Celebrity Calorie Bargains

by Charles Platkin, PhD


What if we were as cost-conscious about our calorie consumption as we are about our spending?

Unfortunately, we have a finite number of calories in our bodies’ budgets, just as we have limited funds in our pocketbooks. So how can we be sure we’re making good use of the calories we consume? The answer: Look for Calorie Bargains. Calorie Bargains are foods that are relatively low in calories but still taste great and satisfy your strongest temptations. You use these “cheaper” foods to replace others you eat regularly that are more calorically “expensive.” But remember, if it doesn’t satiate you, a Calorie Bargain can easily turn into a Calorie Rip-off, which means you’ll end up eating more food, consuming more calories and gaining more weight.

You can find your own Calorie Bargains with just three easy steps.

Step 1: Think of a food you typically eat each day. It might be a guilty pleasure or simply a high-calorie food you think might be worth replacing — if you had a good substitute.

The food I eat now that I’m willing to change: Lay’s regular potato chips, 150 calories per serving.
Serving size I would eat in a typical sitting (Be honest!): Three servings, about four handfuls.
Total calories: 150 x 3 = 450 calories.

Step 2: Now, try to think of a substitute for that food. It’s got to be something you think you might like, and it’s got to have fewer calories.

My potential Calorie Bargain: Air-popped popcorn, 25 calories per serving.
Serving size I would eat in a typical sitting (Be honest!): Three servings, about four handfuls.
Total calories: 25 x 3 = 75 calories.

You just saved a whopping 375 calories. So, if you normally eat chips three times per week, and you replace them with popcorn, you could lose as much as 15 pounds in a year!

Step 3: Is this Calorie Bargain worth it? Is it a good choice? Why do I think it will or won’t last?

I’ve spent years finding Calorie Bargains for myself and getting tips on others from readers, so I began to wonder what ” do to create the Calorie Bargains that help them stay fit. Here are a few notables:

Mike Huckabee, governor of the state of Arkansas, lost more than 100 pounds and made healthy living a priority for his administration.
Used to Eat: Premium ice cream, 2 cups, 550 calories.
Calorie Bargain: Yarnell’s “Carb Aware” guilt-free ice cream made with Splenda. “You can’t tell the difference between this and regular premium ice cream, which it has replaced in my . Yarnell’s is amazingly good, and it’s what we serve at the governor’s mansion. Guests are shocked to find out it’s a sugar-free, low-fat, low-carb product.” 2 cups, 250 calories.
Calorie Savings: 300.

Bobby Flay, chef/restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality. Forthcoming book “Bobby Flay’s Grilling for Life” (Scribner, May 2005).
Used to Eat: “When I was younger, I loved eating breakfast sandwiches consisting of fried eggs, bacon and cheese every morning on my way to work.” 440 calories.
Calorie Bargain: “Now I prepare healthy smoothies for breakfast or yogurt with fresh fruit.” 16-ounce low-calorie smoothie (no sugar), about 150 calories; low-fat yogurt with fruit, 220 calories.
Calorie Savings: About 250.

Denise Austin, fitness expert, author, fitness DVD personality (star of more than 40 exercise videos and DVDs). Most recent release is “Denise Austin’s Personal Training System.”
Used to Eat: Baked potato (100 calories) with 2 tablespoons of sour cream (about 120 calories) and 1 tablespoon butter (60 calories) for a total of 280 calories. Frappuccino and whipped cream at Starbucks, 390 calories.
Calorie Bargain: “I’ve replaced the sour cream and butter with 2 tablespoons of salsa for 30 calories. And you can make your own coffee treat with a lot less calories. Use ice cubes, 1/2 cup skim milk (about 50 calories) and 1/2 cup decaf coffee. Froth it up and blend it.”
Calorie Savings: 150 for the potato extras; 340 for the coffee drink.

Drew Nieporent, renowned New York City restaurateur (Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Nobu London and The Coach House), lost more than 100 pounds.
Used to Eat: Cheeseburger and fried onions, 550 calories; potato chips, 300 calories.
Calorie Bargain: Now it’s grilled salmon with arugula, 450 calories; pickles, 20 calories.
Calorie Savings: 100 for the burger, 280 for the chips.

Anne Russell, editor-in-chief of “Shape” magazine.
Used to Eat: Pretzels or chips for snacking, 300 calories. “Chips and other prepared snack foods weren’t important to me in a nutritional sense, but they were extremely important to me in a recreational eating sense. Between meals, especially in the afternoon, I crave a fun snack — something that has a lot of crunch and strong flavor.”
Calorie Bargain: “My favorite substitution is half a bag of sugar snap peas, 100 calories. The peas, which you eat whole in the pod, are crispy, a little sweet and, with a little salt, are far more satisfying than chips. Veggies like radishes and carrots are also good substitutes.”
Calorie Savings: 200.

Charles Stuart Platkin, nutrition and wellness advocate, author, columnist and Ph.D. candidate, lost 50 pounds and has kept it off for 10 years.
Used to Eat: Chips, cookies and ice cream in the evening, 600 calories.
Calorie Bargain: I have loads of Calorie Bargains — that’s how I lost 50 pounds — but I guess one of my favorites is pan popcorn. I don’t love air-popped corn, so I started experimenting and found a way to use regular kernels, a skillet and cooking spray. Put the kernels in a deep pot that has been lightly coated with vegetable cooking spray, cover and turn on the heat. Make sure to open the lid slightly from time to time to release the steam. Shake the pot during cooking. After a number of burned batches I was finally able to get it right. 5 cups (popped): 100 calories.
Calorie Savings: About 500.

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