If you’re ready to start losing weight, but you don’t want to follow a diet, I have good news. You can make a few “painless” changes to your everyday diet that will help you eat less, eat smarter, and lose weight!
Don’t drink your calories. Beverages are bottomless these days — you can’t order a soft drink or iced tea at a restaurant without being provided quick, free refills, or having the freedom to get them yourself. To keep from drinking a day’s worth of calories, choose herbal tea, unsweetened iced tea with Splenda (or another artificial, no-cal sweetener), diet flavored-water, bottled or tap water with a spritz of lemon or lime, or diet soda. If none of those better choices suits you, allow yourself one glass of the “real thing” and drink only water thereafter. (Tip: Ask for extra ice in that first glass of soda and you will drink less.) By stopping at one glass, you will save yourself hundreds — or even thousands — of calories.
Always eat breakfast. Taking the time to eat could prevent costly mistakes as the day progresses; skipping this important morning meal can lead to an out of control afternoon appetite, oversized portions, poor food choices, and overeating, even later on into the night. Plus, going too long without eating may cause your metabolism to slow down. If you can’t eat first thing in the morning, a healthful, mid-morning snack is a good idea. If you are not hungry in the morning, it could be a sign that you are eating too close to bedtime. Set a cut-off time for evening eating (such as 7 p.m.) and you will probably feel more like eating in the a.m.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. You hear it all the time, but you really do need to work in those recommended six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger, so you could be reaching for food when you are actually thirsty. Eating water-rich foods like fruit will help you stay well-hydrated, too. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink; try sipping water throughout the day and you may be surprised to find that your appetite seems much tamer.
Add at least one more serving of produce to as many meals as possible. Veggies and fruit are all nutrient-rich, low-cal and filling — just be careful of creamy dips or dressings, butter, cheese sauce, and fried vegetables. Salsa, soups, and pasta sauce are easy ways to work in even more vegetable servings. Keep the skin on fresh produce, such as apples, whenever possible as it contains more fiber. Remember, fiber takes a while to digest so you feel fuller longer after eating it, which will help you eat less in the long run.
Make a salad your starter. Having a salad before your meal will almost certainly prevent you from overeating. Load up all the veggies you like, but just be careful about adding high-fat extras such as pasta salads, shredded cheese or cream-based dressings. (Tip: Spray dressings are excellent for cutting calories as most only have about 10 calories per spritz). Prepackaged, washed salads make it easy to add a salad to any meal without extra effort. Most fast food restaurants offer a reasonably-priced side salad, or some menus offer the option to substitute salad for another side item when purchasing a “combo” or “value” meal.
Be a better baker. Start baking immediately following a meal so you will be less likely to sample. Chew flavorful gum like peppermint or spearmint so your mouth will be otherwise occupied. Healthier baking ingredient substitutions help cut fat and calories.
Go for grains. Whole grains will help you feel full longer than refined carbohydrates. In the morning, fiber-rich cereal like Kellog’s All-Bran, is a good choice, as is oatmeal. Brown rice, whole grain bread, and whole wheat crackers, are all good ways to include grains in your day: A slice of whole wheat bread goes well with a salad; microwavable, single-serving brown rice is easy to add to lunch at the office; keep wheat crackers stored in your desk drawer for when the afternoon munchies strike.
Always keep healthy frozen meals on hand. They will be a backup plan for nights when you don’t have time to prepare and cook a healthy meal. Try to choose meals with around 300 to 350 calories. (Tip: Even some of the healthier frozen meal choices are skimpy on veggies, so be sure to add a packaged salad or a microwavable, single-serving frozen vegetable to your “instant meal” to better round it out.
Choose foods that will help you feel satisfied longer. While both protein and fat help you feel sated longer than simple carbohydrates, protein naturally contains fewer calories per ounce than fat. Eggs, lean meats, skinless poultry, and reduced-fat dairy products are ideal protein sources. A snack like yogurt, a boiled egg, string cheese or turkey slices will give you an energy boost and quell hunger pangs. Whole grains also contain protein, so you may find combining an animal or dairy protein with a complex carb such as whole wheat crackers or whole grain bread to be even more effective at keeping your energy up and hunger down. If you don’t eat meat or dairy, there are also several other sources of protein, such as beans, legumes, and nuts.
Catch some “Zs.” Did you know getting enough rest can have a direct impact on your ability to lose weight? Not getting enough sleep can cause you to eat more often or make poor choices (In an effort to compensate for feeling groggy, we tend to naturally reach for higher-calorie, high-fat foods.). Getting enough sleep also ensures that you feel energized enough to exercise and that you work out to your fullest capacity when you do. Even if you can’t add additional sleeping hours, take some time to simply do nothing, practice deep breathing, read, or listen to some calming music every day. Making a point to relax more can keep emotional eating — particularly stress-eating — at bay.