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The Perfect Healthy Grocery List When You're Cooking for One
Healthy habits can quickly go out the window when we’ve got a tight deadline, no time for the gym, and few options but takeout food. Losing weight is no easy task, and doing it the healthy way can be even harder. We’re advocates for making small changes each day, rather than making drastic changes all at once. But it’s important to remember that just because a weight-loss strategy works for some (even if it’s backed by scientific studies) it may not work for everyone. From drinking more water to eating from blue plates, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite weight-loss tips to add to your daily routine.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be a comprehensive weight loss guide. Each entry may not be right for every individual. We at Greatist believe in providing readers with the information to make their own healthy choices based on a variety of weight loss techniques. What's appropriate for one person may not be best for his or her friend, mom, cousin, etc. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any weight loss program.
Tips for Eating
1. Get the Blues
“I got the blues” may conjure up memories of those macaroni and cheese commercials from the ‘90s, but we’re talking about blue dishware. The color blue can act as an appetite suppressant because it has the least appealing contrast to most food. Research says to avoid plates that match the food served on them (like white plates and fettuccini Alfredo), because there is less of a contrast, which may prompt us to eat more. A small but potentially useful trick!
2. Eat Snacks!
Skipping out on snack time won’t necessarily lead to weight loss, since low calorie consumption can actually slow metabolism Hypothalamic lipophagy and energetic balance. Singh, R. Department of Medicine (Endocrinology) and Molecular Pharmacology, Member of the Diabetes Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. Aging, 2011 October; 3(10): 934–942.. Eating less than three times a day may benefit those who are obese, but research shows skipping meals throughout the day and eating one large meal at night can lead to some undesirable outcomes (like delayed insulin response) which may increase the risk of diabetes Fast food consumption and breakfast skipping: predictors of weight gain from adolescence to adulthood in a nationally representative sample. Niemeier, H.M, Raynor, H.A., Lloyd-Richardson, E.E. et al. Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, The Miriam-Hospital/Brown Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2006 Dec;39(6):842-9. Impact of Reduced Meal Frequency Without Caloric Restriction on Glucose Regulation in Healthy, Normal Weight Middle-Aged Men and Women. Carlson, O., Martin, B, Stote, K., et al. Diabetes Section, Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, MD. Metabolism, 2007 December; 56(12): 1729-1734.. Instead of forgoing breakfast or lunch, stick to a few meals a day with healthy snacks in between.
3. Peruse the Perimeter
Next time you need groceries, circle the perimeter of the store before going in. This isn’t a way to stalk out your prey, but actually a tactic to load up on the healthy stuff first. The edges of grocery stores generally house fresh produce, meat, and fish, while the inner aisles hold more pre-packaged, processed foods. Browsing the perimeter can help control how many unwanted additives are in the grocery basket.
4. Stock the Fridge
Make an effort to fill the fridge with healthy produce and proteins (from perusing the perimeter!). Keep lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand. And for when the fruit basket goes barren, make sure the freezer is stocked with frozen veggie mixes or berries (grab the bags full of just veggies, not the ones with butter-laden sauces). You may be less apt to order out when you’ve got the makings of a healthy dinner right at home. And the good news is, healthy food doesn’t always have to be pricey.
5. Eat in the A.M.
Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t a safety shield for late-night noshing Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens: a pilot fMRI study. Leidy, H.J., Lepping, R.J., Savage, C.R., et al. Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas. Obesity, 2011 Oct;19(10):2019-25.. While there’s still debate on how important breakfast really is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (ie. four servings of mashed potatoes) Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. Astbury, N.M., Taylor, M.A., Macdonarld, I.A. School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK. Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Jul;141(7):1381-9. Epub 2011 May 11.. Make sure to stick a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein; we tend to eat the same sized lunch and dinner regardless of how many calories we eat in the morning Impact of breakfast on daily energy intake. Schusdziarra, V., Hausmann, M., Wittke, C. et al. Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany. Nutrition Journal, 2011, 10:5..
