“It’s far more difficult to eat a healthier diet and fit in exercise if you don’t plan ahead. Plan out your meals for the week ahead and go grocery shopping over the weekend to ensure you have the ingredients you need on hand. If you can, do some meal prep in your down time—cut fresh veggies, marinate your protein, cook up a batch of whole grains in advance. When you’re prepared you’re far less likely to order takeout. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
However, many people lead busy lifestyles, and if you don't have time to prepare every meal at home, start reading ingredient labels. Don't just stop at the calorie count because harmful additives may be hiding in ingredient lists. One of the worst culprits for weight gain is trans fat, and you have to be diligent when looking out for it. The nutrition information may say 0 grams trans fat, but if a food contains 0.49 grams or less, the company is allowed to list it as 0 grams. Look for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, and put the food back if you see that ingredient. Look for hidden sugar as well. Fructose, Dextrose, and Sucrose are all sugar ingredients that add up quickly.
But the source of calories obviously matters for other reasons. One, says Katz, is that "the quality of calories is a major determinant of the quantity we ingest under real world conditions." First of all, no one overeats veggies, so on a practical level, that’s a non-issue. “But where the calories come from does matter in that they influence satiety,” he adds, and this is partly psychology and partly biology. In fact, the food industry has carved out a whole new area of food science to study the “bliss point,” in which foods are created to increase the amount it takes to feel satiated and full. On one hand, says Katz, “we have the 'bliss point' science to tell us that the food industry can process foods to increase the calories it takes to reach satisfaction. We have the reciprocal body of work, including the Harvard study of the ONQI, showing that 'more nutritious' means, among other things, the opportunity to fill up on fewer calories.”
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Both Weight Watchers and Noom provide lots of guidance. If you’re more of a self-starter — someone who just needs to be pointed in the right direction — The Mayo Clinic Diet provides pure resources. Picking up the entertaining, densely informative book is the only associated cost. You can also get the app for about half the cost of WW Mobile, but we didn’t find it as useful.