Bad news: The average person gains one to two pounds a year.
Good news: Consuming just 100 fewer calories each day is enough to avert that weight gain.
If you're finding this out a little too late—and you want to actually lose some of that weight—you have to downsize by 500 calories a day. But you don't have to slash them all from your plate.
"You can eat 250 calories less and then burn 250 by walking for 30 to 45 minutes. Over a week, that will produce about a pound of weight loss," said Dr. Holly Wyatt, a clinical researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver. You won't see dramatic changes immediately, but small tweaks like these will pay off over time.
Order two appetizers
According to a study at the University of North Carolina, the average hamburger is 23 percent larger today than it was in 1977. Choose a pasta dish and salad or soup from the appetizer column, instead.
Visit the vending machine
Nibbling on single servings is better than digging your way to the bottom of a megabag of chips.
Start with salad...
and eat less during the rest of the meal, says a study from Pennsylvania State University. When salads were topped with low-fat mozzarella and low-calorie Italian dressing instead of high-fat alternatives, women ate 10 percent fewer calories over the course of the day.
Stick a fork in it
If you prefer your salad dressing on the side, dip your fork into it before stabbing your greens. That little maneuver could cut hundreds of calories.
Watch coffee calories
The fancy concoctions that are now the javas of choice for many people can contain as many calories as an entire lunch.
Walk and talk
When your cell phone rings, slip on your walking shoes and stroll the halls at work or hoof it outside. If you did this for 10 minutes every workday at a moderate 3 mph pace, you’d burn about 1,000 calories a month and lose 3 pounds a year.
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Crack a nut
Dieters in a Harvard University study who ate a handful of peanuts or mixed nuts daily were more likely to keep weight off than a group whose regimen didn’t include the high-fat snacks.
Don’t just sit there
The average person burns 100 calories per hour sitting and 140 per hour standing. Get on your feet 2 hours a day while you work, and you could drop an extra 6 pounds over the year.
Sleep well, lose more
Insufficient shut-eye appears to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates appetite. High levels seem to worsen bingeing and hunger; moreover, too little sleep could keep your body from burning carbohydrates, which translates to more stored body fat.
Double your protein
The high-protein, low-carb approach may help keep you from losing muscle along with fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. According to study author Donald Layman of the University of Illinois, the amino acid leucine—found in beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and eggs—may help preserve muscle tissue.
Keep an exercise journal
Writing down your fitness achievements is a great way to track your progress, give yourself positive feedback, and maintain focus on your goals.
Eat dairy daily
A piece of cheese or a cup of milk or yogurt can rev up your metabolism, a University of Tennessee study found. People who cut 500 calories a day from their diets while eating yogurt three times a day lost 13 pounds over 12 weeks, more weight and more body fat than a control group who only cut calories.
Have an apple before dinner
How did 346 people in small-town Washington State lose an average of 17 pounds each in 3 months? With regular exercise, balanced eating, and an apple with every meal. The typical apple has 5 grams of fiber, which makes you feel fuller.
Be wary of white foods
That's the color of most high-calorie carbs—bagels, potatoes, breads, rice, creamed corn, and the like.
Your body often mistakes thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated means you'll probably also stay satiated.
Act like a kid
Expand your definition of physical activity to include shaking your booty with your kids. It's a welcome break from the StairMaster and can burn just as many calories (about 120 every 20 minutes).
Munch a handful of M&M's
Just under half a pack of plain candies adds only 100 calories to your daily tally and can satisfy a sweet tooth.
Be picky about bread
Select loaves with whole grain listed as the first ingredient, and make sure each slice contains at least 2 grams of fiber.
A Harvard study found that people who did so every day cut their chances of becoming obese and developing diabetes by 35 to 50 percent, compared with those who ate breakfast only twice a week.
Brush your teeth after every meal
It doesn't just fight cavities: Brushing serves as a physical and psychological cue to stop eating. When you're on the go, a few Altoids or a breath strip can have the same effect.