6. Get Busy in the Kitchen
We promise cooking doesn't take long! Restaurants often use larger plates than the ones we have at home, and studies show that increased portion sizes result in increased energy intake, even if there’s a doggy bag involved The Contribution of Expanding Portion Sizes to the US Obesity Epidemic. Young, L.R., Nestle, M. Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, New York University, New York City. American Journal of Public Health, 2002 February; 92(2): 246-249. Increased portion size leads to increased energy intake in a restaurant meal. Diliberti, N., Bordi, P.L, Conklin, M.T., et al. Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. Obesity Research, 2004 Mar;12(3):562-8. Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Wansink, B, Painer, J.E., North, J. Applied Economics and Marketing, 110 Warren Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Obesity Research, 2005 Jan;13(1):93-100.. Why not start by making these healthy meals in just 12 minutes or less (quesadillas, stir-fry, and burgers, oh my!).
7. Prioritize the Pantry
Take a little time out to toss the junk. If you’ve got some favorite not-so-great items you’d like to save as a treat, tuck them in the back of the pantry with healthier items, like whole grain pasta, rice, beans, and nuts up front. We know that just because the cans of tuna and a bag of lentils are right in front doesn’t mean you’ll forget the brownie mix altogether, but it’ll help keep the brownie mix out of sight, out of mind. Just seeing or smelling food can stimulate cravings, and increase hunger (especially true for junk food) ‘I just can’t help myself’: effects of food-cue exposure in overweight and lean individuals. Ferriday, D., Brunstrom, J.M. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, England, UK. International Journal of Obesity. June 15, 2010..
8. Serve "Restaurant" Style
Instead of lining up the breadbasket, entire casserole, and salad bowl, right on the table, leave food on the kitchen counter (away from reach). When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather then decide if you really want those seconds. Changing up the environment, like by leaving food by the stove, can help reduce food intake Eating as an automatic behavior. Cohen, D., Farley, T.A., RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, USA. Preventing Chronic Disease, 2008 Jan;5(1):A23..
9. Use Smaller Plates
History shows plate sizes have increased over the past millennium The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. Wansink, B., Wansink, C.S. Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. International Journal of Obesity, 2010 May;34(5):943-4.. When it’s time to sit down for dinner, choose a size-appropriate plate or bowl. Using a smaller plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more) can make us feel fuller with the same amount of food. How does this magic trick work? The brain may associate the white space with less food, plus smaller plates generally lead to smaller portions Normative influences on food intake. Herman, C.P., Polivy, J. Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Physiological Behavior, 2005 Dec 15;86(5):762-72..
10. Chew Slowly
Eating slowly may not fit into a busy workday, but it pays to pace your chewing: the quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Hollis, J.F., Gullion, C.M., Stevens, V.J., et al. Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008 Aug;35(2):118-26. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Andrade, A.M., Greene, G.W., Melanson, K.J. Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008 Jul;108(7):1186-91.. So slow down, and take a second to savor.
11. Deep Freeze
Once meal prep is over, serve yourself a reasonable portion, then package up the rest and stash it in the fridge or freezer for a later date. When the food is out of sight, studies show you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping ‘I just can’t help myself’: effects of food-cue exposure in overweight and lean individuals. Ferriday, D., Brunstrom, J.M. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, England, UK. International Journal of Obesity. June 15, 2010. Do distant foods decrease intake? The effect of food accessibility on consumption. Maas, J., de Ridder, D.T., de Vet, E., et al. Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Psychology & Health. 2011 Jan 1:1-15..
12. Wait Before Grabbing Seconds
The quicker we shovel down a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7.. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or play cards before dishing up seconds or tackling the dessert table.
13. Snack Before Dining
Grabbing an apple or a small cup of yogurt before meeting friends for dinner can help ensure you’ll eat a reasonable amount of that enormous entrée (rather than overdo it). And be sure to reach for the protein—research shows that an afternoon snack of Greek yogurt can lead to reduced hunger, increased fullness, and less eating come dinner time Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: willpower is more than a metaphor. Gailliot, M.T., Baumeister, R.F., DeWall, C.N., et al. Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2007 Feb;92(2):325-36..
