Menu plan with calorie counts. Every week, write down what you are eating for supper and estimate the calories. I menu plan supper anyway, but by adding the estimated calorie counts, I can eat more or less during the day, depending if supper is chicken breasts (wonder how many hits I'll get on my blog for including the word breasts...tee hee) or cheeseburgers. If you are really organized, menu plan lunch and breakfast as well. I don't do that, but I do keep a list of suggested 200 and 300 calorie breakfasts and under 500 calorie lunches in my planner. The other advantage of menu planning? You save money on shopping trips (because you know what you have to buy) and you save calories by eating at home instead of eating out all the time. (Because, let's face it, when you didn't make that turkey wrap on Friday night, you didn't order a salad. You ordered a pizza. You know you did.)
Example of a menu plan (half week):
Breakfasts (200 cal) - one waffle with butter/syrup and coffee, one slice of toast with smear of peanut butter and coffee, one packet of grits with sprinkle of cheese and coffee. (Note that coffee is nonnegotiable.)
Lunches (400 calories) - grilled chicken salad with dressing; chili cheese baked potato; peanut butter sandwich (just some options jotted in my planner!)
M Roast Beef/Veggies 550 cals.
T Pasta and Chicken 525 cals.
W Out (Japanese - stay under 800 calories)
(You can't really tell, but half the pasta is actually peppers and half the cream sauce is fat free half and half while the rest is chicken stock. Another trick? Half the plate is fruit or veggies. The chicken is baked with a bit of panko, calorie-free dried onions, and a sprinkle of hard cheese.)
Use an on-line calorie counter. I use www.myfitnesspal.com, but any of them work. Enter food as you eat it. Enter your recipes, figure out how much you ACTUALLY eat per serving, and use that resource to track your calories. On the road, most of these programs have smart phone apps. ( I don't have a smart phone. Yes, yes, yes. 2012 yada yada. I keep a little planner in my bag to jot calories and other notes in while on the road.) Enters foods as you eat them, both so you learn serving sizes and so you monitor your intake.
Know how many servings you are actually eating. You can do this by measuring everything. Don't worry, after a while you will learn how much one tablespoon of peanut butter is. You can measure by sight. (A serving of peanut butter if about the size of my thumb. A serving of cheese is the same. A serving of meat - 3 to 4 ounces - is the size of my palm of my hand.) Or, you can look at how many servings come in a jar and multiply that by the number of calories in a jar, then divide by how many servings you get out of the jar.
I have trouble with my favorite peanut butter. I always eat more than a serving. It has 14 servings, so I now mark that on the jar. If I eat half the jar in one sitting (OINK), I mark off seven servings:
If I get to the bottom of the jar and have not logged all the calories, I go ahead and log the rest. My thighs will log it, so I might as well be honest with myself. (The sad truth is that I ate an eighth serving when I dug out this jar to take a picture. Oink oink.)
Please feel free to share your tips for organized dieting in the comments.