Top 10 Eating Habits That'll Get You Fit for Summer

We've all been there: Despite exercising and watching what you eat, the elastic in your workout shorts seems to be as tight as your hamstrings. "Ninety-five percent of the active people I work with want to lose some weight," says Cassie Dimmick, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian and running coach in Springfield, Missouri.

Getting lean requires the same trait that makes you get up at 5 a.m. for a workout: discipline. You need to be vigilant about your diet and consistent with exercise so that you maximize calorie burn, increase muscle mass, and decrease body fat. Luckily, it's easier than it sounds when you employ these tactics from dietitians and coaches. Here, we present the top 10 eating habits that'll help you get lean. Get ready to lose (plus, check back later this week for our list of the top exercise tips)!

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1. DON'T DRINK SUGAR
A study out of Tufts University in Boston looked at the association between sugar-sweetened drinks and the nutritional habits of 947 adults. Unsurprisingly, those who drank the most sugary beverages, like soda, had a higher risk of obesity and a lower intake of fiber. When you celebrate, opt for wine, beer, or a drink mixed with club soda. "Margarita mix, orange juice, and Coke often have more calories than the alcohol," Dimmick says.

2. GO OFF THE SAUCE
Beware of the hidden calories in sauces. Use tomato sauce instead of alfredo on pasta; substitute hummus or mustard for mayo on a sandwich; and make your own salad dressing: Add a little ranch seasoning to plain Greek yogurt, or a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (PLUS: Try one of the Healthiest Condiments for Your Diet.)

3. MAKE FIBER YOUR FRIEND
"Multiple studies have shown that fiber is correlated to weight loss as well as weight maintenance," says Jennifer Vimbor, M.S., R.D., founder of Nutrition Counseling Services in Chicago. Fiber passes through your system undigested, so your body has to work harder and longer to move it out, which helps rev your metabolism and give you a feeling of fullness. Aim to eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day: beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (But to keep your GI tract quiet during the day, don't eat fiber two hours before you head out.)

4. GO ALL DIY
"Throwing something together for yourself at home is almost always going to involve fewer calories than dining out," Dimmick says. "You can control the ingredients and the portion sizes." For nights you're too rushed to cook, stock your pantry and freezer ahead of time with these staples: vegetable and bean soups, a frozen vegetable pizza, brown rice you can microwave, a can of black beans and salsa (a combo of the latter three make an easy, healthy meal). In order to make a brown-bag lunch as easy as possible, double dinner recipes so that you'll have leftovers. Chili and lasagna--make them both heavy on the vegetables--are especially tasty the day after you make them. (For ultimate results, incorporate as many of these 20 Best Foods for Weight Loss into your meals.)

5. AVOID THE TOP 3 DIET ROADBLOCKS

Roadblock You're famished
Eat something with protein, carbs, and fiber like plain, fat-free Greek yogurt with a cup of berries. "Don't let yourself get too hungry, as it's hard to stop eating," Eberle says.

Roadblock It's a special occasion!
Celebrate. Moderately. Have a (small) piece of cake. No good comes of trying to "save up" calories. Eat your normal meals and snacks so you're not starving.

Roadblock Gaining back lost weight
"Trying to stay at your lowest weight is like trying to stay at your peak fitness year round," Fitzgerald says. "When you dial back training, expect to put on a few pounds."

6. KEEP IT AWAY
Don't bring decadent foods into your home; it's easier to win the battle at the grocery store than at the dinner table.

7. FOLLOW THESE RULES FOR DAILY EATS

Breakfast Rotate three meals, says Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D., sports nutrition expert for the Runner's World Challenge. Ideas: "adult" cereal (high on fiber, grains; low on sugar), oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or eggs. Always include fruit.

Lunch Rotate three to five meals. Ideas: salads (go easy on high-calorie toppings), sandwiches on whole grain (hold the mayo), eggs (if you didn't have them at breakfast), and broth-based soups. Always include fruit or a side of vegetables.

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Dinner Rotate five healthy meals like chicken, fish, and whole grains. Always include vegetables. "Keep your meals interesting by changing the vegetable and fruit sides and mixing up the preparation of the entree," Nisevich Bede says.

8. REPEAT YOURSELF
The National Weight Control Registry is a compendium of more than 10,000 people who have maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for at least one year. These successful losers "limit their exposure to temptations," says J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., a co-investigator on the study, "and have a repertoire of healthy foods they pull from regularly."

9. PAY ATTENTION
"Before you reach for a snack, make sure you're really hungry," says Eberle, who explains we often eat when we really need sleep, play, or downtime. 'You may just need to step away from your desk for 15 minutes and chill out."

10. PRACTICE LONG, SLOW EATING

In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2011, researchers in New Zealand looked at the relationship 2,500 women had between their self-reported speeds of eating and their body mass indexes. For each step up in speed (on a five-step scale from very slow to very fast), BMI increased by 2.8 percent. By slowing down, you give your mind a chance to process that your body is full. Increase your meal splits by eschewing distraction: no computer, no television, no newspaper. "You'll become aware of every bite," Eberle says.

More from Runner's World:


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