14. Sneak in the Veggies
Bumping up vegetable consumption has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity Relationship of fruit and vegetable intake with adiposity: a systematic review. Ledouz, T.A., Hingle, M.D., Branowski, T. Department of Pediatrics, USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.. Add veggies to an omelet to cut down on cheese, use them in baked goods, and pasta dishes (Bonus: Try zucchini ribbons, or spaghetti squash instead). Pump pureed veggies, like pumpkin, into oatmeal or casseroles. Adding a little vegetable action into a meal or snack will increase fiber levels, which helps make us fuller, faster Dietary fibers reduce food intake by satiation without conditioned taste aversion in mice. Rasoamanana, R., Even, P.C., Darcel, N., et al. AgroParisTech, Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France; Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France. Physiology Behavior, 2012 Dec 23;110-111C:13-19..
15. Turn Off the Tube
Eating while watching television is linked to poor food choices and overeating Mediators of longitudinal associations between television viewing and eating behaviours in adolescents. Pearson, N., Ball, K., Crawford, D. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. March 30, 2011.. Getting sucked into the latest episode of Snooki and JWoww can bring on mindless eating and it can be easy to lose track of just how many chips we’ve just thrown down the hatch. It’s not just the mindlessness of watching televsion that’ll get us. Commercials for unhealthy foods and drinks may increase our desire for low-nutrient junk, fast food, and sugary beverages.
16. Turn Your Back on Temptation
The closer we’re situated to a food that’s in our line of vision, chances are the more we’ll actually eat of it The office candy dish: proximity's influence on estimated and actual consumption. Wansink, B., Painter, J.E., Lee, Y.K. Cornell Food and Brand Laboratory, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. International Journal of Obesity, 2006 May;30(5):871-5.. If we face away from food that might tempt us when we’re not all that hungry (like an office candy bowl), we may be more likely to listen to cues from our gut rather than our eyes.
17. Hands Off
When snack time hits, our brains can be pretty unreliable. It’s tempting to reach for a bag of chips, but instead, grab a handful (or measure out the serving size) then seal the bag up and put it away. Odds are, you’ll be more mindful of how much you’re polishing off when you see it right in front of you. And next time there’s a between-meal tummy rumble, try one of these healthy, satisfying 100-calorie snacks.
18. Pack the Protein
Protein can help promote a healthy weight because high protein diets are associated with greater satiety, plus it’s important for healthy muscle growth Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. Clifton, P. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia. The British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9.. Animal sources aren’t the only option—try alternatives like quinoa, tempeh, and lentils.
19. Fill Up on Fiber
Eating more vegetables and other high-fiber items like legumes can help keep us fuller, longer Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Howarth, N.C., Saltzman, E., Roberts, S.B. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrition Review, 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Dietary fiber and body weight. Slavin, J.L. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. Nutrition, 2005 Mar;21(3):411-8.. Look for at least five grams or more of the stuff per serving. Snack on some of our favorite high-fiber picks like stuffed baked apples or jazzed up oats.
20. Make Room for (Healthy) Fats
Cutting butter and oil can slash calories, and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana, or flax for baking. But, it's important to remember that we still need fat in our diets as a source of energy and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Plus it helps us feel full. Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from avocadoes, olive oil, nuts, coconuts, seeds, and fish Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assuncao, M.L., Ferreira, H.S., dos Santos, A.F., et al. Faculdade de Nutricao, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Maceio, AL, Brazil. Lipids, 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.. Bonus tip: Combining fat with fiber has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. Montmayeur, J.P., le Coutre, J., Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press; 2010..
