Snacking is the key to Mary Rogerson’s 60-pound weight loss but it’s not just how often she eats but what. “I aim to eat at least seven servings of vegetables a day, along with some protein, every few hours,” she says. “And The best part is that by the time she’s loaded up on her rainbow of produce, she’s usually too full to eat much else and her cravings for sweets have gone way down.
All meals are important, but breakfast is what helps you start your day on the right track. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you're including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (e.g., eggs, beans, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down without sacrifice.
Before you eat, have a big glass of water. Being even just slightly dehydrated makes you prone to sugar cravings, especially if you've been exercising. Better yet, add some ice: A German study found that drinking about 16 ounces of cold water increased metabolic rate by 30% for an hour. If you're still hungry after sipping some water, then go ahead and eat.
Important Note: as with most diet ideas, these strategies should be used in moderation. There is a tremendous amount of social, cultural, and peer pressure in our world to “be thin.” The strategies I'm sharing below aren't meant to promote that type of behavior. My goal is offer ideas that make it easier to live healthy in a sustainable way. Your ultimate goal should always be to regain your health and love yourself.
Wrap up your morning meal with dessert—yes, really. In a Tel Aviv University Medical Center study, one group had a 304-calorie breakfast with 10 grams of carbs, while the other group ate a 600-calorie breakfast with 60 grams of carbs, which included a small sweet, such as chocolate, a doughnut, a cookie, or cake. Halfway through the 8-month study, both groups had lost an average of 33 pounds per person. At the end, however, the low-carb group regained 22 pounds, while the dessert group dropped an additional 15. Researchers say the dessert-eaters reported dealing with fewer cravings, and had a better chance of sticking to their calorie requirements for the rest of the day.
SOURCES: WebMD Feature: "With Fruits and Veggies, More Matters." 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD,author, Comfort Food Makeovers. Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Ithaca, N.Y.; author, Mindless Eating. Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences; and director, laboratory for the study of human ingestive behaviors, Penn State University; and author, The Volumetrics Eating Plan.
Of carbs and protein, that is. Carbs certainly aren’t the enemy; you can totally enjoy carbs and still lose weight. The trick is to choose something complex (like brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain bread) or something refined (like white rice, white pasta, and white bread), and pair it with a protein. So if you’re having crackers for a snack, make sure you also eat some almonds or a stick of string cheese. “I always incorporate a protein and carbohydrate at every meal,” Jim White, RD, ACSM Health, and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios told us in our 30 No-Diet Diet Tricks article. “It can curb your appetite and it slows down the glycemic index of some of your higher sugar foods.”
Drinking plenty of water is essential for overall health, and is a great way to boost your weight-loss efforts. But if you’re getting your H2O from cheap bottled water, the bottle itself could pose a problem; Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, has been linked to obesity, and it’s still found in many cheap plastics. A 2011 Harvard study found that adults with the highest concentration of BPA in their urine had significantly larger waists and a chance of being obese than those without as much of the chemical in their systems. So if you must drink store-bought bottled water, check to see if the bottle is BPA-free. And whatever you do, don’t reuse the same bottle; constantly refilling the same plastic bottle can cause BPA to leak into the water.
Fathi, Y., Faghih, S., Zibaeenezhad, M. J., & Tabatabaei, S. H. (2016, February). Kefir drink leads to a similar weight loss, compared with milk, in a dairy-rich non-energy-restricted diet in overweight or obese premenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(1), 295–304. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-015-0846-9
Packaged meals: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
The efficacy of Nutrisystem boils down to portion control. A tiny tray of frozen tuna casserole doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients or satisfaction, but if that’s all you have for dinner, you’re keeping calorie count low. We entered in a couple Nutrisystem meals and found their point count to be mid-high, between 7 and 9. Ultimately, tiny amounts of not-wholesome foods doesn’t teach you to eat well.
Nearly 30% of U.S. adults say they're trying to go gluten free—but unless you've been diagnosed with celiac disease, there's really no need. In fact, cutting all gluten foods (such as wheat, barley, and rye) from your diet won't necessarily help you lose weight. Gluten-free junk foods are everywhere, and a gluten-free cookie or slice of pizza is just as bad for you as the regular kind.
We know that shedding unwanted pounds used to mean giving up your favorite foods, logging hours at the gym, and being hungry (and hangry) all the time. Fortunately, dropping a dress size (or two) doesn’t have to be that complicated or torturous. Sure, losing any significant amount of weight requires lifestyle changes and some hard work, but it all boils down to simple choices.
You start to link up the cost of points with the cost of certain foods on your body, without any item every becoming taboo or strictly off-limits. Our tester found the point system both easy-to-use and eye-opening. “I can’t believe how many ‘healthy’ or at least innocuous foods are actually bad for you,” she remarked, noting how diet staples like granola bars took a big bite out of her daily allotment of points.
"You also can gain up to several pounds, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle," Zied says. Estrogen encourages bloating by stimulating the kidneys to retain sodium. If you're taking oral contraceptives, note that older prescriptions containing higher doses of estrogen can cause more bloating than the new, lower-dose pills. (Some studies show no difference in water-weight gain between a low-dose oral contraceptive and a placebo.)
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.