Healthy habits can quickly go out the window when we’ve got a tight deadline, no time for the gym, and few options but takeout food. Losing weight is no easy task, and doing it the healthy way can be even harder. We’re advocates for making small changes each day, rather than making drastic changes all at once. But it’s important to remember that just because a weight-loss strategy works for some (even if it’s backed by scientific studies) it may not work for everyone. From drinking more water to eating from blue plates, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite weight-loss tips to add to your daily routine.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be a comprehensive weight loss guide. Each entry may not be right for every individual. We believe in providing readers with the information to make their own healthy choices based on a variety of weight loss techniques. What’s appropriate for one person may not be best for his or her friend, mom, cousin, etc. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any weight loss program.
Tips for Eating
1. Get the Blues
“I got the blues” may conjure up memories of those macaroni and cheese commercials from the ‘90s, but we’re talking about blue dishware. The color blue can act as an appetite suppressant because it has the least appealing contrast to most food. Research says to avoid plates that match the food served on them (like white plates and fettuccini Alfredo), because there is less of a contrast, which may prompt us to eat more. A small but potentially useful trick!
2. Eat Snacks!
Skipping out on snack time won’t necessarily lead to weight loss, since low calorie consumption can actually slow metabolism. Eating less than three times a day may benefit those who are obese, but research shows skipping meals throughout the day and eating one large meal at night can lead to some undesirable outcomes (like delayed insulin response) which may increase the risk of diabetes. Instead of forgoing breakfast or lunch, stick to a few meals a day with healthy snacks in between.
3. Peruse the Perimeter
Next time you need groceries, circle the perimeter of the store before going in. This isn’t a way to stalk out your prey, but actually a tactic to load up on the healthy stuff first. The edges of grocery stores generally house fresh produce, meat, and fish, while the inner aisles hold more pre-packaged, processed foods. Browsing the perimeter can help control how many unwanted additives are in the grocery basket.
4. Stock the Fridge
Make an effort to fill the fridge with healthy produce and proteins (from perusing the perimeter!). Keep lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand. And for when the fruit basket goes barren, make sure the freezer is stocked with frozen veggie mixes or berries (grab the bags full of just veggies, not the ones with butter-laden sauces). You may be less apt to order out when you’ve got the makings of a healthy dinner right at home. And the good news is, healthy food doesn’t always have to be pricey.
5. Eat in the A.M.
Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t a safety shield for late-night noshing. While there’s still debate on how important breakfast really is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (ie. four servings of mashed potatoes). Make sure to stick a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein; we tend to eat the same sized lunch and dinner regardless of how many calories we eat in the morning.
6. Get Busy in the Kitchen
We promise cooking doesn’t take long! Restaurants often use larger plates than the ones we have at home, and studies show that increased portion sizes result in increased energy intake, even if there’s a doggy bag involved. Why not start by making these healthy meals in just 12 minutes or less (quesadillas, stir-fry, and burgers, oh my!).
7. Prioritize the Pantry
Take a little time out to toss the junk. If you’ve got some favorite not-so-great items you’d like to save as a treat, tuck them in the back of the pantry with healthier items, like whole grain pasta, rice, beans, and nuts up front. We know that just because the cans of tuna and a bag of lentils are right in front doesn’t mean you’ll forget the brownie mix altogether, but it’ll help keep the brownie mix out of sight, out of mind. Just seeing or smelling food can stimulate cravings, and increase hunger (especially true for junk food).
8. Serve “Restaurant” Style
Instead of lining up the breadbasket, entire casserole, and salad bowl, right on the table, leave food on the kitchen counter (away from reach). When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather then decide if you really want those seconds. Changing up the environment, like by leaving food by the stove, can help reduce food intake.
9. Use Smaller Plates
History shows plate sizes have increased over the past millennium. When it’s time to sit down for dinner, choose a size-appropriate plate or bowl. Using a smaller plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more) can make us feel fuller with the same amount of food. How does this magic trick work? The brain may associate the white space with less food, plus smaller plates generally lead to smaller portions.