21. Steer Clear of Simple Carbs
Simple carbs are the white stuff—white bread, most pastries, refined sugars (like in soda). What makes it so simple? These foods provide energy, but lack the same nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber) as complex carbohydrates Carbohydrates Starches; Simple sugars; Sugars; Complex carbohydrates; Diet - carbohydrates; Simple carbohydrates. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Last reviewed: May 16, 2012.. The body also breaks simple carbs down quickly, spikes blood sugar (insulin), and leaves your tummy might rumbling sooner than you imagined The role of carbohydrates in insulin resistance. Bessesen, D.H. University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Cener for Human Nutrition and Denver Health Medical Center, Denver CO. Journal of Nutrition, 2001 Oct;131(10):2782S-2786S.. Choose whole grains instead, which may reduce potentially dangerous excess abdominal fat buildup (which can lead to diabetes) The effects of a whole grain-enriched hypocaloric diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome. Katcher, H.I., Legro, R.S., Kunselman, A.R., et al. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Core Endocrine Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008 Jan;87(1): 79-90.. Switch to whole-wheat pasta or whole grain bread, or try grains like brown rice, quinoa, or millet.
22. Ditch Added Sugar
A spoonful of sugar allegedly helps the medicine go down, but adding it to food may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents. Welsh J.A., Sharma A., Cunningham S.A.,et. al., Nutrition and Health Science Program, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, Circulation. 2011 Jan 25;123(3):249-57. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Fulgoni V 3rd, Nutrition Impact, LLC, Battle Creek, MI, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008 Dec;88(6):1715S.. Stick to sugar that comes in its natural form (in fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and scrap that morning-coffee-spoonful Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Schulze M.B., Manson J.E., Ludwig D.S., Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, Journal of the American Medical Association 2004 Aug 25;292(8):927-34..
23. Make Subs
No, we don’t mean the sandwich. We mean easy recipe substitutions. Simple swaps—like Greek yogurt for sour cream, prunes for butter, or an Americano for a latte—can cut calories and sugar. Even a grilled cheese can get a healthy revamp by making a few smart subs.
24. Cook Smart
Even healthy food can become not so great when it’s been dropped into a fryer. Instead, pan fry or pop a dish in the oven. Use non-stick spray to sauté foods, or rub oil onto a pan with a paper towel for a light coating. You can even whip up a batch of healthier chips.
25. Heat It Up With Cayenne
Cayenne pepper, the bright red spice, can not only boost metabolism, but can also cut cravings for fatty, sweet, or salty foods Effects of capsaicin, green tea and CH-19 sweet pepper on appetite and energy intake in humans in negative and positive energy balance. Reinbach, HC., Smeets, A., Martinussen, T., et al. Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 30, Frederiksberg C, Denmark. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), Jun; 28(3):260-5. The effects of hedonically acceptable red pepper doses on thermogenesis and appetite. Ludy, MJ, Mattes, RD. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Physiology and Behavior, 2011 Mar 1;102(3-4):251-8.. Some studies even suggest that the hot stuff can increase fat oxidation, meaning the body can better use fat as fuel Effects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications. Snitker, S., Fujishima, Y., Shen, H., et al. University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009 Jan; 89(1):45-50. Pharmacokinetic and the effect of capsaicin in Capsicum frutescens on decreasing plasma glucose level. Chaiyasit, K., Khovidhunkit, W., Wittayalertpanya, S. Inter-department of Pharmacology, Graduate School, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 2009 Jan; 92(1):108-13.. Sprinkle some on scrambled eggs, or spice up a stir-fry with a little hot sauce.
26. Chew Gum
Popping a piece of sugar free gum won’t necessarily curb your appetite. But, chewing a 5-calorie stick can keep the mouth busy when cooking up a meal, or socializing amongst a sea of hor d’ouevres at a party. While the long term effects of gum chewing on weight loss are minimal, studies show it can lower cravings for sweet and salty snacks, and decrease hunger between meals Effects of chewing gum on short-term appetite regulation in moderately restrained eaters. Hetherington, M.M and Regan, M.F. Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, England, UK. Appetite 2011 Jun; 57(2): 475 – 482. Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Hetherington, M.M. and Boyland, E. Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK. Appetite 2001 May; 48(3): 397-401..
