If you’ve been struggling with your weight for years, constantly dieting, losing weight, and then regaining it (and then some), you’re not alone. The truth is that diets simply don’t work.
Even major weight loss programs like Weight Watchers have acknowledged this fact. Repeatedly restricting calories actually alters your metabolism, which is why so many people end up gaining back all the weight they lost and then some. Despite this knowledge, many Americans still turn to diets as a solution to their weight woes.
However, there are safe and effective steps you can take to lose weight and improve your health for the long-term. While the old advice of “eat less, move more” is a good start, what you eat is also important.
One of the biggest culprits behind America’s obesity epidemic is the consumption of refined carbohydrates, such as simple sugars and starches, which get stored in the body as fat if not burned off.
Unfortunately, many “low-fat” or “no-fat” foods are loaded with added sugars, contributing to the problem.
This list of 12 healthy eating habits is not exhaustive, but it provides a good starting point for losing weight and gaining more energy and better health.
1. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
Eating breakfast revs up your metabolism. If you skip breakfast you’re likely to eat more calories by binging later in the day.
In a study of people who lost weight and kept it off for more than five years, one major thing they all did was eat breakfast.
But Pop-tarts, donuts and Hot Pockets don’t cut it. Cooked oatmeal, whole grain cereals, whole grain breads, eggs and tofu with a salad are all healthy choices.
2. Stop counting calories and eat foods that nourish your body.
A meal of fat-free, sugar-free, refined processed foods is also nutrient-free.
Plus, it won’t satisfy you for long compared to a meal of nutrient-dense whole foods like vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fat.
As you begin eating more nutritious foods and get a little more physical activity (if you aren’t physically active now), your body will come to its natural healthy weight.
3. Always have some veggies and fruit washed and cut in your fridge.
This way they’re easy to grab when you’re hungry (instead of reaching for that giant-size bag of potato chips) and you can throw them in your bag when you’re on the go.
4. Replace diet soda with unsweetened beverages.
Diet drinks keep your sweet tooth craving sweets. Plus, they make you feel virtuous. Many people who drink diet drinks actually reward themselves with extra calories through the day.
Instead, drink iced teas or plain or carbonated water with a slice of lemon or lime.
5. Use the “Plate Method” to make a healthy meal.
Fill half your plate with low or non-starchy veggies like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, string beans, mushrooms, peppers, or leafy greens and some fruit.
Fill one quarter, with a whole grain like brown rice, barley, bulgur, or quinoa, or a starchy vegetable like corn or potatoes, or beans.
For the last quarter, fill it with protein like broiled, sauteed, roasted, or baked (not fried) fish, chicken or turkey without the skin, lean cuts of meat, tofu or eggs.
6. Cut down on carbs.
Refined carbohydrates (cake, candy, cookies, muffins, scones, cupcakes, soda, fruit juice, syrups, chips, and most supermarket breads) you don’t burn turn into fat.
Even foods like fruit yogurt and many breakfast cereals have lots of added sugar.
Replace fruity yogurts with Greek plain yogurt, choose high-fiber, lower carb cereal and add small amounts of healthy fat to your meals with avocado slices, unsalted nuts, seeds and olive oil.
7. Shrink your lunch and dinner plates.
If you and your family eat off a plate larger than ten inches, replace them with plates that are nine or ten inches in diameter.
We tend to eat what’s in front of us. Using smaller plates there’s less food in front of you to eat.
8. Enjoy less healthy foods now and then, in small portions, unless there’s a medical reason not to do so.
Not letting yourself eat something you love may make you feel deprived and frustrated and subvert your efforts to eat well.
9. When eating out ask your server to double the green veggies in place of the potato or rice.
I always do this and benefit from more nutrition and less carbs. Also, share food at the table. My partner and I always share an appetizer and when with a group, if someone orders dessert, it comes with a spoon for everyone.
10. Keep tempting foods out of the house.
Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods and you’re creating an environment that will help make you successful. Enjoy treats occasionally when you’re out.
11. Drink More Water
It’s not uncommon to think you’re hungry when your body actually needs water, not food. Signs of thirst and hunger can easily get confused. The result is that you might eat more food and consume extra calories when your body is thirsty.
You can avoid this problem and lose weight faster if you stay hydrated. Fill a few bottles with water and keep them in the front of your well-stocked refrigerator. That way you’ll see them right away when you open the door to graze for food. Then, before you eat a meal or grab a snack, drink a full 6-8 ounces. You may decide that you don’t need to eat after all.
12. Enlist family members and friends to eat healthier with you.
It’s easier when it’s a team effort, and, your family will also reap the health benefits along with you.