I am vegetarian and love food, so this was a lifestyle change for sure.
The first thing I figured out was there were many “useless” calories I was taking in purely for the acquired tastes I had developed.
If there’s one thing you really need to control about your diet and you don’t want to do anything else, then eliminate your intake of processed sugar foods.
That in itself will reduce your weight, with no other dramatic changes by 10-15% in 3-4 weeks.
To hit 1500 calories, with as “normal” a schedule as possible, i.e. 5 meals – breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner, you have to ensure no meal exceeds 300 calories.
That’s a good rule of thumb to follow.
1. Breakfast: I have largely eliminated many foods: processed orange juice, peanut butter, coconut chutney, muffins, jellies and jams, etc. from my diet already. Surprisingly I don’t miss them anymore. My breakfast was usually one of 7 items –
a) Old fashioned oatmeal – cooked in water with 1/4 cup of milk (preferably fat free or almond milk),
b) 3 egg whites (only whites either boiled or omelet stye),
c) 1 piece of toast no butter,
d) 1/2 cup of vegetable upma,
e) 2 pieces of idli with milaga podi,
f) 2 dosas (no masala),
g) one piece of fruit – any fruit, with the normal serving size,
and either fat-free milk or Almond milk (this has the least calories, all the nutrition of regular milk and still fills you up).
Some days I would eat cereal (any cereal with the recommended serving size – I eliminated ones with extra sugar), but they were limited to 1 day a week.
These items rarely contribute over 300 calories, unless you go over the serving size.
Since I had to manually update MyFitnessPal after every meal, I was happy to reduce my food options and stick to these 7 items.
2. Morning Snack: I stuck to either fruit (grapes, or apple were convenient for grab and go) or granola for my morning snack. Sometimes I would have another glass of milk. Sometimes I substituted nuts (almond or walnut, plain, not salted).
3. Lunch: My lunch in India was 1 chapatti, 1/4 cup of dal (any dal), 1/4 cup of any green vegetable – cooked, 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/4 cup of rice and any amount of cucumber and carrots.
In the US, my lunch is the same every day – 4 cups of leafy greens – spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc. 1/4 cup of firm tofu, 1/4 cup of garbanzo beans, 2 Tbsp of dried, sweetened cranberries, 1 boiled egg white, 1/4 cup of red beets, 1/4 cup of cucumbers or green bell pepper, 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar – no other dressing or oil.
4. Afternoon snack – I would indulge in either nuts or I’d substitute a protein bar (290 calories max) – the ones I liked the most were Clif or Builders protein bar.
5. Dinner: This varied from one of 5 items:
a) Indian: 2 chapattis, 1/2 cup of any vegetable, 1/4 cup of any dal (rajma, channa, masur, toor, etc.) and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Some days I’d make some mixed rice (with vegetables or soy chunks). Once a month I’d eat a stuffed paratha.
b) Italian: 1/2 cup of pasta with more vegetables than pasta, OR 1 slides of pizza with limited cheese
c) Japanese: Vegetarian sushi 8 pieces and miso soup
d) Mexican: Taco salad, with no shell (lettuce, beans, salsa, etc), but I would not eat the taco or burrito.
e) Chinese: 1/2 cup of noodles, or 1/2 cup of stir-fried vegetables. Lettuce wraps were good as well, stuffed with Tofu or other vegetables.
This is pretty regimented. I know it wont work for all, but it worked for me.
I did have a nutritionist review my daily breakup of calories by food group (MyFitnessPal lets you do that) and she was pretty happy with the breakup of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats.