These brand-new science-backed tricks will help you curb your food intake without feeling deprived. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
Choose the little French bistro
Diners at restaurants with soft music and lighting eat 18 percent less overall - or about 175 fewer calories - according to a new study in the journal Psychological Reports. Bonus: Diners also report enjoying their meals more. Experts speculate that eating in a relaxed environment helps you slow down and savor your food, so in the end, you consume less.
Brown-bag it more often
A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discovered that women who avoid eating lunch out tend to eat less overall calories. Study participants who went out to lunch at least once per week lost five pounds less than those who brought lunches from home."Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes," the authors wrote in the study. Try packing your salad in a sandwich-sized Tupperware container for easy portion control.
Go crazy with protein
Researchers from the University of Sydney found that people who ate a low-protein diet reported feeling hungrier and ate 12 percent more calories throughout the day - mostly from mindless snacking - than those engaging in a higher-protein diet. They estimated that the extra calories consumed by participants on the lowest protein diet could add up to an extra 2.2 pounds of weight gain a month. The easiest way to add more protein? Swap out your sides and snacks. Try baked beans for mashed potatoes and soy crisps for pretzels.
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Up your protein intake at breakfast
While you're at it, make breakfast protein-packed, too. People who do so feel more satisfied, and are less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks later on, according to the journal Obesity. Cut calories with these quick fixes: Instead of having 1/2 cup granola with 1 cup berries (7 grams protein, 250 calories), try eating 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1 cup berries (15 grams protein, 131 calories). Or swap a 6-inch pancake sans butter or syrup (5 grams protein, 175 calories) in favor of 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt with 1/2 cup apricots (13 grams protein, 186 calories).
Think yourself slim
To curb an afternoon snack attack, try thinking back to what you had for lunch. Study participants asked to recall their last meal before doing a taste test ate about one-third fewer cookies than those who were asked about their morning commute, finds a study in Physiology & Behavior. "Remembering what you ate activates your brain's hippocampus, which may play a role in decision-making to help you say no to consuming extra calories," explains Suzanne Higgs, the lead study author from the University of Birmingham in the UK. To tame your appetite, jot down a detailed list of everything you had for lunch, then review it before your afternoon vending machine visit. You may decide you don't need that candy bar after all.
Divide and conquer
A stay-slim trick may be as simple as dividing food into smaller packages. Study participants who were given 24 individually wrapped cookies ate them over an average of 24 days, while those who received a box of 24 without the partitions polished them off in just six, according to the Journal of Marketing Research. "Partitioning food prevents you from eating larger portions because stopping to open another package forces you to pay attention to how much you're actually consuming," says Amar Cheema, study co-author and assistant professor at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. But before you stock up on bulk boxes of 100-calorie pack treats, know that partitions may lose their effect over time if ripping into another package becomes a routine task.
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Noshing on good-for-you comfort food may help you eat less. Popcorn eaters get a whopping 250 percent more whole grains and about 22 percent more fiber than those who don't eat the fluffy white snack, reports the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Eating more whole grains and fiber keeps blood sugar from spiking and then crashing, so you'll feel full longer than if you downed a bag of chips. Avoid soaking up extra fat from butter and oil by popping your own kernels rather than buying the ready-made kind.
Limit your food choices
To ward off overeating, stock your cupboards and lunch bag with a smaller variety of healthy foods - having too many options may actually sap your willpower. "The act of choosing requires energy, and that depletes your reserves to lower self control," says Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota. So stay away from buffets and stick to your go-to meal - you'll conserve your willpower for those times when it really counts (like when your cubicle-mate brings in her addictive brownies).
Ward off dehydration
Hunger is sometimes triggered by thirst rather than by your body needing more calories, so fill up on low-calorie foods that keep you hydrated. Since fruits and vegetables are 60 to 95 percent water, they do this naturally. Melons, papaya and mangos are especially good because they also contain potassium, which helps regulate your body's balance of fluids and minerals. Cut a cantaloupe in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill with sliced papaya or mango for a thirst-quenching treat.
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Cut back on added sugars
"If you reduce your sugar intake by just two teaspoons per day, you'll keep yourself from eating a five-pound bag of sugar and save yourself 3.3 pounds worth of calories over the course of the year," says Molly Morgan, RD, owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, New York and author of The Skinny Rules. An easy way to cut two teaspoons or more of added sugar is to switch from a sugar-sweetened cereal such as Honey Nut Cheerios (12 g) to a non-sweetened version such as regular Cheerios (1 g). Or limit fruit juice by pouring only half-a-glass, and fill the rest of the way with water.
Spritz on your oil
"It's easier to be very heavy-handed when pouring oil versus spritzing, so try putting your olive oil in a spray bottle," says Keri M. Gans, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Small Change Diet. A serving of oil is only 1 tablespoon - about the size of a water bottle cap - and has 119 calories. Pouring on oil-based salad dressings and using oil to sauté fish and vegetables means you could easily eat 3 or 4 tablespoons worth in one meal - about 400 calories.
Fill up the smart way
To eat a lot without consuming tons of calories, always cover half of your lunch- or dinner-plate with vegetables, which cuts down on the room you have left over for higher-calorie foods, such as starches, says Morgan. Whereas a quarter-cup of a starch packs about 50 calories, the same amount of veggies is roughly 10 calories. And kick off your meal with a salad or cup of broth-based - not creamy - soup to fill up faster on less calories without feeling deprived.
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