10. Chew Slowly
Eating slowly may not fit into a busy workday, but it pays to pace your chewing: the quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness. So slow down, and take a second to savor.
11. Deep Freeze
Once meal prep is over, serve yourself a reasonable portion, then package up the rest and stash it in the fridge or freezer for a later date. When the food is out of sight, studies show you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping.
12. Wait Before Grabbing Seconds
The quicker we shovel down a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or play cards before dishing up seconds or tackling the dessert table.
13. Snack Before Dining
Grabbing an apple or a small cup of yogurt before meeting friends for dinner can help ensure you’ll eat a reasonable amount of that enormous entrée (rather than overdo it). And be sure to reach for the protein—research shows that an afternoon snack of Greek yogurt can lead to reduced hunger, increased fullness, and less eating come dinner time.
14. Sneak in the Veggies
Bumping up vegetable consumption has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity. Add veggies to an omelet to cut down on cheese, use them in baked goods, and pasta dishes (Bonus: Try zucchini ribbons, or spaghetti squash instead). Pump pureed veggies, like pumpkin, into oatmeal or casseroles. Adding a little vegetable action into a meal or snack will increase fiber levels, which helps make us fuller, faster.
15. Turn Off the Tube
Eating while watching television is linked to poor food choices and overeating. Getting sucked into the latest episode of Snooki and JWoww can bring on mindless eating and it can be easy to lose track of just how many chips we’ve just thrown down the hatch. It’s not just the mindlessness of watching television that’ll get us. Commercials for unhealthy foods and drinks may increase our desire for low-nutrient junk, fast food, and sugary beverages.
16. Turn Your Back on Temptation
The closer we’re situated to a food that’s in our line of vision, chances are the more we’ll actually eat of it. If we face away from food that might tempt us when we’re not all that hungry (like an office candy bowl), we may be more likely to listen to cues from our gut rather than our eyes.
17. Hands Off
When snack time hits, our brains can be pretty unreliable. It’s tempting to reach for a bag of chips, but instead, grab a handful (or measure out the serving size) then seal the bag up and put it away. Odds are, you’ll be more mindful of how much you’re polishing off when you see it right in front of you. And next time there’s a between-meal tummy rumble, try one of these healthy, satisfying 100-calorie snacks.
18. Pack the Protein
Protein can help promote a healthy weight because high protein diets are associated with greater satiety, plus it’s important for healthy muscle growth. Animal sources aren’t the only option—try alternatives like quinoa, tempeh, and lentils.
19. Fill Up on Fiber
Eating more vegetables and other high-fiber items like legumes can help keep us fuller, longer. Look for at least five grams or more of the stuff per serving. Snack on some of our favorite high-fiber picks like stuffed baked apples or jazzed up oats.
20. Make Room for (Healthy) Fats
Cutting butter and oil can slash calories, and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana, or flax for baking. But, it’s important to remember that we still need fat in our diets as a source of energy and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Plus it helps us feel full. Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from avocados, olive oil, nuts, coconuts, seeds, and fish. Bonus tip: Combining fat with fiber has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full.
21. Steer Clear of Simple Carbs
Simple carbs are the white stuff—white bread, most pastries, refined sugars (like in soda). What makes it so simple? These foods provide energy, but lack the same nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber) as complex carbohydrates. The body also breaks simple carbs down quickly, spikes blood sugar (insulin), and leaves your tummy might rumbling sooner than you imagined. Choose whole grains instead, which may reduce potentially dangerous excess abdominal fat buildup (which can lead to diabetes). Switch to whole-wheat pasta or whole grain bread, or try grains like brown rice, quinoa, or millet.
22. Ditch Added Sugar
A spoonful of sugar allegedly helps the medicine go down, but adding it to food may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity. Stick to sugar that comes in its natural form (in fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and scrap that morning-coffee-spoonful.
23. Make Subs
No, we don’t mean the sandwich. We mean easy recipe substitutions. Simple swaps—like Greek yogurt for sour cream, prunes for butter, or an Americano for a latte—can cut calories and sugar. Even a grilled cheese can get a healthy revamp by making a few smart subs.
