Calories, Fat, and Carbs. I am slowly learning that, although EXCESSIVE calories (above 3000 a day) DO lead to weight gain, calories themselves are not what really make you fat. It is the saturated fat and refined carbohydrates that do that to you. If you were to cut out high-fat and high- (unrefined) carbs, you would naturally be eating less calories too - if that kind of thing worries you. But what happens is this - lean protein and un refined carbs (high-fiber carbs) work to fuel your body - this fuel lasts for HOURS at a time (until your next meal/snack). Refined (white) carbs also fuel your body - but for short bursts of time - maybe an hour or so - then you crash and burn - BIG time. And saturated fat? While it does hold SOME importance (in small amounts) in your body, eating large amounts of it does absolutely nothing for you - it DOES however cause sluggishness, tiredness, bloating, and (in some cases) bowl-related issues.
Speaking of fat - Above all else, the one you want to stay away from more than any other is TRANS FAT. This is one of the absolute worst things you can put into your body. And guess what? That light margarine you just spread on your toast this morning? Yeah, the one that claims is "trans fat free"? Read the label. If it says "hydrogenated" anything on it? It has trans fat. Your very best bet it so eliminate ALL of that and invest (b/c it's a bit more expensive) in TRULY trans-fat free margarine. Better yet, ditch it altogether and use the real thing! Butter (in small amounts) is FAR better for you (and cheaper). Even better still, use olive oil! Cooking sprays are also a great alternative - but be careful b/c these have propellants added.
And sugar - okay, yes, sugar is not the best thing you can put into your body. That being said - if you are NOT diabetic, then sugar substitutes are worse for you than the real thing! You would be better off using the real deal than items like Splenda, Sweet and Low, and Equal. These contain chemicals in them that actually INHIBIT weight loss. I know, I had a hard time believing it too until I cut out all artificial sweeteners for a week. I didn't change anything else, just that. I lost five pounds in ONE WEEK after months of struggling to lose even two or three. I'm just saying . . . Better yet - replace white sugar with raw sugar, honey, and agave necter - which is my new obsession (my goodness this stuff is SO GOOD!)
Food labels. There is this amazing web site : http://www.scientificpsychic.com/fitness/labels.html . This site gives some great information on those pesky labels. And YES you NEED to read them! They are important! Serving size vs. fat content and carbs, calories (when needed), and (above all else) INGREDIENTS. Some the stuff they put into our food would shock you. Let's just say the rule still applies - if you CAN'T say it / pronounce it DON'T EAT IT. Find good alternatives that are all-natural (read labels here too - sometimes they can be tricky!). Better yet - make your own! You know what's going into it, you can make smaller batches, and there are some WONDERFUL resources out there with amazing recipes for everything from bread to crackers and even cheese crackers (like cheez-its and gold fish)! Don't know where to look? Ask me - trust me, I can find it for you!
Organic. Is it REALLY better? Nope. Why? Some stuff labeled "organic" can STILL use pesticides. The only rule here is that their pesticide be "all natural" and not chemical in nature. But guess what. Those "all natural" "non chemical" pesticides are JUST as carcinogenic and poisonous as the chemical ones! Best bet, buy whatever's cheaper for you, then wash and/or peel your fresh fruits and veggies.