Stacey Feintuch Updated: Aug. 10, 2020
Experts share tips for healthy eating.
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Record what you drink and eat
Before you overhaul your eating habits, try one of our best tips to reach your goal weight: Record what you drink and eat. Take advantage of apps and websites or use pen and paper. “This is the single most important thing you can do when you’re watching your calories,” says Paige Waehner, a certified personal trainer and author of The About.com Guide to Getting in Shape . “I have so many clients who think they’re eating healthfully, but writing down every bite makes you aware of those extra calories you eat without even realizing it.” (Plus, read up on these low-carb diet mistakes to avoid .)
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Know your areas of weakness
“Chocolate and ice cream can be in my house for days and I won’t overeat them,” says Phyl London , a Level IV Master Trainer specializing in Pilates. “But I can’t have tortilla chips, pretzels, or pita chips in the house. Those are the kinds of foods that I’d overeat if I came home tired from a long day at work.” Get rid of your triggers. Then, restock with healthy food like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy foods. Also, make those healthy foods easy to eat by displaying them in a beautiful bowl on the counter or pre-chopping them and storing them in clear containers in the fridge. (Learn more on how to organize your fridge for better eating.)
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Don’t follow every trend
Sometimes what works best is what works best for you. “Don’t assume that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that you should eat every three hours to curb hunger, or that you shouldn’t eat past 7 p.m.,” says Frey. “These diet guidelines don’t work for everyone.” Instead, she suggests that you create and follow a meal routine that accommodates you and your needs. “Getting proper nutrition is the goal. The schedule by which you meet those needs is up to you.” (Learn which diet trend Jillian Michaels hates .)
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The road to weight loss can be bumpy. Make the trip a bit smoother by finding someone you must be accountable to on your journey. “Support from others on a weight-loss journey helps tremendously,” says Deb Gehringer, a CrossFit coach at Guerilla Fitness in Paramus, New Jersey. “You can share ideas, recipes, celebrate together, and complain together too.” Just be sure to choose the right buddy for your journey. “We all have friends who are health saboteurs,” says Dara Godfrey , a registered dietitian who works in private practice in New York City. “Try to always avoid dining experiences with them. Or, make sure to stand up for yourself when ordering something healthy.” Going for a stroll with a friend? Here’s how to make your walk more fun .
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Brush your teeth earlier
Have you ever brushed your teeth and then had a sip of orange juice? The beverage probably tasted sour and not too pleasing to the palate. That can work to your advantage when you’re trying to avoid post-dinner munching. (Here are reasons for your late-night binge .) Try brushing your teeth earlier in the evening instead of right before bedtime. “After you brush your teeth, it’s much less likely that you’ll find yourself snacking on empty calories later in the evening,” says Pete McCall , host of the All About Fitness podcast, personal trainer, strength coach, and author.
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Fill up on water
Consider buying a reusable water bottle that’s at least 20 fluid ounces. “That way you know exactly how much water it holds and you can refill it as many times as your body requires,” says Alix Turoff , a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Jazz up water by adding fresh lemon, cucumber, mint, or any other fruit or veggie. Not only does it make the water taste more interesting, but when you take the time to do something ‘special,’ you’re more likely to drink the water.” (These flavoured water recipes are beyond refreshing.)
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It’s OK to not plan every meal
“In a perfect world, you’d be able to plan each meal to ensure that you stay on track,” says Allison Tibbs , a San Francisco-based personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach. “However, life happens.” She explains that if you know that you’re going out for apps and drinks tomorrow night, make sure that your breakfast, snacks , and lunches for that day and the day after are extra healthy. “This way, you won’t have to worry too much about your evening festivities,” she adds. “If you’re doing your best to eat on track most of the time, one night out won’t sabotage your hard work.”
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It pays to become a label pro
Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic, says that when choosing foods to buy, first review a label’s ingredients and the numbers that are important to you—including fibre, protein, calories, sodium, sugar, and fat content. “Avoid looking at the front of the product,” says Kirkpatrick. “That area contains only smoke-and-mirrors marketing to cajole you into purchasing a product.” If you see words like low-fat, natural, healthy, and diet on a product, be wary, she says. “Foods that actually fit all these descriptions, like an apple, don’t need to sell themselves.”
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Train your eye
Learn how to eyeball proper portion sizes . First, educate yourself on the right portions for the foods you eat on a regular basis, suggests Waehner. You can use tools such as plates with markings for portions of proteins, fruits, and vegetables. “It’s a lot of work, but try it for a week,” she says. “You’ll be surprised by how much you eat and that you can usually satisfy your hunger with less food.”
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Snacking isn’t all bad
Snacking—when done correctly—can actually help you lose weight. You heard that right! “I like to snack on 100-calorie packs of pistachios,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin , owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “The shells provide a visual cue of the amount that you’ve eaten, which may help you stop noshing before you have extra servings.” Shelling the nuts also helps slow down your eating. In one preliminary study in Appetite, volunteers eating in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories than people snacking on the shelled version.