Drink plenty of water or other calorie-free beverages: Before you tear into that bag of potato chips, drink a glass of water first. People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger, so you can end up eating extra calories when an ice-cold glass of water is really all you needed. If plain water doesn’t cut it, try drinking flavored sparkling water or brewing a cup of fruit-infused herbal tea.
Be choosy about nighttime snacks.
Mindless eating occurs most frequently after dinner when you finally sit down and relax. Snacking in front of the TV is one of the easiest ways to throw your diet off course. Either close down the kitchen after a certain hour or allow yourself a low-calorie snack, like a 100-calorie pack of cookies or a half-cup scoop of low-fat ice cream.
Enjoy your favorite foods.
Instead of cutting out your favorite foods altogether, be a slim shopper. Buy one fresh bakery cookie instead of a box, or a small portion of candy from the bulk bins instead of a whole bag. You can still enjoy your favorite foods — the key is moderation.
Eat several mini-meals during the day.
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. But when you’re hungry all the time, eating fewer calories can be a challenge. “Studies show people who eat 4-5 meals or snacks per day are better able to control their appetite and weight,” says obesity researcher Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD. She recommends dividing your daily calories into smaller meals or snacks and enjoying most of them earlier in the day — dinner should be the last time you eat.
Eat protein at every meal.
Protein is the ultimate fill-me-up food — it’s more satisfying than carbs or fats and keeps you feeling full for longer. It also helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning. So be sure to incorporate healthy proteins like seafood, lean meat, egg whites, yogurt, cheese, soy, nuts, or beans into your meals and snacks.
Spice it up.
Add spices or chilies to your food for a flavor boost that can help you feel satisfied. “Food that is loaded with flavor will stimulate your taste buds and be more satisfying, so you won’t eat as much,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Malena Perdomo, RD. When you need something sweet, suck on a red-hot fireball candy. It’s sweet, spicy, and low in calories.
Stock your kitchen with healthy, convenient foods.
Having ready-to-eat snacks and meals-in-minutes on hand sets you up for success. You’ll be less likely to hit the drive-through or order a pizza if you can throw together a healthy meal in five or 10 minutes. Here are some essentials to keep on hand: frozen vegetables, whole-grain pasta, reduced-fat cheese, canned tomatoes, canned beans, pre-cooked grilled chicken breast, whole grain tortillas or pitas, and bags of salad greens.
Order children’s portions at restaurants.
Ordering a child-size entree is a great way to cut calories and keep your portions reasonable. This has become such a popular trend that most servers won’t bat an eye when you order off the kids’ menu. Another trick is to use smaller plates. This helps the portions look like more, and if your mind is satisfied, your stomach likely will be, too.
Swap a cup of pasta for a cup of vegetables.
Simply by eating less pasta or bread and more veggies, you could lose a dress or pants size in a year. “You can save from 100-200 calories if you reduce the portion of starch on your plate and increase the number of vegetables,” says Cynthia Sass, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Always eat breakfast.
It seems like an easy diet win: Skip breakfast and you’ll lose weight. Yet many studies show the opposite can be true. Not eating breakfast can make you hungry later, leading to too much nibbling and binge eating at lunch and dinner. To lose weight — and keep it off — always make time for a healthy morning meal, like high-fiber cereal, low-fat milk, and fruit.
Include fiber in your diet: Fiber aids digestion prevents constipation and lowers cholesterol — and can help with weight loss. Most Americans get only half the fiber they need. To reap fiber’s benefits, most women should get about 25 grams daily, while men need about 38 grams — or 14 grams per 1,000 calories. Good fiber sources include oatmeal, beans, whole-grain foods, nuts, and most fruits and vegetables.