27. Go Straw-less
... with fruit, that is. Juices (which are often far from 100 percent fruit) provide some vitamins, but without the same fiber and phytonutrients as a real piece of fruit. Let’s take an apple for instance. An 8-oz. glass of apple juice has double the sugar and less than one-tenth the fiber of a medium apple.
28. Cave in to Cravings
We love this tip. Cravings are OK! Acknowledge those cravings instead of pushing them away completely (which may lead to blowing it later). Caving into a craving, as long as it’s in moderation (try on of these healthier ways to satisfy a sweet tooth) can actually help curb desire. Forbidding a food may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that chocolate cake after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite activity—dancing in the rain, getting a massage, playing with a puppy. Research shows that engaging in imagery can reduce the intensity of food cravings Replacing craving imagery with alternative pleasant imagery reduces craving intensity. Knauper, B., Pillay, R., Lacaille, J. et al. Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Appetite, 2011 Aug;57(1):173-8..
29. Bag It Up
Sometimes we’d rather not admit it, but let’s face it—restaurant meal portions are generally heftier than what we cook at home Increased portion size leads to increased energy intake in a restaurant meal. Diliberti, N., Bordi, P.L, Conklin, M.T., et al. Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. Obesity Research, 2004 Mar;12(3):562-8.. Make a conscious decision to bag up half of the meal before taking the first bite. The added benefit? You’ve got a doggie-bag lunch for tomorrow!
Tips for Drinking
30. Sip Green Tea
Drinking green tea is one of the most common tips for shedding a few pounds, and for good reason—green tea is known for its ability to metabolize fat Fat burners: nutrition supplements that increase fat metabolism. Jeukendrup, A.E., Randell, R. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK. Obesity Reviews, 2011 Oct;12(10):841-51. The putative effects of green tea on body fat: an evaluation of the evidence and a review of the potential mechanisms. Thavanesan, N. University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. British Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Nov;106(9):1297-309.. And in combination with resistance training, green tea increases the potential for fat loss The Effects of Green Tea Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight or Obese Women. Cardoso, G.A., Salgado, J.M., Cesar, M.D., et al. Department of Agroindustry, Food, and Nutrition, Luiz de Queroz College of Agriculture, University of Sao Paulo, Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Journal of Medicinal Food, 2012 Nov 9.. Add a squeeze of lemon for a little flavor and to amp up antioxidant affects Green Tea Supplementation Affects Body Weight, Lipids, and Lipid Peroxidation in Obese Subjects with Metabolic Syndrome. Basu, A., Sanchez, K., Leyva, M.J. Nutritional Sciences, Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA..
31. Gulp H2O
Kick the diet beverages and vitamin enhanced money traps to the curb and reach for good ‘ole H2O instead. Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result, consume fewer calories Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey, J.D., Constant, F., Popkin, B.M., et al. Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland California, USA. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2008 Nov;16(11):2481-8. Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older adults. Dennis, E.A., Dengo, A.L., Comber, D.L. Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2010 February; 18(2): 300-307.. Drinking water also significantly elevates resting energy expenditure (basically the number of calories we’d burn if we sat around all day) and lower water intake is associated with obesity Influence of water drinking on resting energy expenditure in overweight children. Dubnov-Raz, G., Constantini, N.W., Yariv, H., et al. Exercise, Nutrition and Lifestyle Clinic, The Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, Sheba Medical center, Tel Hashomer, Israel. International Journal of Obesity, 2011 Oct;35(10):1295-300. The influence of oral water load on energy expenditure and sympatho-vagal balance in obese and normal weight women. Kocelak, P., Zak-Golab A., Smetek, J., et al. Health Promotion and Obesity Management Unit, Department of Pathophysiology, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland. Archives of Medical Science, 2012 Dec 20;8(6):1003-8..
