Eat breakfast every day.
One habit that many people who have lost weight and maintained their weight have is eating breakfast every day. Many people think skipping breakfast is a good way to cut calories, but they end up eating more throughout the day,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids. “Studies show that people who eat breakfast have lower BMIs than breakfast deniers and perform better, whether in school or the boardroom. Try a bowl of whole-grain cereal with fruit and low-fat dairy for a quick and nutritious start to the day.
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Lock up the kitchen in the evening.
Set a time to stop eating so you don’t get cravings late at night or snack mindlessly while watching TV. “Drink a cup of tea, suck on a piece of candy or enjoy a small bowl of light ice cream or frozen yogurt if you’re craving something sweet after dinner, but then brush your teeth so you’re less likely to want to eat or drink anything else,” recommends Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD’s “Recipe Doctor” and author of Comfort Food Makeovers.
Choose liquid calories wisely.
Sweetened beverages are high in calories, but they don’t satisfy hunger the way solid foods do. Quench your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100-proof fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious, low-calorie vegetable juice if you get hungry between meals. Watch the calories from alcohol, which add up quickly. If you tend to have a glass or two of wine or a cocktail most days, limiting alcohol to weekends can be a big calorie saver.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Eating lots of low-calorie fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that contain more fat and calories. Ditch the meat in the middle of the plate and add more vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or broth-based soup, advises Dr. Barbara Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The 2005 U.S. government dietary guidelines recommend that adults eat 7-13 cups of vegetables daily. Ward says it’s not that difficult: “Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and have a few servings with every meal and snack,” she says. “Your diet will be fortified with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, and if you’re stuffing yourself with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, you won’t be reaching for the cookie jar.
Reach for the grain.
Replacing refined grains like white bread, cakes, cookies, and pretzels with whole grains will give you much-needed fiber and fill you up faster, making you more likely to eat an adequate portion. Choose whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice, bran flakes, popcorn, and whole-grain crackers.
Control your environment.
Another simple strategy for reducing calories is to control your environment – from stocking your kitchen with lots of healthy options to choosing the right restaurants. That means avoiding the temptation by staying away from all-you-can-eat restaurants. And when it comes to parties, “eat a healthy snack beforehand so you don’t starve, and be selective when filling your plate at the buffet,” Ward advises. Wait at least 15 minutes and drink a large glass of water before grabbing more food.
If you did nothing but reduce your portions by 10-20%, you would lose weight. Most portions served both in restaurants and at home are larger than you need. Get out the measuring cups to get a handle on your usual portion sizes and work on reducing them. Use small bowls, plates, and cups to control portions right away, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating. You won’t feel deprived because the food looks plentiful on petite dishes.
Walk more steps.
Get a pedometer and gradually take more steps until you reach 10,000 a day. Throughout the day, do everything you can to be more active – pace yourself while talking on the phone, walk the dog extra, and march in place during TV commercials. A pedometer is a constant incentive and reminder.
Eat protein at every meal and snack.
If you eat a source of lean or low-fat protein at every meal and snack, you’ll stay full longer and be less inclined to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portions of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3 to 4 hours) to keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid overindulgence.
Switch to lighter alternatives.
Whenever you can, use low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other items. “You can effortlessly cut calories by using low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed with other ingredients, no one will notice,” Magee says. Other smart substitutes: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread mustard on sandwiches instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of stuffed white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; skip the cheese on sandwiches; and use a small vinaigrette on your salad instead of swamping the creamy dressing.