Size up those portions for a measure of diet control

THE adage "you are what you eat" may not be quite accurate because it is not so much what you eat, but rather how much, and how many kilojoules you consume, that counts.

The pressing issue of health-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes because of a lack of physical activity has forced individuals to search for healthier ways of living – beyond fad diets and weight-loss pills.

"We have now come to the difficult conclusion that weight loss is a way of life. It is a state of mind which must be consistently implemented for us to effectively, and, more importantly, healthily, achieve weight loss," dietitian Leigh-Ann Silber said.

At the top of the list is kilojoule intake: energy in versus energy out.

"Energy in refers to the consumption of food throughout the day. Energy out is your daily energy consumption plus the amount of exercise, or kilojoules burnt, throughout the day," Silber explained.

"Most food you eat will serve as energy and nutrition for your body in the form of kilojoules (this excludes fibre and water, which still make up a vital part of weight loss)."

According to Silber, there are also "empty kilojoules" that plague our homes and offices daily. These are foods that offer little or no nutritional value.

For example, for 490kJ, a 250ml glass of freshly squeezed orange juice supplies 85% of your daily need for vitamin C, while the same amount of a sweetened fizzy orange drink has 500kJ and is empty of any nutrients. Empty kilojoules can easily slip into your diet, such as creamy salad dressing with your favourite greens.

To avoid hidden kilojoules, make a conscious decision to check the nutrition label on packaged foods.

You can also try to consume low kilojoule dairy instead of its full cream variants.

These little changes will help you cut down your daily kilojoule intake.

"Another easy way to decrease excess kilojoule intake is to cut down your sugar intake," Silber said. "Adding two teaspoons of sugar to your tea, coffee or cereal adds extra kilojoules to your diet without adding any nutrients."

Substituting two teaspoons of sugar with a sachet of sweetener, for example, may save you 155kJ. You can also try adding fruit and nuts to cereals for a wholesome and healthy meal.

Control that alcohol intake.

"Alcohol is also an empty kilojoule culprit, and, if we are honest with ourselves, it's quite easy to lose track of the amount consumed and the kilojoules it contains," Silber said.

Lastly, be creative.

Use low kilojoule ingredients in cooking and baking as you can easily replace high kilojoule ingredients with low kilojoule substitutes in your recipes.