32. Sip Before Noshing
Pregaming a meal with a glass of water has been linked with more weight loss than cutting calories alone Water Consumption Reduces Energy Intake at a Breakfast Meal in Obese Older Adults. Davy, B.M., Dennis, E.A., Dengo, L.A., et al. Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008 July; 108(7): 1236-1239.. Take some mid-set breaks and guzzle a little water between bites too to give the brain time to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7..
33. Cut Back on Liquid Cals
Milk and cookies, orange juice and French toast, wine and cheese—some foods seemingly require a liquid counterpart. But, it’s easy to pour on the pounds by chugging soda, juice, alcohol, and even milk on the reg Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Drewnowski, A., Bellisle, F. Center for Public Health Nutrition, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007 Mar;85(3):651-61.. Sugar sweetened beverages are associated with increased body fat and blood pressure Effects on uric acid, body mass index and blood pressure in adolescents of consuming beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Lin, W.T., Huang, H.L., Huang, M.C., et al. Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC. International Journal of Obesity, 2012 Aug 14..
34. Water it Down
When you’ve simply got to have a swig of juice with that morning bowl of oatmeal, try watering it down. While it may sound entirely unappealing, gradually adding more water to less juice will keep some of the flavor without all the sugar and calories. Added incentive: Increasing water intake in place of sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices is associated with lower long-term weight gain Changes in water and beverage intake and long-term weight changes: results from three prospective cohort studies. Pan, A., Malik, V.S., Hao, T., et al. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA. International Journal of Obesity, 2013 Jan 15..
35. Choose Tall and Thin
So we know we said to cut back on the juice and soda, but when you’ve got a hankering from some morning orange juice, reach for a tall thin glass, not a short squatty one. While it may sound like you’re discriminating against your glasses, research shows that people pour less liquid into tall narrow glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts, meaning we’ll ultimately (probably) drink less in one sitting. This is especially helpful when drinking alcohol Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: comparative study of effect of practice and concentration. Wansink, B., Dyson, J.S., Van Ittersum, K. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. BMJ, 2005 December 24; 331(7531): 1512-1514..
36. Banish the Booze
We probably don’t have to tell you that partying like an undergrad may pack on a few pounds. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “drink in moderation.” The point is, alcohol houses a lot of sneaky calories and it has the ability to inhibit eating decisions (mmm, greasy pizza) later on in the night. Even after you’ve sobered up, alcohol can have negative impacts on strength and may leave you lagging in the weight room days later Interaction between alcohol and exercise: physiological and haematological implications. El-Sayed, M.S., Ali, N., El-Sayed, A.Z. Faculty of Science, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. Sports Medicine, 2005;35(3):257-69. The effect of alcohol on athletic performance. Shirreffs, S.M., Maughan, R.J. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK. Currents Sports Medicine Reports, 2006 Jun;5(4):192-6..
Tips for Being Mindful
37. Brush Those Pearly Whites
After dinner, go ahead and brush your teeth. Getting minty fresh breath not only has the obvious oral health benefits, but can also keep you from mindlessly snacking while watching a pre-bed TV show. Not a bad idea to hit up the floss, too. Once both deeds are done, we may be more inclined to keep our mouths clean before bed.
38. Set Realistic Goals
It’s easy, especially come New Year’s resolution season, to set some pretty unrealistic goals about weight loss (fit into skinny jeans in three days!) Weight loss goals and treatment outcomes among overweight men and women enrolled in a weight loss trial. Linde, J.A., Jeffery, R.W., Levy, R.L., et al. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN. International Journal of Obesity, 2005 Aug;29(8): 1002-5.. Since impractical goals can slow down long-term weight-loss, it’s important to address those goals before making any health and fitness changes Unrealistic weight-loss goals among obese patients are associated with age and causal attributions. Wamsteker, E.W., Geenen, R., Zelissen, P.M, et al. University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009 Nov; 109(11):1903-8..
39. Portion Patrol
Practicing portion control is one of the easiest, most reliable ways to lose weight, but it’s not an easy task Use of portion-controlled entrees enhances weight loss in women. Hannum, S.M., Carson, L., Evans, E.M., et al. Food Science and Human Nutrition. Nutritional Sciences Division, University of Illiniois, Urbana, Illinois. Obesity Research, 2004 Mar; 12(3):538-46. Overweight and obesity - use of portion control in management. Clark, A., Franklin, J., Pratt, I., et al. Great Ideas in Nutrition, Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia. Australian Family Physician, 2010 Jun;39(6):407-11.. Portion distortion is ever present, but it may help to use portion visuals, for instance — a serving of chicken (3 ounces) is roughly the size of a deck of cards Portion distortion: typical portion sizes selected by young adults. Schwartz, J., Byrd-Bredbenner, C. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2006 Sep;106(9):1412-8..
40. Stay Positive
Many of us demonize certain foods, and even punish ourselves for certain indulgences. Instead, positive messages like “I can control my eating” or “I’m proud that I ate responsibly today” can reframe our relationship with food. Research shows that positive expectations are also associated with weight loss The effects of outcome expectations and satisfaction on weight loss and maintenance: correlational and experimental analyses--a randomized trial. Finch, E.A., Linde, J.A., Jeffery, R.Q., et al. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN. Health Psychology, 2005 Nov;24(6):608-16..
41. Think on It
How satiated we feel a few hours after we eat depends not on how much we actually scarfed down but on how much we think we ate. It pays to pay attention to what we eat... it’s actually okay to eat with our eyes Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Wansink, B., Painter, J.E., North, J. Applied Economics and Marketing, 110 Warren Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Obesity Research 2005;13(1):93-100..
Emotional eating—essentially eating to make ourselves feel better (often when we’re sad or anxious)—can interfere with weight loss goals Does emotional eating interfere with success in attempts at weight control? Blair, A.J., Lewis, V.J., Booth, D.A. et al. School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, U.K. Appetite, 1990 Oct;15(2):151-7.. But meditation—using techniques like muscle relaxation and achieving self focus—can help binge eaters become aware of how they turn to food to deal with emotions Evidence and potential mechanisms for mindfulness practices and energy psychology for obesity and binge-eating disorder. Sojcher, R., Gould Fogerite, S., Perlman, A. Institute for complementary and Alternative Medicine, School of Health-Related Professions, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ. Explore, 2012 Sep;8(5):271-6.. Check out these 10 ways to meditate.
43. Reel off Mantras
Sometimes we just need a little fire under our tushies to get motivated. If you’d rather forgo the literal bonfire, try out some motivational mantras. Hang up an inspirational poster, write it on a sticky note at work, or scribble it on your roommate’s forehead when she’s sleeping as a reminder of your health and fitness goals. Added plus: Mantras don’t cost a thing!
A lot of stress can trigger increased eating and cravings, especially for sugary carbohydrates The selfish brain: stress and eating behavior. Peters, A., Kubera, B., Hubold, C., et al. Medical Clinic 1, University of Luebeck Luebeck, Germany. Frontiers in Neuroscience 2011; 5:74. Relationship between stress, eating behavior, and obesity. Torres, SJ., Nowson, CA. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia. Nutrition 2007 Nov-Dec;23(11-12):887-94.. If pressure at work or a family burden has got you feeling overwhelmed, try out one of these ways to reduce stress before pawing at that donut.
45. Add, Don’t Subtract
Instead of fixating on cutting out cookies, cake, pizza, and all that heavy cream in your morning coffee, focus instead on adding healthy foods to your menu. Ditching all the “bad” stuff can be a daunting task, one that’s easier to stick to by focusing on one habit at a time (science says it takes anywhere from 18-254 days to form a habit). Add in as many healthy habits as you’d like—drink more water, stock up on fresh fruits and veggies—and slowly wean off of the not-so-good-for-you goodies.
