I wish there was a GPS system for navigating food choices. Let's say you plan to consume 2000 calories including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks. But, then you decided to veer off course and grab a couple of mid-morning donuts and a cappuccino. The GPS voice would loudly announce, "Recalculating! Recalculating!"
All of a sudden, your edible journey is re-routed to skip the afternoon snack and dessert at dinnertime might disappear, too. This kind of a GPS system--I'll call it Good Plate Sense-could also reward you for sensible shortcut like skipping cheese on your lunch burger. "Recalculating! When you arrive at the dinner destination, you can add a glass of wine."
Keeping track of how much you eat and drink can be a hassle. But spending a little time self-monitoring can help you control your weight, according to a review of 15 studies on dietary self-monitoring. The results published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found associations in all 15 studies between journaling and weight loss.
Some weight-loss subjects used paper diaries to write down their food intake and some used electronic or internet-based diaries; but the review found no difference in the amount of weight lost between groups. Researchers found that dieters with electronic diaries were more likely to keep up with what they ate daily, but it didn't affect the weight loss overall--good to know if don't have a fancy iPhone app and have to track your eating habits on the back of an envelope.
Keeping track of what you eat helps you know when to stop. Even if it's not printed on the menu, most chain restaurants share nutrition information on their websites, which you can access from a smart phone when dining out. For instance, if you know your daily calorie cap is 2000, then it's easy pretty easy to figure out that ordering the full rack of baby back ribs at Outback Steakhouse (1,500 calories) doesn't leave you much room for other meals. But if chose a 9-ounce steak with a side of green beans (500 calories), there will plenty of room left.
A recent study by the New York City Department of Health showed that 15 percent of fast-food patrons in the city who use nutrition information posted in restaurants eat an average of 106 fewer calories than those who ignore the calorie content.
Other studies have shown mixed results, but I believe access to nutrition information helps us plan our health journey. Just remember to write that data down so you can plot a map to weight control success. That makes good plate sense.