My Diet Cheat Sheet

Presented is a tool to track diet without counting calories.

I have found that it is not enough to know all the right things to do.  I need something to remind me, keep me on track, and hold me accountable. 

No other person can remember all of this stuff for me, so I need a tool. The tool that I think works best is a checklist. I actually put this list on a white board with a black marker, and check off everything I do on it with a dry erase marker, daily. 

This list could also be printed and stuck in a notebook or day planner for those of you with on-the-go schedules. 

Here is the explanation of the items on my checklist. You may choose to create a different list, but feel free to use mine. I have included it as a PDF in the photo gallery.

If you are new to the world of nutrition and eating for health, you may want to take the nutrition class that is being offered at the Lyceum Wellness Center. It is eight weeks, and a spring course is starting soon.  Call 267-417-0417 or visit online for details.


Vegetables are probably the most important things to eat every day. For dieters, they are especially great because it is extremely difficult to overeat calories if you’re eating piles of vegetables. An entire 16 ounce (1 pound) bag of frozen spinach is only 120 calories. The same sized mixed vegetables bag is about 350 calories. Corn is the worst, weighing in at 550 calories for the whole 16 ounce bag. But that would still be better for you than a Big Mac or a hoagie, and just as filling. 

What kills veggies is dressings, butter and sauces. But as long as you go light on those, eat as many veggies as you want. Personally, I love roasted veggies. The sugars in the vegetables caramelize and really make the flavors pop. Here is a I created in a previous article on that.

Though I have eight checkboxes for veggies, (one cup = one checkbox), it is not necessary to eat eight cups of veggies in a day. However, the more veggies you eat, the fuller you’ll feel and the less likely you will be to consume things that are higher in calories and fat and such.


If you have a killer sweet tooth, this is going to be your salvation. Force yourself to have four servings of fruit per day. A study, (which I read long ago and cannot now cite), said that sugar-addict participants were asked to eat four servings of fruit per day and see what happened to their sugar cravings. The overwhelming response was that people’s craving for sugary treats diminished significantly, or all together.  So any time you want to reach for candy, or a donut, or Danish … choose fruit instead. Your heart, brain, liver, kidney, spleen and lungs will all thank you.

Bread Products

This only has two checkboxes, because bread kills diets. Bread products usually pack a lot of calories into a little space. So unlike the pound of veggies weighing in at 350 calories, a pound of bread is nearly 2,000 calories. I’ve included bread products in the checklist simply to monitor myself. Each box should represent about 100 calories of bread products. When you’ve checked off both boxes – no more bread.

Lean Protein

A healthy body needs protein for muscle health. But many Americans eat crappy animal protein, filled with nitrates, antibiotics, and steroids. The only way to avoid this is to eat free range (preferably organic) chicken and grass-fed beef whose label says no antibiotics or steroids; choose fresh water fish, (not farm raised), or eggs (yes eggs – the WHOLE egg), or choose another source of protein, like tofu, protein shakes, edamame, peanut butter, beans or cauliflower.  

Here’s a quick explanation of why the rest of the items are on my list

Multi Vitamins – a good multivitamin is essential these days, since our food is not grown in the nutrient rich soil anymore.

Calcium/Magnesium – for bone health, regularity, and much more.

– many of us do not have healthy digestive tracts. We ingest antibiotics by choice, in our water, and in our meat. Antibiotics kill the good and the bad bacteria so we need to assist ourselves by giving our gut the good bacteria so our bodies can properly digest food and absorb nutrients.

Fiber Drink  If you don’t pass your bowels every day, you should look for ways to add fiber to your diet. Vegitables are a great way. A good fiber drink is another. I like this brand.

Protein Shake  For vegetarians this is a great option, and on days you workout with weights or do more than 20 minutes of cardio, a protein shake helps you keep the muscle and burn the fat.

Veggie Juice (like V8). This is just a super absorbable form of vegitables, and makes a great snack at night if you’re starting to get night cravings. Add some hot sauce, a shot of Worcestershire,  and a celery stalk and pretend you’re drinking a Bloody Mary.  

64 to 92 ounces of water – would you clean your car with juice? How about with soda? I think not. Neither should you expect your body to be clean without enough water.

– stimulates metabolism

5 minutes bouncing – a great metabolism boost during TV commercials, or during the office work day.

