5 Small Changes = BIG Results!

Registered Dietitian Melanie Douglass has five small changes you can make in order to get BIG results.


22,464. That’s the number of calories you could save per year by simply eating unbuttered toast. It’s also equal to six pounds of body weight; weight you could gain, lose, or not gain based upon a tiny day-to-day decision. And it’s a seemingly insignificant sacrifice that brings very significant results.

If I told you that you had to “eat less and move more” to reclaim your health would you be shocked? Would you think “wow, that is really revolutionary!”. Nope. You wouldn’t. Most of us know what needs to be done to improve our health. We know those familiar “eat less, move more” words very well on paper. It seems so easy. It should work. But it doesn’t. The problem isn’t understanding what needs to be done, it’s finding practical ways to make it happen in day-to-day life.

There’s no one right way for everybody to improve their health. There is no single unique blueprint for all of mankind. The reality is that different methods work on different days, based upon the situation, the surroundings, and your mood. There’s so much to do and so little time… you can’t do it all. That’s why some days you perfectly control your calorie intake or cook healthy, some days you exercise more efficiently, some days you get eight hours of sleep, and some days you don’t do a single thing right. It’s called balance. And that’s where “small” things you for your health can come in and save the day.

Here are 5 “small” things you can try to make a BIG difference in your health.

You don’t have to do all of these things at once. You might make a mental connection with the 1, 2, or 5 of these philosophies—if so, then you’ll naturally want to do it again and incorporate it into your lifestyle. And, you might even come up with your own “5 small things” after trying a few of these.

Profound changes often occur from seemingly “little” things. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Tip 1: Cut all Portions by 1/3

For this tip to really work, you have to scoop/pour/prepare the amount of food you would normally consume. THEN, take 1/3 of that portion away. If you commonly consume 2500 calories and would like to lose a few pounds, cutting all portions by 1/3 could actually save ~ 850 calories—just for the day! Theoretically, cutting 500 calories per day should lead to a weight loss of about 1 pound per week.

Here are a few examples of how cutting your portions by just 33% can make a big difference in your health:

2-cup serving cereal with milk = ~ 300 calories

1 1/3 cup serving cereal with milk = ~ 200 calories

Calories saved = 100

2.5-cups fettucine alfredo (restaurant portion) = 1500 calories

1 ¾ cup serving = 1000 calories

Calories saved = 500

Tip 2: Keep Strong-Flavored Mints or Gum on Hand at All Times

Are you having a craving for something sweet? Does it happen everyday about the same time? Try this: brush your teeth, put a stick of gum in your mouth, use a strong-flavored mint or spray, and start sipping water from a water bottle or glass.

This little trick works for me all the time. If I’ve already eaten breakfast and find myself looking through the cupboards for everything and anything with sugar or chocolate, I chew some powerful minty gum and start drinking some water. It really works! Sugar just doesn’t taste as good with the overpowering aftertaste of mint in your mouth. And if a food doesn’t taste good, don’t ever waste your valuable calories on it!

Tip 3: Have a Contingency Plan for Evening Snacks

If you find yourself looking for food after dinner, or just a few hours before you are getting ready to sleep (and barely move a muscle), then decide in advance what types of snacks you will eat.

Here are my favorites:

– string cheese and a small apple

– one handful of almonds and a glass of milk

– one cup of fresh fruit and milk, or string cheese, or almonds

These days, evening snacks are so hefty, they’re like a meal. And that’s the last thing your body needs when you’re getting ready to sleep for several hours and burn very few calories.

The common “evening” snacks are too high in calories, fat, sugar and/or sodium. For example:

Ice Cream: 1 small cup has 300 calories, 1 Tbsp. of fat and over 8 tsp. of sugar.

Butter-Flavor Microwave Popcorn: 1 small snack bag has 250 calories, 1 ½ Tbsp. of fat, and 300 mg of sodium.

Cookies and Milk: 2 cookies with 1 cup of milk contains 400 calories, 8 tsp. of sugar, and 1 ½ Tbsp. of fat.

Chips and Soda Pop: 2 ounces of chips and a 12 fl ounce can of soda pop contains 450 calories, 1 ½ Tbsp. of fat, and 600 mg of sodium (that’s about half the sodium you should have in an entire day).

Tip 4: Stop and Taste the Food: Sit Down to Eat

I’m all for enjoying your favorite foods in moderation. I am not however, a fan of eating your favorite foods so fast (or while your so busy) that you completely miss out on the enjoyment of the food. Nothing is worse than making your body deal with a bunch of excess calories when you didn’t even taste it—or worse, notice that you ate it!

Stop, sit down, and actually taste the food you eat today. If you slip up, and start to mindlessly eat food, then make yourself sit down—or stop what you are doing—and take 2 minutes to eat the food in peace. If you give your brain a chance to send the “I’m satisfied” signals, it will. Those signals are essential to having a healthy relationship with food. Enjoy a small amount of your favorite food with intention and then move on with your day. Get busy crossing other important thing off your to-do list.

Tip 5: Visualize the Sugar

Read the nutrition facts label (if available) and look at the grams of sugar for everything you eat. And here’s the most important part of all this: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.

For example: A common 2-cup bowl of (not-to-mention-any-names) Fruit-y Circles has 24 grams of sugar, which equals 6 tsp of sugar. A 20-ounce bottle of soda has 66 grams of sugar, which equals 17 tsp of sugar. Yikes!

Some foods have natural sugar and some have good-old-fashioned table sugar. Foods like milk and fruits have natural sugars, but they also have fiber, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Foods with added sugars—like treats, soda, fruit drinks, fruit snacks, pudding, ice cream, fruited yogurts, and most snack foods—generally do not. Try to eat no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar today. (That’s the recommendation for healthy living, but we usually consume much more than that… you’ll see.)


Have a health question for Melanie? Click here to submit your question http://www.tipadayguide.com/blog and Melanie will answer your question on an upcoming Studio 5 segment!


By Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM

Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living

(Deseret Book, 2007)


© 2007 Melanie Douglass, Deseret Book

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