The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.
― Brain Wansink, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
As most of my readers know, I’m not a fan of diets because they set up a cycle of deprivation and overeating that leads to the roller coaster of yoyo dieting. But what if there was a way you could lose weight and not feel deprived? There is. You can make small diet tweaks or changes to the way you eat and you won’t even notice those missing calories. The added bonus is that you’ll be making healthier choices, saving money, and getting better nutrition as a result.
By making small tweaks to your daily diet, you can easily shave 200 calories off your daily intake without noticing. This will lead to about a 10 lb. weight loss over a year. You could add some daily moderate exercise to that, for example, a 30 min. walk, to boost that to a 24 lb. loss that would seem pretty effortless with no deprivation involved.
The great thing about these kinds of changes is they’re sustainable for life. I often say, “If you can’t sustain it, you can’t maintain it.” If you’re dieting, once you come off the diet, you tend to fall back to your old ways. The key to permanent change is lifestyle change, not dieting.
Here are some small tweaks that are sustainable for the long haul and will lead to gradual weight loss.
1. Start to view meat, fish, and poultry as a condiment. Make the majority of your plate vegetables and/or salad. Limit your protein serving to about 4 oz. per meal – the size of a deck of cards. If you’re still hungry after eating that, have some extra salad or vegetables.
2. Eat on smaller plates. Studies show we eat more when we eat on larger plates. A standard dinner plate is 8 inches but in today’s world, many are now 12 inches.
3. Reduce the white sugar and white starches in your diet in favor of more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. This will keep you feeling fuller longer and help to keep your blood sugar stable.
4. Eat out less often. Restaurant meals tend to have far more calories than meals made at home. We’re often tempted to order things we don’t normally eat at home. The money you save here can be used to purchase organic produce from your local farmer’s market.
5. Learn to eat slowly and mindfully so that you savor your food and eat less by stopping when you’re full. Before going for that second helping, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?”
6. Snack smartly. Instead of vending machine snacks, eat whole grain crackers with low-fat Swiss cheese, a nonfat Greek yogurt, or an apple with peanut butter to get you over that mid-afternoon slump.
7. Make your own salad dressing. Commercial salad dressing is a huge source of extra calories that can easily be eliminated by making your own dressing. In a classic vinaigrette recipe, simply replace half the oil with water, blend and smooth in a blender. Bring your homemade dressing to work and to restaurants by carrying it a small container.
8. Find healthier alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth. If sweets are your thing, either find dried or fresh fruits that you enjoy, or explore other alternatives like raw chocolate, or nonfat frozen yogurt, or a few hard candies, such as Coffee Nips, that can satisfy your sweet tooth without adding too many extra calories. Try to keep your sweet indulgences in the 100-125 cal. a day range.
9. Ditch the soda in favor of water and herbal tea. Even diet soda is linked to weight gain, probably because it causes people to feel they’ve saved some calories and splurge elsewhere. Adequate water intake allows your heart and other organ systems to function properly.
10. Limit the fancy coffee drinks and alcohol concoctions. Learn to drink your coffee black, or with skim milk or almond milk. Those fancy drinks are a disaster for your waistline. If you want to imbibe, have a vodka with splash of cran, tequila on the rocks with lime, or a white wine spritzer. If you’re a wine lover, designate one or two nights a week that you enjoy a small glass of wine. Just be aware that alcohol is the gateway drug to overeating. Even an innocent glass of wine can lead you down the path of eating too much.