We know, you've probably heard these a thousand times. But if you can make these small swaps day-to-day, you'll spare enough calories for the treat foods you really want or to go into a calorie deficit (a.k.a. the key to weight loss). (And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have 50 more easy ways to cut calories.) Making these simple swaps is the way to health-ify your eating style and lose weight without actually dieting.
What's more trustworthy than a diet built by experts from the Mayo Clinic? Created by doctors, nutritionists, and all-star chefs, the plan has a few phases: In the first, you should lose 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks. After that, you can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week until you reach your goal weight. You're also given plenty of resources and advice to help you keep the weight off.
Listen up: Skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash an energy bar or a piece of fruit in your car or tote, keep snacks in your office desk drawer, and make a point of getting up to grab a nosh — anything that will keep you from going hungry! Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.
Avoiding salt doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Experiment with using different herbs and spices. Try adding fresh cilantro and cumin to grilled fish, lemon and rosemary to chicken, or ginger and Chinese five spice to tempeh or beef. Pick up some spice blends from your local market to help add more spice to your life… just read the ingredients and make sure there’s no salt added.
A well-stocked pantry can be a great tool for healthy eating. Most items found in your pantry will be shelf stable and easy to keep on hand over longer periods of time. Try keeping items like these for quick and healthy meals: canned beans, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, 100% whole grains (like quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta, or brown rice), nut butters, and low-calorie and low-sodium soups.
Though exercise can help correct a metabolism that’s been out of whack for a long time, the grisly reality is that it may not ever go back to what it was before you gained weight. So if you’ve been overweight or obese and you lose weight, maintaining that loss means you’re probably going to have to work harder than other people, maybe for good. “The sad thing,” says Hill, “is that once you’ve been obese or not moving for some time, it takes a little more exercise to maintain. It doesn’t come back to normal.” It’s not a pretty reality to face, but coming to grips with it is important, he says, so that you won’t get frustrated when you discover that you have to do more work over the long term than your friend who was never overweight.
Eating sugary foods might be satisfying in the moment, but they can increase your cravings for more sugary foods in the future — and that only leads to trouble. "Many foods high in added sugar are also higher in calories and fill you up less than lower-calorie, still-sweet alternatives like fruit," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. But there are still ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without ODing on sugar. "When you're baking, cut out some of the sugar in recipes by adding in vanilla extract or cinnamon, blend unsweetened cocoa powder into a smoothie instead of honey, top your French toast with unsweetened frozen fruit instead of syrup, and nosh on a slab of watermelon instead of cookies."
Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Switch to Lighter Alternatives. Whenever you can, use the low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other products. "You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Magee. More smart substitutions: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of loaded white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; hold the cheese on sandwiches; and use a little vinaigrette on your salad instead of piling on the creamy dressing.
If you have an event coming up eat something substantial before you go, especially if it’s an event that is mainly finger food and snacking. Party food is rarely food that is going to keep you full for a period of time which means we tend to keep going back for more, even when we shouldn’t! A nutritious, protein rich meal before an event will keep you satisfied so that your festive canape sampling is kept to a minimum.
Are you ready to give the calorie calculator a try? You'll need to provide some vital information about your age, gender, height, and your current weight to get the right calorie number. The calculator requires this data because these are factors that influence your metabolic rate—or the number of calories that your body needs to function. In general, men need more calories than women. Larger bodies need more calories than smaller bodies, and younger adults require more calories than older adults.
Beyond the occasional fidget, you can do simple things like taking the stairs and walking more to increase your overall daily calorie burn—no gym required. "Move as much as possible," says Cederquist. "Wearing a Fitbit or another type of activity tracker is helpful for people to realize just how little many of us move." Cederquist recommends hitting 10,000 steps a day every day for general health and well-being—no excuses.
Weight loss is defined as a reduction of the total body mass, due to a mean loss of fluid, body fat or adipose tissue and/or lean mass, namely bone mineral deposits, muscle, tendon and other connective tissue. It can occur unintentionally due to an underlying disease or can arise from a conscious effort to improve an actual or perceived overweight or obese state.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement in your physique.
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. “Do what you like because it’s good for you,” Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
MyFitnessPal: An app widely recommended by trainers and fitness enthusiasts, MyFitnessPal is great for tracking macros. Goal macros: 50% carbs, 30% fat, 20% protein. It further breaks these general guidelines into specific gram amounts that make it easy to see how some macros add up quick (carbs) and others don’t (protein — hitting 64 grams takes conscious effort!).
"Inadequate intake of calories, especially protein, causes the body to breakdown muscle tissue to meet the needs for amino acids," says Cederquist. "I have my patients focus on obtaining adequate lean protein and spreading it throughout the day." Her recommendation: focus on 100 grams per day, which breaks down into three to four ounces of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a few ounces for snacks.
“If you’re feeling deprived by your diet, build in a cheat meal at least once a week in which you can indulge guilt-free. Doing this will help you avoid viewing certain foods as ‘off limits,’ which will help you crave them less.” — David Zinczenko, author of Zero Belly Cookbook: 150+ Delicious Recipes to Flatten Your Belly, Turn Off Your Fat Genes, and Help Keep You Lean for Life!