Simple Ways to Slim Down- Without Really Trying
I'm not one for cliches, but whoever said "You are what you eat" was onto something. Fill up on doughnuts and pizza, and you're more likely to sport a round shape with a soft center. But if you munch on fresh produce, fish and poultry, chances are you'll be as lean as what's on your plate.
Of course, staying slim isn't about absolutes. I lost about 25 pounds about two years ago and kept it off. While I try to eat smart (salads, yogurt, fish) about 90 percent of the time to help maintain my weight, I've been known to indulge in a cookie or some ice cream on occasion. (Hey, we all deserve treats once in a while!) I believe it's not about counting calories or fixating on how much fiber or fat is in your diet. Instead, the key to eating healthy (and even dropping some weight) is making smart choices. Try a few of these tips and watch the weight fly off.
Go for home-grown
When choosing foods, consider the source. Before that sweet potato landed in your fridge, it was grown in the ground. Those potato chips in your cupboard, on the other hand, were mostly manufactured in an assembly line before they caught your eye in aisle 6. Which seems like the smarter choice? The less a food is processed, the healthier it is for you because processing takes out nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber, and even when food chemists add them back, nothing is as beneficial as what's natural. Opt for picks like whole fruit and veggies in particular. When people eat vegetables with a meal, they consume a full 20 percent fewer calories overall--and still feel satisfied afterward, according to a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Carrots, anyone?
Speaking of carrots, snacks that offer big, satisfying crunch--such as, yes, carrots, but also apples, snap peas and nuts (sorry, processed carbs like sugary cereals and candy don't count)--keep your mouth busy longer than food you inhale like a vacuum cleaner. Experts say that the more you chew, the longer it takes to eat and the more time your body has to realize it is satisfied. The result: You eat less and naturally shed pounds.
Read the fine print
To get the real scoop on a food, check out the back of the box. When you see a list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, there is a greater chance something artificial is mixed in that's not necessarily waistline-friendly. A shorter list usually indicates a more nutritious and slimming pick.
Forget about feasting
Unless it's a holiday or a special celebration, there's no need to eat with abandon. Let's be honest: Food you munch after you're full doesn't taste nearly as good. And experts say that taste buds are not as sharp after the first few mouthfuls, so overdoing it with bland bites is liable to leave you bloated. Better to savor the initial nibbles and then stop after consuming a reasonable portion.
Knowing your portion sizes is important, but the jingle in your purse should be from your keys, not a set of measuring spoons. Rather than tote around a food scale, learn these simple visual cues: A 3-ounce serving of meat, poultry or fish is about the size of a deck of cards; two servings of pasta or rice is the size of a baseball; a bread serving is the size of a CD case; one serving of cheese is the size of four dice.
When dining out, ask for a half portion of your meal or request that 50 percent of it be packed into a doggie bag before you're served. More restaurants are open to this plan, and some are beginning to offer smaller-sized versions of the usual order. Another idea? Have two appetizers: The calorie total is usually lower than that for one entree.
Park yourself at the table
We sit at work, on the train, in the car, yet we rarely stay put during dinner. Fifty-nine percent of young women eat on the go, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association finds, and on-the-run noshers consume more total fat as well as more soda and fast food. The less distracted and stressed you are when you dine, the more efficiently your body absorbs nutrients. So flip off "Lost", wander out of your office and turn off your car before you grab your fork.
Skip sugary sips
Scan any supermarket shelf or cafe;, and you're likely to spot hundreds of beverages offering vitamins, minerals and energy. Reality check: Most are simply sweetened water. Don't let the snappy labels pull a fast one on you: If it's not skim milk, plain agua or regular coffee or tea, it's dessert. For a healthier quaff, try lemon or mint iced tea or sparkling water with a splash of juice.
Fill up in the morning
There's a reason for the term "breakfast of champions": Eating a bigger morning meal helps you power through the day as you efficiently burn those calories. But piling a dinner plate high only to settle into the sofa to watch TV or snooze isn't as conducive to staying slim. This doesn't mean you need to resort to a banana for dinner, but aiming for a 300- to 500-calorie breakfast will help prevent you from overeating at night, when you're more apt to convert those calories into fat.
Quit the clean plate club
Even if you (or someone else) slaved over the stove to prepare an amazing meal, don't feel obligated to polish off every last morsel. Sure, your grandmother might have admonished you for leaving food on your plate when you were 6, but munching after you're full out of guilt won't help you stay slim, much less lead to weight loss. So rather than force yourself to swallow another bite, wrap up your leftovers for lunch tomorrow or toss scraps in the trash. I won't tell on you!
Cut yourself some slack
If you eat well most of the time yet occasionally crave a fast food fix, a cupcake or meatball sub, go for it and savor each bite. You can happily resume your sensible plan once you satisfy the urge.
For more tips on slimming down without resorting to rabbit food, check out this week's worth of healthy meals, or sign up for the SELF Diet Club, where can you log your meals (we'll calculate the calories for you!) and keep track of your weight loss.