From intermittent fasting to the keto diet to teatoxes, there’s a plethora of diet advice out there. Maybe the keto diet worked wonders for your co-worker, but it’s just not conducive to your nutritional needs. Or not eating after 7 p.m. helped your sister lose 20 pounds, but you like doing evening workouts. The truth is losing weight is hard—and it takes patience—so if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. “Adopting healthy habits is not easy, but most things in life that are worthwhile take work,” explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN and author of Read it Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. But losing weight doesn’t need to be complicated. Following these simple nutritionist-backed tips will help point you in the right direction and reach your goals.
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Keep yourself organized
“A little forethought can go a long way,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LDN, consultant at RSP Nutrition. “In my practice I help clients stay on track with weekly meal prep planning guides or prep survival kits. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” she explains. By planning your meals in advance, you’re less likely to give into temptation or consume extra calories from hidden oils, sugar, and sodium in many take-out dishes.
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Fit in time for fitness
“We all have 24 hours in a day; it’s all about how you delegate the time to fit in anything from a 20-minute home workout from YouTube to a fancy personal training session 30 minutes away. It’s up to you!” Moreno says. Check out Prevention’s Fit After 40 workout DVD!
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Blend, don’t juice
“Instead of juicing in an effort to eat cleaner, make a smoothie. Juicing leaves important fiber and nutrients behind while blending includes the whole fruit or vegetable and includes the important nutrient that live right under the skin. Try this sweet potato smoothie for a satisfying drink that’ll last you for hours and deliver key nutrients, like vitamin A.
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Careful with the booze
“Too much drinking can completely derail an otherwise really balanced intake. Think of drinks as treats, not civil rights. Limit them in quantity, and cut back as many add-ins as possible, unless it’s something like club soda, lemon, lime, or fresh herbs,” Moreno says.
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Don’t get caught up with the number on the scale
“Just because the scale isn’t moving, doesn’t mean that you are making zero progress toward your fitness goals and dream body,” explains Mike Roussell, PhD, co-founder of Neutein, a dietary supplement meant to improve memory and performance. “It’s easy to think you’ve hit a plateau when you don’t see additional weight loss on the scale, but that’s not always truly the case.”
The scale is a poor marker of short-term progress because it doesn’t differentiate between changes in water, fat, or muscle. “Fluid regulation in the body is a fluid process. It is constantly changing, so one pound up or two pounds down on any given day doesn’t reflect any real changes in body composition,” Roussell explains.
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Allow your vegetables to play a starring role
“Try to make animal protein (meat, poultry, etc.) look more like a side dish and have the veggies play a starring role on your plate. This will help trim down your dish while also boosting its nutritional value by adding more vitamins, minerals, fiber and all of the goodness that comes from picking produce,” Taub-Dix says.
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Be honest with 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,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD.
The 2015 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, dairy, and other protein sources to include every day.
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Map out your health and wellness plan
“Acknowledge that health is an onion; it’s layered and complex, and isn’t just about nutrition,” Moreno says. “Map out your health and wellness path by creating lists of issues vs. goals in your life within the realms of nutrition, movement, sleep, stress, spiritual, social, and medical issues. You’ll learn to see yourself as an amalgam of health traits and not just a roster of foods you ate in the last week.”
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Make sleep a priority
“So many of us sacrifice this for work, family, or social experiences, but sleep is a basic tenet of health; you will not function properly, cognitively or physically, without adequate sleep,” Moreno explains. “Adequate usually means at least 8 hours. Set strict sleep time rules and practice good sleep hygiene. When you prioritize sleep, other aspects of good health may line up more easily.”
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Keep hunger at bay during the day, but not before bed
Roussell explains that when we get too hungry, our bodies secrete a hormone called, ghrelin, which controls our hunger and appetite. If too much ghrelin is released, we get hangry and will grab pretty much anything. Before bed, however, Roussell says going to sleep a bit hungry can actually be beneficial. “Going to be hungry may actually help you sleep better as ghrelin makes your body more responsive to compounds in your brain that aid in sleep.”
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Undress your salads
“Instead of using a heavy salad dressing, try a drizzle of thick balsamic glaze along with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice” Taub-Dix says. “By cutting the fat in your diet, you can not only save calories, but you can also leave room for healthier fats like avocado or nuts, which are toppings you can actually chew and enjoy with greater satisfaction.”
