Adopt one (or all) of these simple strategies to drop pounds and feel great!
Remember when you were a kid and eating was as simple as "Open, chew, enjoy"? You didn't count the grams of fiber and fat in your PB&J. You munched when you were hungry, stopped when you were full and ran off to play with your Cabbage Patch Kids. But choosing a meal as a health-minded adult can be as complicated and joyless as a calculus final. Enough! Here are 20 commonsense rules that make eating right as easy as pie for you and your inner 8-year-old.
1. Eat like a tourist in Greece.The sunset over your office park isn't as stunning as the one over an Aegean beach, but a plate of grilled fish and fresh vegetables and a glass of wine is as delicious in Athens, Georgia, as it is in Athens, Greece. Plus, a Mediterranean menu can help lower your risk for heart disease and keep you slim, says Susan Mitchell, Ph.D., coauthor of Fat Is Not Your Fate (Fireside).
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2. If you can't grow it, don't eat it.A potato comes from the ground, an egg from a hen. But where did that Pop-tart come from? If your best guess is "aisle 7," pass it up. "Unprocessed, whole foods will give you the most benefits," says Michelle K. Berman, R.D., of Fairfax, Virginia. Processing takes out nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber, and even when chemists add them back, nothing stacks up to Mother Nature.
3. Read the back of the box first."The front is all advertising," Berman says. Flip it around for the real story. The more ingredients, the more likely it has visited a few processing plants where something artificial was mixed in, says Lydia Zepeda, Ph.D., professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
4. The crunchier, the better.Snacks that offer a big, satisfying crunch when you bite into them-we mean apples, celery, snap peas and nuts, not chips-keep your mouth busy longer than food you slurp. "The more you chew, the slower you eat and the more time your body has to register fullness," Mitchell says.
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5. You can always have more.Tomorrow. A food shortage is not imminent. Besides, anything you eat after you're full doesn't even taste as good. "There is a toning down of taste buds after the first few bites," says Linda Bacon, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at City College of San Francisco. And no one loves feeling stuffed.
6. A frozen berry beats a fresh doughnut.Purchasing organic local produce is better for both the environment and your health, but when the nearest farm is hours away, don't default to a package of Oreos. "Frozen, canned and fresh fruit all have comparable amounts of nutrients," says Christine M. Bruhm, Ph.D., director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California at Davis.
7. You can't replace real ice cream.When you're craving Chunky Monkey, no amount of fat-free ice treat will make up for it. "Diet foods leave you feeling hungry and cheated," says Paul McKenna, Ph.D., author of I Can Make You Thin (Sterling). Splurge on one scoop of the real deal and savor it. "You'll be satisfied physically and psychologically," McKenna says.
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8. There's no fruit in "fruit flavor."Seeing flavor on a label is a sign the food was stripped of its real taste and a fabricated one swapped in, Bacon says. Natural only means the additive came from a plant or an animal, which may not be as healthy as it sounds. "Scientists create flavors using bacteria and call them 'natural,'" she says. Would you buy Bacteri-Os?
9. If it's not around, you can't eat it.You're in your cozy armchair watching Gossip Girl when you get an urge for Cool Ranch Doritos. If all you have to do is walk to your pantry, you'll grab a bag and attack it. But let's say you must put on your shoes, find your keys and drive to the store. Laziness will triumph. (Yes, sometimes sloth is a good thing!)
10. Table your meals.As much sitting as we do, we rarely stay put during dinner. Fifty-nine percent of young women eat on the run, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association finds, and on-the-go eaters consume more total fat, as well as more soda and fast food. The less distracted and stressed you are when you dine, the more efficiently your body absorbs nutrients. Turn off the tube, step away from your desk and park the car before you dig in. -- Marisa Cohen
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