Think BEFORE You Eat

by Charles Platkin, PhD

How is that possible? All diets fail? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “diet” means “food and drink regularly provided or consumed” — how can you fail at that? The problem is that we have made “diet” into a negative word, a word that conjures up neon lights that flash: RESTRICTION, DON’T EAT, BLAND, NO TASTE, and the list goes on.

However, shedding pounds doesn’t have to be about those words. I know, everyone is looking for a quick fix. Why not? But the only place you need to look is right in front of your mouth — and the answer is there. You need to do a “self-audit.”

This means you need to conduct a basic review of what you currently eat and drink. Pay attention to what you’re eating and become familiar with the calorie, fat, and carbohydrate content of your foods. Then, start negotiating with yourself as to which foods you are willing to replace or eliminate in order to reduce your daily intake by a few hundred calories.

It doesn’t have to be a major sacrifice. It can be as simple as taking a few seconds before pushing the next French fry into your mouth. That moment of pause in which you think, “Hey, maybe I can have a whole baked potato instead of these fries and save a few calories…” just might be more effective than any of the so-called “diets” you’ve tried.

So maybe all you need to do is think BEFORE you eat. Here are a few examples of easy substitutions. They may not fit exactly into your lifestyle, but I’m pretty sure that with a little effort, you can find some that might make your Atkins, South Beach, Dr. Phil, Weight Watchers or whatever diet you’re on (or aren’t on) a little less difficult.

  • INSTEAD OF: Breakstone’s All Natural Salted Butter (3 tablespoons): 300 calories, 33g fat, 0g carbs
  • SAVE 120 CALORIES WITH: Breakstone’s All Natural Salted Whipped Butter (3 tablespoons): 180 calories, 21g fat, 0g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 165 CALORIES WITH: Smart Balance 37% Light Buttery Spread (3 tablespoons): 135 calories, 15g fat, 0g carbs
  • OR STILL EVEN BETTER, SAVE 290 CALORIES WITH: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray (12 sprays): 10 calories, 1g fat (carbohydrate information not available)


  • INSTEAD OF: A Big Mac, large fries and large Coke: 1,450 calories, 59g fat, 204g carbs
  • SAVE 360 CALORIES WITH: A Quarter Pounder, medium fries, and medium Coke: 1,090 calories, 43g fat, 153g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 830 CALORIES WITH: A Chicken McGrill, small fries and large Diet Coke: 620 calories, 27g fat, 65g carbs
  • STILL BETTER, SAVE 1,025 CALORIES WITH: A Chicken McGrill, side salad and large Diet Coke: 425 calories, 17g fat, 42g carbs
  • STILL EVEN BETTER, SAVE 1,153 CALORIES WITH: 2 Chicken McGrills (no bun, no mayo), a side salad with low-fat dressing, and a large Diet Coke: 297 calories, 9g fat, 15g carbs


  • INSTEAD OF: A Haagen-Dazs Caramel Pecan Nut Cluster Ice Cream Bar: 420 calories, 16g fat, 31g carbs
  • SAVE 140 CALORIES WITH: A Klondike Original Bar: 280 calories, 19g fat, 24g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 260 CALORIES WITH: A Good Humor Chocolate Eclair Bar: 160 calories, 8g fat, 20g carbs
  • OR STILL BETTER, SAVE 340 CALORIES WITH: A Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Sorbet Bar: 80 calories, 0g fat, 20g carbs
  • OR STILL EVEN BETTER, SAVE 360 CALORIES WITH: A Fudgsicle: 60 calories, 1g fat, 11g carbs


  • INSTEAD OF: Nachos with the works (cheese, beef, beans, sour cream): 1,704 calories, 105g fat, 138g carbs
  • SAVE 1,358 CALORIES WITH: Nachos with cheese and salsa: 380 calories, 19g fat, 44g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 1,540 CALORIES WITH: Chips (1 cup) and salsa (1/2 cup): 164 calories, 7g fat, 24g carbs


  • INSTEAD OF: Movie theater popcorn with butter (medium): 1,170 calories, 90g fat, 70g carbs
  • SAVE 690 CALORIES WITH: Smart Food White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn (3 cups): 480 calories, 30g fat, 42g carbs
  • OR BETTER, SAVE 717 CALORIES WITH: Caramel-coated popcorn (3 cups): 453 calories, 13g fat, 83g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 951 CALORIES WITH: Oil-popped popcorn with butter (3 cups): 219 calories, 14g fat, 22g carbs
  • OR STILL BETTER, SAVE 1,078 CALORIES WITH: Air-popped popcorn (3 cups): 92 calories, 1g fat, 19g carbs


  • INSTEAD OF: Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise (3 tablespoons): 300 calories, 33g fat, 0g carbs
  • SAVE 150 CALORIES WITH: Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise (3 tablespoons): 150 calories, 15g fat, 3g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 225 CALORIES WITH: Hellmann’s Just 2 Good Reduced Fat Mayonnaise (3 tablespoons): 75 calories, 6g fat, 6g carbs
  • OR STILL BETTER, SAVE 270 CALORIES WITH: Smart Beat Nonfat Mayonnaise Dressing (3 tablespoons): 30 calories, 0g fat, 9g carbs
  • OR STILL EVEN BETTER, SAVE 285 CALORIES WITH: Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard (3 teaspoons): 15 calories, 0g fat, <1g carbs


  • INSTEAD OF: Wendy’s Bacon and Cheese Baked Potato: 560 calories, 25g fat, 67 carbs
  • SAVE 140 CALORIES WITH: Wendy’s Plain Baked Potato, with reduced fat margarine (3 tablespoons): 420 calories, 17g fat, 61g carbs
  • OR EVEN BETTER, SAVE 220 CALORIES WITH: Wendy’s Sour Cream and Chives Baked Potato: 340 calories, 6g fat, 62 carbs
  • OR STILL EVEN BETTER, SAVE 399 CALORIES WITH: “Guiltless Fries” — cut up a baked potato, spray it with PAM and sprinkle with flavored breadcrumbs (1 tablespoon), and bake for 45 minutes: 161 calories, 0g fat, 36g carbs
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