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Steps to trim calories and waistline

  • Story Highlights
  • Little things add up over time: Cut back on foods that add fat and sugar
  • Mayo and cheese on a sandwich five days a week could add 15 pounds a year
  • Using spices, adding fiber, drinking green tea could help with weight loss
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By Dr. Melina Jampolis
CNN Diet & Fitness expert
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Dr. Melina Jampolis is a San Francisco, California, physician nutrition specialist, a specialty practiced by only about 200 physicians in the United States. She focuses exclusively on nutrition for weight loss and disease prevention and treatment.

Dr. Melina Jampolis gives 14 steps for cutting out excess calories and fat.

Dr. Melina Jampolis gives 14 steps for cutting out excess calories and fat.

(CNN) -- Losing weight and getting healthy isn't easy, but it's often the little things that add up over time. Here are some things you may want to avoid and some you should include in your diet if your resolution is to lose weight and feel fine in 2009.

1. Sideline the salad dressing

A quarter-cup of dressing equals 25 to 30 grams of fat. If you eat three salads with dressing per week, that is the equivalent of a stick of butter per week (52 sticks of butter per year), which can not only increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol, it could lead to a 12-pound gain. Instead, keep dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before every bite.

2. Say no to cheese and mayo

They may not seem that relevant, but if you have a tablespoon of mayo and a slice of cheese on your sandwich five days a week, you could gain almost 15 pounds a year! Go for mustard or even hummus to add flavor.

3. Limit sugar-filled juices, "waters" and sodas

Drinking just three 16-ounce drinks per week equals 52 extra cups of sugar (or 23 pounds of sugar) per year and could lead to an 11.5-pound gain.

4. Watch out for hidden sugars

You may think you are being healthy by eating breakfast cereal, fruit-flavored yogurt, smoothies and even spaghetti sauce, but you may be getting an extra 20 teaspoons of sugar each day with these types of food if you aren't careful.

5. Cut down on fast food

Even "healthier" items like salads are loaded with salt and fat. And some moderate-calorie items like a breakfast biscuit sandwich have more than five times the suggested upper limit of trans fats, the absolute worst kind for your heart. In addition, 77 percent of the salt in our diet comes from processed and fast food, not the salt that we add to food.

So resolve to cut back on fast food and save yourself thousands of calories, artery-clogging grams of fat and blood pressure-raising milligrams of salt.

6. Mix fresh with frozen

Frozen meals are super-convenient but often loaded with salt and sometimes even deadly trans fats. So make sure to include fresh food (especially fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium) with frozen whenever possible so the potassium can balance out the damaging effects of the salt. And be sure to avoid trans fats as much as possible: Look on the ingredient list for the words "partially hydrogenated," and if it is anywhere near the top of the list, skip that food.

7. Go slightly nuts

Nuts used to be on most dieters' "no-no" list, but they are a great food to include if you are trying to lose weight and get healthy. They can help you lose weight, reduce cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes. Just make sure to keep portions under control. And nut butter is OK, too.

8. Boost fiber intake

Fiber is great for dieters, because it fills you up with fewer calories. In addition, it can decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes, so resolve to boost your fiber intake with foods like whole-grain bread, oatmeal, beans and low-sugar cereals.

9. Spice things up

Spices not only make foods taste better without adding hundreds of calories, some may help you lose weight (cayenne pepper boosts metabolism), control blood sugar (cinnamon) and even fight cancer (curry powder).

10. Dark chocolate is OK

Research shows that eating dark chocolate can help you cut calories and control cravings. I tell my chocolate-loving patients to plan on eating a piece or two of dark chocolate for dessert every night, and this usually helps them resist temptation later. In addition, dark chocolate is a great source of heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols.

11. Drink green tea

Research shows that drinking about three cups of green tea can boost metabolism and increase fat burning. Green tea is also a great source of antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation associated with being overweight. So sip a few cups throughout the day, and you'll probably look and feel better!

Coffee is OK in moderation, and the caffeine boosts metabolism, too! Just make sure not to add cream and sugar, which can add hundreds of calories per day.

12. Eat low-fat protein

Low-fat protein is a dieter's dream for several reasons. It controls hunger better than carbohydrates or fat. It can help keep blood sugar stable when combined with carbs, which keeps energy levels more stable, and it requires more calories to digest, so it may boost metabolism slightly (every little thing adds up). So make sure you get small amounts throughout the day, and it will make losing weight a lot more manageable (examples: chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, tuna, Greek yogurt, etc.)

13. Downsize your latte and skip the second cocktail

Making these two simple changes can save you 250 calories per day and can help you lose (or not gain) up to 26 pounds per year!

14. Start with soup

High-water foods like soup help you feel fuller with fewer calories. Research shows that starting a meal with soup can help you cut calories effortlessly. Just choose low-salt varieties, or make your own.

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