Want to shed pounds and keep them off? Stocking your shelves with healthy foods for low-fat meals is only half the battle. The right weight loss gear for the kitchen is a staple of a healthy lifestyle, too.
"People who lose weight and keep it off are meticulous about tracking their food intake and physical activity," says Anne Fletcher, MS, RD, author of several books about successful weight control, including Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep It Off And What They Wish Parents Knew.
Fletcher says knowledge is power. When you find yourself going overboard on your portions or your weight is creeping up, it's easier to pull back right away than to let it get out of control and have to deal with a bigger problem down the road.
Weight Loss Gear You Need
Food Scale: Proper portions are central to weight control. Many people who shed pounds permanently are keenly aware of serving sizes, even when the food is relatively low-calorie. A food scale helps you gauge servings of meat, poultry, seafood, and cheese portions. It's also useful for measuring bread and bagel weights, which tend to vary in density.
Measuring Cups and Spoons: Measuring cups and spoons track the volume of foods. Use a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup for fluids, such as fat-free milk, and a set of metal or plastic cups for solid measures, like whole grain cereal or cooked pasta.
Body Weight Scale: "Weigh-ins allow you to put a plan in place to immediately reverse weight gain," Fletcher says. Purchase a reliable scale and weigh yourself at regular intervals (every week or so, or more if you like) with the same amount of clothing on. Try to stay within three to five pounds of your goal weight.
Food and Activity Diary: Noting what you eat and how much you exercise allows you to tell if you're sticking with your weight loss plan. It may also cause you to pause and think hard about eating that donut or skipping your aerobics class. Your journal could be as simple as a small spiral-bound notebook. Or it could be more sophisticated. like Fletcher's Thin for Life Daybook.
Step Counter: Think you move around enough to keep your weight under control? Think again. Most people overestimate physical activity. Strap on a step counter for a few days, then calculate the average number of steps in your day. Is it the recommended 10,000? If not, add 2,000 steps daily until you reach 10K.
Small Plates As Weight Loss Gear
Weighing and measuring foods account for portion sizes. You can help yourself to more satisfying meals by using smaller plates and bowls which are, believe it or not, part of your weight loss gear arsenal in the kitchen.
"When you use large dishes, you will inevitably serve yourself more food because they make the food look so small," says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
In one of his many studies, Wansink invited 85 nutrition experts to an ice cream social. Guests were randomly given a 17-ounce or 34-ounce bowl and a two- or three-ounce ice cream scoop to serve themselves. Researchers measured the ice cream in each bowl after participants had scooped it up.
People who received the larger bowls took 31% more ice cream -- about 130 calories' worth. Those with the large bowl and the large scoop dished out 57% more than the people using the smaller scoop and smaller bowl. And all but three of the guests polished off all of their ice cream.
"Visual cues are so strong that they override what you know," Wansink says. "We believe our eyes, not our stomachs."
Get out the measuring tape to aid portion control. Wansink recommends a 9-inch dinner plate, not the typical 12-inch dish. He also says using taller glasses rather than the wide variety saves on beverage calories because you tend to pour less. While you're at it, ditch your large bowls, too.
More Weight Loss Gear for the Kitchen
Certain kitchen equipment eases the preparation of reduced-calorie cuisine and makes it taste even better. You may already have these gadgets on hand. Here's how to use weight loss gear to its fullest fat-fighting potential.
Vegetable steamer: Inexpensive metal inserts turn saucepans into steamers that you can use to prepare potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower instead of boiling. Steaming preserves flavor and nutrients.
Mini food processor: This appliance makes it easier to prepare vegetables for flavoring foods in place of fat and sodium.
Grater: A grater is ideal for shredding vegetables to stand in for meat, and for bulking up salads, soups, and stews. Use it to extract the juice and zest from lemons, limes, and oranges to perk up vegetables, meat, and seafood. Finely grated cheese better distributes the flavor so you can use less.
Fat separating pitcher: This weight loss kitchen gadget lets you pour off the flavorful juices
from meat and poultry, and leave the fat behind.
Food processor: Puree, chop, and grate your way to thinness with this appliance, which is also great for preparing fruit and yogurt smoothies; pureeing fruits and vegetables to stand in for syrups and fatty sauces; and for whipping up low-calorie dips and toppings.
Sharp knives. There's nothing like sharp knives for slashing visible fat from meat and cutting up fruits, vegetables, and herbs. At a minimum, keep a paring knife for slicing and peeling produce, a chef's knife for chopping and mincing, and a serrated knife for breads.
Cutting boards: A plastic or wooden cutting board is essential for easy chopping, dicing, and cutting.
Microwave oven: Fruits and vegetables retain much of their nutritional value when cooked in a microwave oven. In addition, you can easily prepare produce in the microwave without added fat.
Nonstick cookware: A set of nonstick pans and bake ware is another kitchen essential. You may be able to get away with preparing foods with little or no added fat, a potential savings of hundreds of calories each time you cook.
Pump bottle: Fill with oil or salad dressing, and use to mist foods, rather than drenching them.
Roasting pan with grate: Always place meats meant for roasting on a grate, rather than directly in the pan. This method drives down calories in the meat by allowing some fat to drip off in the cooking process so that the meat or poultry cannot reabsorb it.
Slotted spoon: Use slotted spoons to remove foods from pans and leave the fat behind.