As a nutritionist, I often get clients at this time of year concerned about summer -- fitting into a bathing suit, getting some new clothes and navigating holiday eating and parties. I am not a fan of rigid diets, which restrict entire food groups for a short time, but rather I advocate for healthy eating and developing simple strategies which clients trying to lose weight can stick to for the long haul.
Below are simple strategies, which I have seen work for clients trying to lose weight in time for summer and more importantly, help them keep it off and be able to enjoy meals and treats with family and friends.
1. Make smart swaps.
I am a big fan of offering clients simple substitutions for their favorite foods rather than cutting foods out entirely and leaving them at a loss for what else they can include in their eating plan. As I previously wrote here: "What I have found in my private practice is that small action-oriented steps and simple substitutions tend to work a lot better."
For example, drinking seltzer instead of soda and starting your day with bran cereal or a Greek yogurt instead of a doughnut or an oversized muffin can make a huge difference in terms of both losing weight and eating healthfully.
2. Keep a food diary
I recommend that clients keep food diaries, at least for a month or so. Writing down what you eat helps raise your awareness about exactly what and how much you are really eating. It is an excellent behavioral tool to help you practice eating mindfully. And these days, there are so many ways to keep food records. You can stick to the old-fashioned way of writing down your food habits in a spiral pad; you can keep records in your computer or iPad; or you can download an app for your smart phone.
3. Stick to regular meal times.
One way to avoid overeating is to eat at regular intervals throughout the day and not skip meals. If you are not that hungry on a particular morning for example, it is okay to eat a smaller breakfast rather than eat nothing at all. It is best not to allow yourself to get too hungry that you will just "let yourself go" and grab anything you can find.
4. Choose single servings.
Research has found that single-serving packages can help overweight individuals lose weight. I often recommend them to dieters to help them gain awareness about portion control. While we will often take several handfuls of chips or other snack foods without paying attention, we tend to think twice before opening that extra bag of chips.
Most people tend to eat more when they are served more food and drinks or when they are given food in larger packages. A review of nearly 90 studies confirms why oversize portions may contribute to obesity: We eat more when we are served more.
As the researchers from Bond University in Australia write in the Journal of the American Marketing Association, "For a doubling of portion size, consumption increases by 35 percent on average."
Choosing single-serve packages can certainly help to decrease consumption.
5. Make half of your plate fruits and veggies.
Dieters can actually eat more of certain foods to help them lose weight. Fruits and vegetables are a perfect example as they are relatively low in calories and rich in nutrients. Because they are high in fiber, they will help you to feel full. Adding fruit to your yogurt or cereal is a great way to add fiber, color and volume to your breakfast. Starting your dinner with a tossed salad or a veggie-based soup enables you to eat more food so that you don't feel deprived. I suggest including at least one fruit or vegetable serving at each meal.
We would love to hear some of your weight loss tips.