The Five Best Tools for Calorie Counters

Last year, I lost 60 pounds simply by counting the calories that I ate each day. I didn't try to "crash diet", but kept to a strict but healthy number of calories per day for my height. I also had a few calorie-counting tools to help me along.

If you're counting your calories in order to lose a few pounds, you should have a few tools to help you along your journey, too. The following calorie counting tools were my greatest assets for losing weight.

A reliable digital kitchen scale. Weighing portions is one of the most important things you can do to accurately count calories. There is often a huge difference between what our eyes see as a "serving" and what the intended serving of food actually is. A reliable digital kitchen scale makes it much easier to control your portions, because numbers don't lie!

Be sure that the scale you buy has both ounce and metric measuing capability so you can measure what any label tells you is a serving. Also, be sure that your scale measures down to a tenth of an ounce or to the gram for better accuracy in weighing your portions.

Measuring cups and spoons. While some portions are measured by weight, others are measured by their size. You'll need a decent set of plastic or metal measuring cups and spoons in order to accurately measure out a quarter cup of rice or a tablespoon of sour cream. Fortunately, these are pretty inexpensive and available just about anywhere, from grocery stores to big box stores to dollar stores. Get a couple of sets; that way if you need your 1/4 cup and one has been used, you have another one at the ready.

Helpful calorie-counting websites. Need to know how many calories is in that potato or that ear of corn? Try caloriecount.com or fitwatch.com. Both sites have free calorie counters you can use to find out how many calories are in something that may not have a label. Caloriecount.com even has an app for your IPhone so you can count on the go.

Going out to eat? Don't forget to visit the websites of your favorite fast food restaurants. Almost all of them, including McDonald's, now have a page that lists the nutritional information on every menu item. Calculate your meal total before you ever leave the house!

Knowing good substitutions. Craving a salty crunch? Don't blow your diet by eating a bag of potato chips or torture yourself by eating "just one". Try a few crunchy pickle slices instead!

Knowing good, low-calorie substitutions for high-calorie foods can make a huge difference in how satisfied you are at the end of the day and how likely you are to stick with your daily calorie count.

And last but not least, one of the most important calorie counting tools for me was a journal that I kept of my weight loss. It wasn't anything too complicated, just an Excel spreadsheet with columns for each week's date and a row where I put in my weight loss total for the week.

This was helpful in two ways - when I got discouraged I was able to look back at the weeks passed and see just how much weight I really was losing. Also, I could see places where I was getting a little lazy and my weight loss was slowing. I had hard evidence in front of me of both my successes and where I needed to apply a little more effort.

Tools are important to any project, and weight loss is no different. Have the right tools in your bag and make it easier on yourself. Happy calorie counting!

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