5 minutes stairs/walking/light exercise

5 minutes stretching - Your muscles store toxins. Stretching (yoga, or your own stretching routine) spreads the fibers of your muscles out so that blood can flow through them and cleans them. That's why stretching feels so good. I have worked on many people in severe pain who if only they would stretch on a regular basis would be pain free.  

weight lifting workout – weight lifting doesn’t just build muscles, it helps bones become denser, which is especially important the older you get. Also, the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even when you’re at rest. Weight training should be included at least once a week.

20 to 60 minutes cardio workout three times a week. If it is simply impossible to get 20-plus minutes a few times per week into your schedule, you really need to take four, five-minute health breaks (instead of smoke breaks) throughout your day to exercise in one way or another.

Check Off When You Successfully Avoid:


Highly processed packaged foods like frozen dinners, canned foods, and deli meat.  

Fast Food”  McDonalds, Burger King, and most take out should just not be in your vocabulary. Not only is the meat low grade factory mess, but it is full of fillers. And, that's just the beginning. 

sugary or fatty snacks

white carbs 

Here’s to your Health!

Randi L Levin March 22, 2011 at 04:27 PM
As I read this article I couldn't help but feel sadness for the author as it sounded as if her life is surrounded by checklists and complying with such. In fact it sounded as if she is so obsessed with checklists related to her health, that hse has forgotten to be spontaneous, of enjoying life and the good and the bad that comes with it. Also the image associated portrayed a young woman, relatively thin, showing off her meager muscles. Why not start enjoying the food and activities of life more rather than obsessing over the checklists for the same!!!!!!!! Life is too short as it is enjoy it, but life should not become an obsession as then you forfeit the benefits of such to your obsession.
Abi March 22, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Oh, Randi, I can assure you that there is no reason to feel sad for Carol, the author. No, keeping checklists is not glamorous or enjoyable, but it’s Carol’s job to find and experiment with different fitness and nutrition ideas to help those who are trying to lose weight or get in shape. I don’t know a ton of people with jobs that are 100% enjoyable, so at some point in their week, most people must do and try things that aren’t quite as fun as going to Six Flags. I’m an Accountant, and if the Patch hired me to write articles on how to get organized financially, I would give you a ton of boring excel sheets and budget tools that would put you to sleep. Enjoyable? Probably not. Will Carol be keeping a nutrition checklist a year from now? I doubt it. She knows how to be healthy. But as one of fattest cities in America, several years in a row, Philadelphia has a decent share of people who could use tools such as this checklist to get their health back on track, and if Carol has helped one person with the nutrition articles she writes, then she’s done a great job. Of course it could also be said that taking time out of your day to put someone down on something they’ve worked hard on also lacks spontaneity and enjoyment.
Carol Haslam March 29, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Randi, yes if life were nothing but checklists it would be a bit awful. However, there are many times in life when we actually have so much information that we simply forget to do what we know full well is best for us. A few weeks back, I wrote an article with a dozen or so tips that were clinically proven to increase metabolism or trigger the brain to burn belly fat. Each of those tips are included in this checklist. Do I live by the checklist - no, I don't need to - Ali is correct. However when I am actively dieting, it is extremely helpful to print up that list and use it daily for a period of time. It helps me to keep track of my carbs, not kid myself about my veggie intake, and remember to do the good things for myself that are not habits, like drinking green tea or making sure to add a glass of V8 to my day. When I worked my stint in the business world, a task list was essential for productivity. If I didn't keep that running task list, my ADHD brain would only accomplish what tasks I enjoyed instead of also the things that I dreaded. Its simply a tool like Ali said that I hope some people will find helpful as they attempt to implement a more healthy lifestyle or begin a weight loss diet. Trust me, my life is fun and spontaneous - I have 3 small children running around! That's why I use a list to keep me grounded WHEN I am dieting. Use it if you like, ignore it if you don't. CHEERS TO YOU AND YOURS!!
Carol Haslam March 29, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Oh, and yes, I am proud of my muscles - I worked hard for them, especially since my metabolism is slowing as I approach 40, and have born 3 kids. Moms who workout need to be proud of taking care of their bodies. My intent is not to brag or show off. I'm happily married and don't need anyone's approval except my husband. But He loved me even when I was 40 pounds overweight and he'll love me when I drop my last 7 pounds. MOMS - YOU CAN DO IT!! You can be HEALTHY & FIT. We NEED healthy and fit moms. We are happier when we are fit, we are able to have more fun with our kids when we are fit, and we will have a less chance of becoming physical burdens to our children if we are fit. I hope to inspire not brag. NAMASTE.


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