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Keep the size of your stomach in mind
Taub-Dix suggests slowing down and listening to your stomach, not your brain. “Believe it or not, your stomach is about the size of two of your fists. When you eat some bread and butter, a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main dish, and dessert and cappuccino—your mouth and mind will feel satisfied, but your stomach might have wanted to go home halfway through your meal!”
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Have your groceries delivered
“Having your groceries delivered cuts back on the impulse buys, wasting money, and over portioning. Plus, you can pre-load your weekly list so it’s effortless,” Moreno explains. Moreno also recommends keeping healthy snacks on your “auto-ship” list on Amazon. This way, you never run out! Moreno swears by these delectable protein brownies. “Stash one in every purse!”
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Trim your portions
“Not cutting foods out altogether will help you meet your needs without feeling deprived. Don’t focus on ‘allowed’ and ‘avoid’ lists,” Taub-Dix says. Instead, learn how to read hunger cues and sensations of fullness so you don’t over eat.
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Don’t skip meals
Taub-Dix suggests not skipping meals you’ll just want to eat more. “Aside from skipping important nutrients, missed meals can lead to a feeling of entitlement, making it seem as if an overindulgent snack is owed to you. A less haphazard diet will help you feel more balanced, both physically and emotionally,” she explains.
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Make time to move more daily
“It doesn’t have to be a HIIT class, but humans are designed to be in motion daily, not sitting at a desk for 9 hours. If you’re starting out, walking is fine—at least 15K steps ideal—and this isn’t for weight loss, it’s just for health. Start to move as much as possible. If you’re on the phone, walk around while chatting,” Moreno explains.
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Be your own cheerleader
“Do whatever it takes to help you feel limber and refreshed daily, not punished and stuck behind a desk,” Taub-Dix suggests. “Talk positively to yourself and cheer yourself on no matter what.” Taub-Dix explains that even if you fall off the health horse, just forgive yourself and get back up again. Don’t dwell on the failures.
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Remember, good things take work
“Think about how much work goes into raising kids, holding down a job, or maintaining relationships with those we care about. The same idea applies to leading a healthy lifestyle. Some days will be easier than others, but in the long run your efforts will be rewarded,” Taub-Dix shares.
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Keep track of your progress
Roussell recommends closely tracking your progress, so you don’t lose motivation. “If you track progress in a detailed way, you’ll notice change happening. Measure data points like your chest, waist, arm size, and body-fat percentage with a tape measure—it’s possible that you can stay the same weight, but lose inches off your waist and other areas as your body tones and tightens,” he explains. “Don’t expect to lose two pounds per week every single week until you reach your goal.”
You might lose less weight some weeks than others. And if you come up short one week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you hit a plateau. “It’s just part of the natural process of weight loss,” Roussell explains.
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Try the 90 percent rule
“Regardless of how solid they are, your diet and exercise plans won’t work if you aren’t sticking to them. You’ve made a commitment to yourself, so come through with it,” Roussell says. As you plan your meals or snacks, Roussell suggests putting an X over it on your menu map. If you skip a meal or eat something that isn’t in your plan, circle that meal. At the end of each week, count the number of meals you ate according to your meal plan and divide that number by the total number of meals, snacks, and post-workout smoothies you had planned, then multiply it by 100.
“If you hit 90 percent or more, nice work. If you didn’t hit at least 90 percent, then your efforts should be dedicated to working on your dietary plan for the next week,” Roussell says.
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Eat foods that excite you
“Think outside of the box when you’re preparing what to eat. I wake up every day excited to eat breakfast because I love the foods I’ve bought and prepared and can’t wait to savor them,” Moreno says. Instead of boring oatmeal in the morning, which Moreno calls, “Oliver Twist food,” jazz it up. “Try oatmeal with vanilla protein powder, walnuts toasted in ghee, and cinnamon, that’s much more exciting.”
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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, according to Lyssie and Tammy Lakatos, RD, authors of The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat.
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Focus on nutrient balance instead of calorie counting
Make sure every meal has some carbs, protein, fiber, and fat instead of just counting calories. Having all of these key nutrients in your dish 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, says Ashley Koff, RD.