If you've ever tried to lose weight (and who hasn't), you've got to be mindful of whose advice you take. Your colleague says you need to cut out carbs. Your gym buddy knows the secret is to stop eating after 7 p.m. Your Facebook friend swears she'll be in swimsuit shape by March if she only eats once a day. Your husband, well, he sneezes and the weight seems to fall off.
But do any of these tips really work? To help you shed those extra pounds--and keep them off--without starving yourself, ditching your social life, or eating only at odd times of the day, we talked to experienced nutritionists for real-world advice you can actually live with, day in and day out. We'll tell you how to focus on the delicious foods you can add to your diet, why you should be eating more often (yes!), the fat loss benefits of more sleep, and how even taking a few deep breaths can put you on a successful path to weight loss. Here, the 15 best diet tips of all time. Say buh-bye to hunger and hello skinny jeans.
MORE: 52 Ways To Lose A Pound A Week!
1. Never get too hungry
You make poor decisions when your judgment is compromised. Hunger is a primal urge that's difficult to deny. When you're famished, it's hard to hold off until you can find healthy food. As a result, you end up eating anything that's not nailed down, and typically, regretting it. Planning meals and snacks works wonders to head off the intense hunger that can do a number on your best intentions to eat right. Always tote healthy snacks, such as an ounce of pistachios, a hard-cooked egg and some whole grain crackers, Greek yogurt, or 1/4 cup raisins. Don't skip meals or skimp on them, either. Here, 6 portable, protein-packed snacks that fill you up!
--Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better
2. Be honest about your daily calorie allowance
Everyone has a calorie budget, whether you're trying to maintain your weight or lose a few pounds. I've found that people ignore this simple fact. Your calorie budget allows you to build a healthy diet, and it helps prevent frustration about weight control. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide suggested daily calorie intakes based on gender, age, and physical activity level. When you know your calorie budget, then you can plan on how many servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and other protein sources to include every day.
PLUS: 8 Things You Didn't Know About Calories
3. Use the red, orange and green rule
At each meal include one food that is any of these colors. By focusing on these foods, you'll be sure to get some produce on your plate and won't have space on your plate for higher-calorie fare.
--Lyssie Lakatos, RD, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, authors of The Secret To Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat
4. Eat one less bite
Doing this at every meal could save about 75 calories a day which equates to nearly an 8-pound weight loss in one year!
--Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames
5. Be a heavy drinker
Water is essential for keeping the body hydrated and we're actually more likely to retain "water weight" by not drinking enough of it rather than by having too much. The needs of each person will be different, but the general recommended daily amount is 64 ounces. It also takes up space in your stomach so you'll feel fuller while taking in less calories.
--Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames
6. Kick the salt habit
Salt is a big contributor to weight gain and often a reason why the numbers on the scale aren't going down. The average American consumes twice the amount of salt they should have each day, leading to weight gain, bloating, and the inability to lose stubborn pounds. Salt can also make you feel hungrier and thirstier, so check the nutrition labels for high sodium levels and choose fresh over packaged or restaurant foods. You'll see a puffy face and belly go down quickly just by cutting back on your sodium intake and choosing more natural foods.
--Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames
7. Spice up your food
Adding hot spices to your meals can help curb hunger, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Need another reason to add some heat? Scientists at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that capsaicin (a compound found in chilies) triggers your brain to release feel-good endorphins. A full belly and a good mood? Pass the hot sauce!
-Christine Avanti, CN, author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food
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8. Don't think diet soda will help you lose weight
A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Downing just two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500%. Why? Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods, suggested an animal study from Purdue University. That means people who consume diet foods might be more likely to overeat, because your body is being tricked into thinking it's eating sugar, and you crave more.
A separate study found that even just one diet soda a day is linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, the group of symptoms including belly fat and high cholesterol that puts you at risk for heart disease. Whether that link is attributed to an ingredient in diet soda or the drinkers' eating habits is unclear. But is that one can really worth it? (Still not convinced? Check out seven more health risks associated with drinking diet soda.)
9. Focus on nutrient balance instead of calorie counting
Making sure an eating occasion has carbs, protein, and fat instead of just counting calories (like a 100-calorie pack) delivers better energy and fat loss results by giving the body what it needs, like quick- and longer-digesting nutrients so you stay full longer.
--Ashley Koff, RD, Prevention Advisory Board member
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10. Plate food away from where you're eating
By keeping food within eyesight as you are eating, you may find yourself reaching for a second helping even if you really aren't hungry. Place the food on the kitchen counter or stove, portion out a serving on your plate and then sit down at the table and eat. This way, if you want additional servings, you'll have to get up, which helps you to be more mindful of what you are eating.
--Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies
We know you've heard this time and time again. Well, that's because keeping a food record is vital to losing weight and keeping it off long term. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that those who kept regular food records lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. When keeping a food record, make sure to track what you ate, how much you ate, anything you added to the food (condiments, oils, etc.), and what you drank. Also tracking your mood and appetite can be helpful and insightful into learning about your eating patterns as well!
12. Start with soup
People who ate a low-calorie vegetable soup before a meal consumed 20% fewer calories at the meal, according to research from Penn State Unniversity. Have a low-calorie broth-based veggie soup before your largest meal of the day to reduce calories and lose weight without feeling hungry.
MORE: 25 Delicious Detox Meals That Jumpstart Weight Loss
13. Take your time
Rapid eaters are often heavier than slow eaters, according to research from The University of Rhode Island. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to send a message to your brain that you have eaten enough and are satisfied. If you rush your meal and eat rapidly, your body's satiety cues won't be tuned in to those feelings of fullness yet and it's easier to overeat. Try slowing down by chewing each bite at least 10 times, putting your fork down in between bites, and fostering a relaxing eating environment rather than eating on the run.
14. Outsmart your hunger hormone
Even the most motivated and focused dieter will struggle to be successful at weight loss once hunger takes over. Our bodies secrete a hormone called ghrelin, which controls hunger and drives our appetite. If we don't understand, monitor, and control our ghrelin, we can forget about losing weight. Science tells us that the best way to control ghrelin is to eat small, balanced meals about every 3 hours or so. That's because ghrelin will spike after about 3 to 4 hours of fasting, so eating with regularity helps keep this eating trigger at bay. Ghrelin will also spike if we're deprived of carbs, so it's important to give our bodies and brains the carb fuel they need. When we skip meals or avoid carbs, we're inviting ghrelin to spike, which increases and makes us feel emotionally hungry. It makes us crave sugar and can derail even the healthiest eating routine.
--Manuel Villacorta, RD, author of Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches
15. Wear fitted clothing The elastic waistband is the dieter's fashion enemy number one. When you wear clothes that fit well and make you feel good, you have awareness gauges that give you clear signals to help you put on the brakes as you fill up. Use this as a way of staying mindful of your goals and to help keep you from overeating.
--Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet
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