Losing weight and staying at a healthy weight long term does not have to be as hard as it seems. Rather than following some temporary "diet" or getting caught up in the latest fad diet trend, think about committing to making small and simple changes that you can sustain over a lifetime. Let's take a look at some simple, easy realistic changes that can make a big difference in your weight-loss efforts.
1. Use Smaller Plates and Bowls
This is especially helpful if you are one of those "clean your plate" types of eaters. Think about it--you often fill your plate and then eat everything you put on it. If you start off with a smaller plate, such as a nine-inch plate instead of a 12-inch plate, and eat everything on it, you will take in fewer calories.
Part of the reason larger plates and bowls encourage you to eat more is because food can look smaller in them. The same-sized serving of food appears much larger when it's served in smaller bowls and plates, essentially tricking your mind into thinking you're eating more when you're actually eating the same amount. The same goes for cups too.
2. Take Smaller Bites and Chew Slowly
It takes your stomach about twenty minutes to send signals to your brain that you're full. If you rush through your meal, you'll likely eat more than you need to really feel full. In order to help you eat at a slower pace, allowing your body to fully recognize the feeling of fullness and satiety, take smaller bites and chew your food more thoroughly. In fact, recent research found that people consumed about 12 percent fewer calories when they chewed a bite of food 40 times versus just 15 times.
3. Put Your Fork or Spoon Down After Each Bite
This may seem like a silly suggestion, but it really works. After each bite, set your fork down and take a sip of water (or other calorie-free beverage). This will help slow your eating pace and will allow you to really savor each bite, thus increasing satiety and helping you avoid going back for seconds.
4. Eat Your Veggies First
Half of your plate should be filled with produce. Vegetables (and fruits) are chock-full of fiber and water--both of which help you feel full faster and for a longer period of time. Plus, they're low in calories. If you fill up on produce first, you'll have less room in your tummy for those higher-calorie items on your plate.
5. Drink More Water
Oftentimes you mistake thirst for hunger and end up eating when really you are just dehydrated. An easy way to make sure you're drinking enough water throughout the day: carry a water bottle around with you and take sips all throughout the day. Also, drink a full glass of water before each meal--it'll help you eat less overall.
6. Plan Ahead
Even if you have the best intentions, it's easy to slip up and slide back into old habits if you don't plan your meals and snacks. On your least busy day of the week, spend an hour or so prepping your healthy meal ingredients for that week. Chop up your favorite veggies and fruits and place them in zip-top bags or reusable containers so that they're ready for snacks or meals. Cook up a big batch or brown rice or other whole grains to be used across several meals. Before dining out, check out the menu and nutritional information online and choose a healthy option before you get there.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children.