A spoonful of food won’t make or break your diet, but some spoonfuls are better than others. When I was losing weight, I learned a lot about portion control, taking advantage of foods that were good for weight loss so I could get the most nutrition for my calories. These one-spoonful hacks are some I used when I was losing 150 pounds. Seventeen years into weight maintenance, I’m still using them.
1. Lemon Juice
I love a little lemon juice in my water and drink lemon-flavored water all day long. A spoonful of lemon juice adds flavor, gives you some vitamin C, and is almost calorie free. If you love flavored water like I do but don’t want the calories in most juices, add a spoonful of lemon juice and save your calories for real food.
A single spoonful of your favorite dessert is a great way to control your calories and still have a bite of something decadent. I often have a single spoonful of cake at a party or a small spoonful of ice cream after dinner. The first spoonful is often the best, and if I really savor the tastes and flavors, I can stop at one spoonful.
Honey is a natural sweetener that has antioxidants and important minerals. While its benefit as a weight loss superstar has not been documented conclusively, you can use honey as part of your diet. I use a spoonful of honey as a way to sweeten plain Greek yogurt, hot tea, or oatmeal. A tablespoon of honey has just 64 calories, which isn’t much at all.
4. Chia Seeds
The first time I bought chia seeds my whole family groaned. Instead of telling them that chia seeds are full of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium, I quietly added them to spaghetti sauces, salads, and soups. There are only 69 calories in a half ounce (about a spoonful), and the 5 grams of fiber help you stay full. And my family? They still don’t know I add chia seeds to many meals.
5. Dark Chocolate
I do love some good chocolate but know that too much is bad for weight loss and maintenance. I get my chocolate fix by limiting how much I eat. When I want something sweet, I have a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips or a piece of dark chocolate. Each satisfies my sweet tooth in just 70 calories and gives me a boost of antioxidants.
6. Cayenne Pepper
We like spicy foods around our house. I often make vegetarian chili, Spanish foods, and Mexican dishes. Cayenne pepper has dihydrocapsiate, which may help your body burn fat. The downside is that you have to eat several spoonfuls a day for it to really make a difference. The upside is that every little bit helps.
Nuts are popular in my house, and I always make sure to have them on hand. For weight loss, the key to gaining the benefits of nuts is to use them sparingly, which is why a small spoonful is perfect. Nuts give you protein and healthy fats, both of which help you feel full. Remember, though, that a small spoonful of nuts has about 100 calories. So measure them before you eat, and stop at one spoonful.
8. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are not always easy to find in the small town where I live, but I get around that by ordering them online. A tablespoon of hemp seeds has 4 grams of protein, 56 calories, and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have fiber, which keeps you feeling full. I use them in smoothies, in granola bars, and sprinkled on cereal.
9. Spice Mix
A spoonful of spice mix is not only great for boosting the flavor of your dishes, but it may help regulate your blood sugar. If you have ever felt the crash that comes after eating sweets, you know that keeping your blood sugar relatively steady helps you avoid overeating. A spice mix that I make at home has cumin, pepper, a dash of cinnamon, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. I add it to lentils and couscous and sprinkle it on steamed vegetables.
10. Mustard Seeds
Little tiny mustard seeds always amaze me. How does a big tree grow from such a minuscule seed? When you eat mustard seeds, they slightly increase your metabolic rate because of their thermogenic properties. I like using mustard seeds in a low-calorie potato salad, in deviled eggs mixed with hummus, in homemade salad dressing, or as a spicy rub for chicken.