8 Ways to Cheat-proof Your Diet

Set yourself up for diet successNever count on just your willpower to stick to a nutritious meal plan. Rather than beat yourself up for occasional slip-ups (or abandon the diet all together) use these clever ideas to set yourself up for diet success.

1. Plan Ahead
Failing to plan can easily lead to diet downfalls: unhealthy menu selections or the lack of nutritious options when you're in a rush. Prioritize your diet and make meal-planning part of your routine, not a chore, says Manuel Villacorta, RD and author of Eating Free. "Schedule a date with your supermarket once a week, followed by a date with your kitchen, where you can pre-make a lot of healthy foods," he says. Boil rice and quinoa, cook beans, whip up a soup or stew, grill chicken, and roast veggies, so you will have basics ready to warm up or pack for lunch.

If you know you're going to dine out, read the menu and pick a diet-friendly option before you go. Watch out for terms like braised or pan-fried, ask for any sauces on the side and beware of salads that are loaded with high-caloric extras, says Bethany Thayer, RD, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Related: 7 Health Benefits of Being Organized

2. Start Big
"Breakfast is one of those meals that can determine how crazy you're going to eat at 4pm," says Villacorta. Start your day with a 300- to 400- calorie meal packed with protein and carbohydrates to help you feel full longer. Try oatmeal with a hard-boiled egg on the side, serve up an omelet with fruit, or blend Greek yogurt with berries for a satisfying shake.

3. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Know your trigger foods - the ones you can't stop yourself from devouring no matter how hard you try - and adopt an "out of sight, out of mind" approach. "We eat with our eyes, and if we don't see it, we don't reach for it," says Thayer. If mac 'n' cheese is your weakness, hide it in the far back of your pantry, on the top shelf, or if possible, don't bring it into your home at all. Only indulge if it's available at a restaurant or a friend's house.

4. Size Matters
"When we see a full plate, our mind thinks we're getting more food," says Thayer. Benefit from this visual trick and use smaller dishes. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that choosing smaller plates in colors that contrast with your food reduced portion sizes by 9 to 31 percent. Try serving dinner on a lunch plate or pouring high-calorie beverages in small juice glasses.

5. Write it Down
Keeping a food diary can prove to be especially helpful if you want to change your diet, says Villacorta. When you record everything that goes into your mouth, you start to see how many calories and fat you're actually consuming. One study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research even found that keeping a food diary can double a person's weight loss. For some, the act of having to write down slip-ups helps prevent them in the first place.

Related: How to Stop Emotional Eating


6. The Skinny on Socializing
Chew on this: The more people you're dining with, the more likely you are to overeat, says Thayer. She explains that you're likely to linger while socializing during mealtime, allotting more time to consume the food in front of you. Try these strategies to avoid excess calories: Make sure you're the last person to start; put your silverware down in between bites to pace yourself; when you've eaten enough, cover your dish with a napkin to ensure you don't mindlessly graze.

7. Think Before You Drink
Remember that liquid calories can add up fast. Too many alcoholic beverages, juices, soda, (and even those must-have venti coffees with cream and sugar) can blow your diet. "If flavored drinks are your weakness, try lower calorie versions using sugar substitutes and low-fat dairy," says Thayer. "But if it's the real thing you want, you should view these beverages as the treats they are and handle accordingly."

Related: 10 Weight Loss Myths, Debunked

8. Snack Smarter
If you like to save money by buying groceries in bulk, beware. "When we have big containers, we tend to pour larger portions," says Thayer. This doesn't mean you have to stop shopping at club stores, though. Parcel out super-sized snacks into single-serving portions. (Snacks should contain 100 to 200 calories.) Split that tub of popcorn into 10 bags you can grab on the go, or store 24 of the 36 packs of snack-sized chips in your basement until you need them. When portion control fails, try taping the bag or box closed. "If you truly seal the snack off, you'll think twice before going in and breaking that tape," says Thayer.

How do you set yourself up for weight loss success? Let me know in the comments!

-by Julie Seguss

More from Good Housekeeping: