You’ve heard the old school rule: to lose weight, you need to eat less and move more. And when it comes to shedding pounds, calories do count.
But while meticulously counting every bite of food can help hold some people accountable, it can be too restrictive, stressful, or time-consuming for others. “Since not all foods have nutrition labels attached directly to them, like fresh produce, bulk bin items, and many restaurant foods, doing any kind of counting can be a daunting task,” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N. and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
The good news is, there are plenty of smart weight loss strategies you can turn to if you want to cut back your calories without playing the numbers game. “Little lifestyle changes can be a great way to lose weight while not feeling restricted,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition.
Here are six tips that will help you crush your weight loss goals—no counting or measuring required.
Your first step is to cut back on refined grains like white bread and pastries—which tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients—and double down on whole grains to lose weight, suggests Newgent.
“They’ll be more satisfying due to their heartier texture, nuttier taste, and higher fiber content,” she adds.
Not only does that extra fiber help keep you full until your next meal, but eating more whole grains in lieu of their processed counterparts “can result in slower digestion while curbing spikes in blood sugar, and ultimately help prevent eating excess calories by delaying [the] return of hunger,” says Newgent.
A few simple daily swaps—like choosing rolled oats instead of cereal or whole grain bread instead of a white bagel—can make a big difference over time. Which brings us to our next point…
“It turns out that weight management is associated with the types of food you eat, not just calories,” Newgent says. A study from The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who regularly consumed processed meats, potato chips, and soda over a four-year period gained nearly four more pounds over a four-year period than people who ate whole foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and nuts.
One way to prioritize nutrient-rich, minimally processed foods is to keep your meals as “close to the earth as possible,” Newgent says.
Translation: look for whole foods and items with easy to read ingredient labels, says Newgent. You can also scan for the Whole Grain Stamp on your packages. “The symbol assures that the food provides one or more servings of whole grains in each serving—and that 100 percent of the grain is whole, not refined grain,” she explains.
It’s important to spread your protein throughout your meals, not just during dinner, Newgent says.
In a University of Texas study, researchers found that muscle protein synthesis—the driving force behind your muscle gains—was 25 percent greater when people ate protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein per meal) compared to those who ate a bulk of their protein at dinner (10 grams for breakfast, 15 grams for lunch, and 65 grams for dinner).
Making gains is important, since muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning your body will burn more calories at rest, says Newgent.
Eating enough of the nutrient also promotes feeling of fullness, she says, so get creative with your protein. Grilled chicken, beef, and fish are great, but plant-based sources can also add bulk to your meals. Gorin recommends pulses (the dried seeds of legumes), like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and dried peas.
“I love roasting chickpeas for a snack or a replacement for croutons in salad, or using white beans as a pizza topper,” she says. (For delicious meal ideas that will help you burn fat while maintain lean muscle, check out the Metashred Diet from Men’s Health.)
To ensure you’re eating balanced meals that incorporate all of your main macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—Newgent recommends the “Create Your Plate” method.
“The idea is to fill half of your mealtime plate with non-starchy veggies since they’re nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense,” she says. Think brussels sprouts, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, greens, and tomatoes, to name a few.
“When you do this first, the rest of your portions tend to naturally fall into place in a calorie-friendly manner,” she says. To give you an idea, your balanced plate should be comprised of 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent whole grains.
Every meal will stack up differently, but this simple method will generally save you mindless calories. For instance, if you have two cups of cooked whole wheat pasta on your plate, which gets you 289 calories, and swap out half of that for one cup of cooked broccoli, which yields only 55 calories, you’ll still have a serving of pasta and save yourself about 90 calories at dinner alone. Make that dinner swap every day, and you’ll save yourself 630 calories per week, or roughly what you’d get in a Big Mac and Coke.
Make a similar change for every meal, and you’ll cut nearly 1,900 calories per week—more than half a day’s worth for the average guy.
Spicy Ground Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry:
Losing weight isn’t only about what you eat—it’s also about how you eat.
Eating while you’re distracted—say, when you’re in front of the TV—can cause you to ignore your body’s signals of fullness, which can lead to eating way more than you intended, according to a study published in the journal Appetite.
Instead of sending emails as you snack or watching your latest Netflix binge during dinner, pay attention to your meal: sit at a table, use utensils, and stow away your devices, says Newgent. Adopting these habits can help you savor and enjoy your food more fully, while also teaching you to recognize your body’s fullness cues.
Guzzling water isn’t just good for your joints and digestion. It can also help you manage how much food you’re eating, says Gorin.
Preliminary research published in the journal Obesity backs this up: When researchers in England had 41 overweight adults drink two 8-ounces glasses of water 30 minutes before their meal, the participants found that they not only felt fuller, but ate less, too.
Try carrying a reusable water bottle (we like this one) and aim to replace soda and other sugary beverages with good old H20, advises Gorin, which will also help you cut out excess calories from added sugar.
If you want to add flavor to your water, cucumber slices, lemon wedges, or crushed berries are all great options.
Source: Men’s Health