46. Envision the Goal
Time spent visualizing what you would look and feel like with a few less pounds, can help acknowledge the health and fitness changes necessary for successful weight loss. Research suggests that imagining achieving an exercise goal—like running a 5k, or increasing weights for your next workout—can actually enhance performance Benefits of motor imagery training on muscle strength. Lebon, F., Collet, C., Guillot, A. Centre of Research and Innovation in Sport, Laboratory of Mental Processes and Motor Performance, University Claude Bernard Lyon I, University of Lyon, Villeurbanne, France. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jun;24(6):1680-7..
47. One Habit at a Time
There’s an idea that focusing on less helps us achieve more. Changing a habit is tough, but trying to tackle a whole handful may seem impossible. Instead, concentrate on changing one behavior at a time. Start small and make clear guidelines for a set habit. For example, if you’d like to increase veggie intake, decide to eat three different vegetables each day, or 1 cup with each meal. And remember, small changes can lead to gradual weight loss A Small-Changes Approach Reduces Energy Intake in Free-Living Humans. Stroebele, N., de Castro, J.M., Stuht, J., et al. University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Center for Human Nutrition, Denver, Colorado. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2009 February; 28(1): 63-68. Mindless eating challenge: retention, weight outcomes, and barriers for changes in a public web-based healthy eating and weight loss program. Kaipainen, K., Payne, C.R., Wansink, B. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Tampere, Finland. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2012 Dec 17;14(6):e168..
48. Think Big Picture
So you’ve “banned” chocolate cake, but decided to go for just a small taste. Instead you polished off a full slice. It’s so easy to go totally overboard on an old habit. Instead of blowing it if you’ve slipped up on a new goal, think of the big picture. Focus on the change rather than what’s being eliminated (either a “bad” food, or a bad habit). Live in the moment to successfully make new healthy habits.
49. Sleep Smart
Sleep can not only reduce stress, help us heal faster, and prevent depression, it can also help shave off some pounds because sleep loss is linked to changes in appetite and the metabolism of glucose (sugar in the blood) Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Knutson, K.L. Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 2007 Jun;2(2):187-197.. Moral of the story: Sleep is associated with less weight gain Relationship between sleep quality and quantity and weight loss in women participating in a weight-loss intervention trial. Thomson CA, Morrow KL, Flatt SW, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2012;20:1419-25. Longer sleep duration associates with lower adiposity gain in adult short sleepers. Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, et al. International Journal of Obesity (London), 2012;36:752-6.. Take a look at our guide to sleep positions to optimize those hours spent tucked under the sheets. And try other solutions for extra Zzs like turning off electronics in the bedroom and avoiding large meals late at night Etiology of adult insomnia. Dollander, M. Groupe de Recherche en Psychologie de la Sante, Laboratoire de Psychologie. Encephale, 2002 Nov-Dec;28(6 Pt 1): 493-502. Dubious bargain: trading sleep for Leno and Letterman. Basner, M, Dinges, DF. Sleep. 2009 Jun;32(6):747-52..
50. Get Social
Check out online communities (like on Facebook, Twitter, or other forums) that provide support and encouragement. One study showed that overweight adults who listened to weight-loss podcasts and used twitter in tandem with a diet and physical activity monitoring app lost more weight than those who did not go social Tweets, Apps, and Pods: Results of the 6-month Mobile Pounds Off Digitally (Mobile POD) randomized weight-loss intervention among adults. Turner-McGrievy, G., Tate, D. Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, United States. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2011 Dec 20;13(4):e120.. Sharing progress and setbacks on social media platforms can help users feel accountable for their goals.
Tips to Track
51. Jot it Down
If using fancy apps seems too daunting, research suggests there’s still merit to the old pen and paper. Monitoring our food intake with a food diary can help to lose and maintain weight Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Burke, L.E., Wang, J., Sevick, M.A. School of Nursing and Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2011;111(1)-92-102.. In fact people who stick to food diaries are more likely to lose weight than those who don’t Self-monitoring and eating-related behaviors are associated with 12-month weight loss in postmenopausal overweight-to-obese women. Kong, A., Beresford, S.A., Alfano, C.M., et al. Cancer Education and Career Development Program, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012;112(9):1428-35. <cite data-cite-reference="" cla