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Shopping Tips for When You're Counting Calories

From the produce section to the snack-food aisle, how to pick foods that will make losing weight easier.
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Dairy

Seek out dairy products that get 30 percent or fewer calories from fat. When choosing milk, opt for "skim," "fat-free/nonfat" or "1 percent." (Avoid the misleadingly labeled "reduced-fat" 2 percent milk; about 36 percent of its calories come from fat.) However, "low-fat" (1 percent) or "nonfat" yogurts, cottage cheese and sour cream are all worth trying. If you’re buying soy or rice "milk," check the label to make sure it’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D—and to make sure you’re aware of any added sugars.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with lower-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella or Jarlsberg or reduced-fat Cheddars; they’ve improved greatly in recent years. (You can always blend them with a little full-fat cheese to boost flavor and texture.) Buy full-fat cheeses with strong flavors, like feta, blue, Parmesan or aged Cheddar—and count on just a little bit going a long way. If you buy butter, plan on using it sparingly—slice off a half-stick and store the rest in the freezer. Or if you prefer a buttery spread, read labels to find one that’s free of heart-threatening trans fats. Don’t forget the eggs—at 75 calories apiece, they’re a diet-friendly protein source (and, contrary to popular belief, don’t raise most people’s blood cholesterol noticeably, since their saturated-fat content is fairly low). Fat-free egg substitutes (mostly consisting of egg white) are an even better calorie bargain; they’re only about 30 calories per 1⁄4-cup serving, though you might find them a bit bland compared to whole eggs.

Freezer

Stock up on plain frozen vegetables (shun the ones with sauce or butter) so that you’ve always got some veggies on hand. Most are frozen right after picking to preserve nutrients and flavor, so you don’t have to feel you’re compromising. You might also find some "healthy" frozen entrees—great "fallback" meal insurance, if you like how they taste (check labels to ensure they’re really "healthy," and watch the sodium). Pick up some 100 percent fruit juice concentrates and, for semi-indulgent treats, stock up on low-fat ice milks, yogurts and/or sorbets. Look for single-serving packages that allow you to eat a fixed amount.

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