24. Cook Smart
Even healthy food can become not so great when it’s been dropped into a fryer. Instead, pan fry or pop a dish in the oven. Use non-stick spray to sauté foods, or rub oil onto a pan with a paper towel for a light coating. You can even whip up a batch of healthier chips.
25. Heat It Up With Cayenne
Cayenne pepper, the bright red spice, can not only boost metabolism, but can also cut cravings for fatty, sweet, or salty foods. Some studies even suggest that the hot stuff can increase fat oxidation, meaning the body can better use fat as fuel. Sprinkle some on scrambled eggs, or spice up a stir-fry with a little hot sauce.
26. Chew Gum
Popping a piece of sugar free gum won’t necessarily curb your appetite. But, chewing a 5-calorie stick can keep the mouth busy when cooking up a meal, or socializing amongst a sea of hor d’ouevres at a party. While the long term effects of gum chewing on weight loss are minimal, studies show it can lower cravings for sweet and salty snacks, and decrease hunger between meals.
27. Go Straw-less
… with fruit, that is. Juices (which are often far from 100 percent fruit) provide some vitamins, but without the same fiber and phytonutrients as a real piece of fruit. Let’s take an apple for instance. An 8-oz. glass of apple juice has double the sugar and less than one-tenth the fiber of a medium apple.
28. Cave in to Cravings
We love this tip. Cravings are OK! Acknowledge those cravings instead of pushing them away completely (which may lead to blowing it later). Caving into a craving, as long as it’s in moderation (try on of these healthier ways to satisfy a sweet tooth) can actually help curb desire. Forbidding a food may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that chocolate cake after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite activity—dancing in the rain, getting a massage, playing with a puppy. Research shows that engaging in imagery can reduce the intensity of food cravings.
29. Bag It Up
Sometimes we’d rather not admit it, but let’s face it—restaurant meal portions are generally heftier than what we cook at home. Make a conscious decision to bag up half of the meal before taking the first bite. The added benefit? You’ve got a doggie-bag lunch for tomorrow!
Tips for Drinking
30. Sip Green Tea
Drinking green tea is one of the most common tips for shedding a few pounds, and for good reason—green tea is known for its ability to metabolize fat. And in combination with resistance training, green tea increases the potential for fat loss. Add a squeeze of lemon for a little flavor and to amp up antioxidant affects.
31. Gulp H2O
Kick the diet beverages and vitamin enhanced money traps to the curb and reach for good ‘ole H2O instead. Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result, consume fewer calories. Drinking water also significantly elevates resting energy expenditure (basically the number of calories we’d burn if we sat around all day) and lower water intake is associated with obesity.
32. Sip Before Noshing
Pregaming a meal with a glass of water has been linked with more weight loss than cutting calories alone. Take some mid-set breaks and guzzle a little water between bites too to give the brain time to register fullness.
33. Cut Back on Liquid Cals
Milk and cookies, orange juice and French toast, wine and cheese—some foods seemingly require a liquid counterpart. But, it’s easy to pour on the pounds by chugging soda, juice, alcohol, and even milk regularly. Sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with increased body fat and blood pressure.
34. Water it Down
When you’ve simply got to have a swig of juice with that morning bowl of oatmeal, try watering it down. While it may sound entirely unappealing, gradually adding more water to less juice will keep some of the flavor without all the sugar and calories. Added incentive: Increasing water intake in place of sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices is associated with lower long-term weight gain.
35. Choose Tall and Thin
So we know we said to cut back on the juice and soda, but when you’ve got a hankering from some morning orange juice, reach for a tall thin glass, not a short squatty one. While it may sound like you’re discriminating against your glasses, research shows that people pour less liquid into tall narrow glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts, meaning we’ll ultimately (probably) drink less in one sitting. This is especially helpful when drinking alcohol.
36. Banish the Booze
We probably don’t have to tell you that partying like an undergrad may pack on a few pounds. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “drink in moderation.” The point is, alcohol houses a lot of sneaky calories and it has the ability to inhibit eating decisions (mmm, greasy pizza) later on in the night. Even after you’ve sobered up, alcohol can have negative impacts on strength and may leave you lagging in the weight room days later.