calories of puffed wheats looks like.
And here’s what 200 calories of plain air-popped popcorn looks like.
You can see just how much more volume you’re getting with these foods instead. And why they’re much better options to actually keep you satiated and prevent you from overeating. In turn, allowing you to lose fat faster.
And yes while these swaps are bland on their own, there are endless ways to make these just as satisfying if you just get creative with it.
Another big problem food most clients on their quest to lose fat faster had trouble giving up was ice cream. And I don’t blame them. It’s delicious, of course. But the calories add up very easily. With the whole tub, which isn’t very much at all, it’ll amount to a whopping 1,500 calories.
Instead, a much better option that’s my go-to and still actually satisfying would be something like 2 servings of fat-free Greek yogurt sweetened with cinnamon and a sugar-free sweetener. For 200 calories you’re getting not only more volume but a ton of protein as well.
And here’s what a 200 calorie bowl of Greek yogurt with strawberries, puffed wheats, and sugar-free syrup looks like as well. This just adds even more volume and flavor. You can see just how much better the volume and quality of calories can be with these smarter options.
In addition to these snacks... Some notable carb sources that can be problematic for some, are foods like pasta and rice. Now, these food sources aren’t “bad” at all. But they are very easy to unknowingly overeat. For example, when I’m trying to gain weight and add more size, I’ll incorporate more rice and pasta into my diet. That's because they make eating enough calories easier. And doesn’t impact my hunger as much.
But when I’m trying to lose fat faster, dieting, and watching my calorie intake, I’ll have less of these foods. That's because you don’t get much volume at all relative to the number of calories and fullness they provide. I mean, me being half Filipino, I grew up eating rice pretty much every day. And whenever I’d have it, there’s no way I’d willingly be stopping at 200 calories worth of rice. I would and could easily consume triple that and still not be very full for very long.
For example, here’s 200 calories of rice and here’s 200 calories of cooked pasta.
In comparison, here’s 200 calories of cauliflower, which you could easily chop or grind up to make cauliflower rice.
And here’s 200 calories of zucchini noodles (which surprised me!) Again, you can see just how much more volume and fullness these swaps would provide. That's even if you just replaced half of the original with half of the swap.
Admittedly, you might not like the taste of cauliflower. Or zucchini. That's why I make sure all the coaches here at BWS are well-equipped with the knowledge of customizing all meal plans to your specific taste preferences - while ensuring that you're making smarter food choices in all your meals. Every single day. If you're interested in getting professional help so you eat and train as best as you can:
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Lastly, we have the most problematic food group for those trying to lose fat faster: fats. Now all fats in general, even “healthy” sources will be very dense in calories. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid them. We do need a minimum amount of fat for our body’s to properly function. But, it does mean that you need to be more mindful of your portions whenever you eat them because of how easy they are to overeat.
For example, 200 calories looks like this for the following:
Good sources of fat but as you can see, chances are you’re eating way more than what you thought was just a serving of peanut butter or a serving of nuts. Especially when you just eyeball how much you’re actually eating.
Which is why for these foods, it’s important to not only get yourself familiar with their serving sizes but actually spend the time to weigh out these foods when you consume them just to ensure you’re not overeating.
Similarly, here’s what 200 calories of olive oil and butter look like.
Many of our dietitians’ clients who can't lose weight would regularly add what they thought was an insignificant amount of oil and butter to their foods when cooking them, without realizing that this was adding up to several hundreds or even thousands of calories.
Now, one more problematic fat worth mentioning is salad dressings. As you can see, oil-based dressings don’t provide much at all for 200 calories.
In fact, many of you likely use twice or even triple this amount whenever you have a salad. Which turns what you thought was a low-calorie meal into the equivalent of a couple of slices of pizza. Instead, either again measure these dressings when you use them, or opt for lower-calorie salad dressing options.
For example, this calorie-wise dressing from Kraft is just 5 calories per serving.
Compared to another very similar dressing by Kraft that’s 40 calories per serving.
Which is honestly on the low end of calories as far as salad dressings go. But just goes to show you how easy it is to save a few hundred calories from salad dressings alone!
Some other almost calorie-free options are mustard, lemon, or lime, or one of my personal favorites which is a sweet and sour mix of rice vinegar, crushed red pepper, and stevia.
To wrap everything up for you, here’s what 2,000 calories, or a full day’s worth of calories for many of you, would look like with the more calorie-dense options. Whereas on the other hand, here’s what 2,000 calories would look like with the more calorie-friendly food swaps we went through.
You can see just how much more food you’re able to eat and how much easier it would be to suppress hunger and adhere to your diet by simply making smarter food choices. You can also see just how easy it is to essentially sabotage all the progress you may have made dieting throughout the week by letting loose on the weekends and unknowingly consuming thousands of additional calories from these more calorie-dense foods (hence, why you can't lose weight).
So consider these swaps but more importantly just be mindful of your portions with certain foods. There are no real “good” or “bad” foods, just smarter food options depending on what your goal is.
And to help you out with making some of these swaps into your diet, our team of dietitians at Built With Science has created a free Food Swaps and Substitutions guide for you guys to download and use for reference. It goes through what some of the best options are for your proteins, carbs, and fats and also provides a list of similar calorie alternatives that you can simply swap in for the original recommendation.
To download it:
Click the button below to download the free food swaps and substitutions guide:
And for those looking for a complete, all in one step by step program that shows you exactly what to eat and how to train week after week to transform your body in the most efficient way possible:
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