Got weight loss on the mind? Slimming down is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions, so arm yourself against your expanding waistline by following these essential weight-loss tips.
#1. Set Realistic Goals and Celebrate Them
You might have the large goal of losing 40 pounds, but in order to stay motivated, it's best to break it down and say, "I'll lose four pounds by the end of next month." You'll be psyched rather than let down if you surprise yourself and lose it even sooner. Be sure to attach a reward to that goal so after you drop, for example, five pounds, you treat yourself to a new fitness tank top or a massage. Of course you don't want the celebration to undo all the good you've done, so avoid high-calorie food rewards.
#2. Have a Plan
To avoid mindless grazing or feeling so ravenous you grab the first unhealthy food you can get your hands on, you must have a plan. On Sunday morning, set aside 30 minutes to map out every meal and snack for the seven days, and then hit the grocery store to grab all the ingredients you'll need to make it happen. Here's a plan for a workweek of healthy dinners to try.
#3. Don't Skip Breakfast
Skipping the first meal of the day seems like an effective weight-loss tactic, but eating breakfast can actually jump-start your metabolism and help you lose more weight. Choose high-protein foods such as whole eggs or Greek yogurt to reduce sugar cravings later, and make sure your meal is also high in fiber to satiate your hunger and flatten your belly, like these breakfasts made with whole grains. Short on time? Make this apple cinnamon quinoa bake the night before.
#4. Measure Your Food Every Time You Eat
The best way to ensure you're eating appropriate serving sizes is to be scientific about it. Keep measuring cups and spoons handy when it comes to everything you consume. Don't just eyeball half a cup of granola or freely pour marinara sauce over your pasta — chances are you'll overestimate. The same goes when you're cooking. Measure out two tablespoons of olive oil instead of just pouring it from the bottle. For items that are difficult to measure, such as meat, chicken or fish, use a food scale instead.
#5. Keep Track of Your Calorie Intake
You must burn or cut out 3,500 calories from your diet each week in order to lose one pound. That breaks down to 500 calories per day, and the best way to keep tabs is to write down what you eat in a food journal. If that's too mundane for you, there are also plenty of free apps like Lose It! to help keep track of your calorie intake. Can't remember what you ate that day? Take photos of all the food you consume to help you remember more accurately. It might also make you think twice about reaching for that second cookie.
#6. Fiber is Your Weight-Loss Friend
In your quest to lose weight, you can decrease your portion sizes at every meal and snack, but this strategy can leave you feeling hungry. Fill up on low-calorie, filling foods, and you'll lose weight without suffering through the pangs of hunger. Include these top 10 fiber-rich foods to keep you full longer, which prevents unnecessary snacking.
#7. Ditch the Liquid Calories
A can of Coke here, a latte there — all those liquid calories really start to add up. Stick to nature's beverage, and sip water throughout your day not only to stay hydrated, but to help you feel full. Plain water too boring? Spruce it up by squeezing in some lemon or lime juice, brew some herbal tea, or enjoy sparkling water instead. And while fresh fruit juices are healthier than a soda, they're still high in calories. You're better off eating an orange or slices of fresh pineapple to get your fruit fix as well as some much-needed fiber.
#8. It's Just a Snack
A snack is a small meal, which means it should be kept around 150 calories. Here are photos of 150-calorie snacks you can easily pack and eat on the go, and if salt is what you're craving, check out these 15 salty snacks under 150 calories. In the mood for something sweet? Whip up a batch of these cherry almond coconut protein balls to keep in the freezer — one is just 78 calories.
#9. Keep Healthy Snacks Close By
Premake some healthy snacks, and keep them close by, either in the fridge, your desk drawer, your purse, or your gym bag. It's also a good idea to keep easily accessible precut veggies in the fridge so you're more likely to reach for them over a bag of chips.
#10. Downsize Your Plates
When dishing out your meals, downsize to smaller salad-sized plates and cereal bowls — the less food you can pile on, the fewer calories you'll consume. Makes sense, right?
#11. Take Time Away to Eat
Eating while doing other things like watching TV, driving, or working at your computer means you're not paying attention to what's going in your mouth. Within minutes, you could end up inhaling two pieces of pizza without your brain realizing, which means you'll still feel hungry and want to reach for something else. For all meals and snacks, take time away from distractions to fully enjoy each bite, which will prevent mindless eating, leading to fewer calories consumed.
#12. Prepare Your Own Meals
Going out to dinner or meeting a girlfriend for brunch is always fun, but even if you go to the healthiest restaurant on the block, you can't always trust that every dish is going to be diet friendly. Hidden calories come in the form of added fats and sugars, so it's hard to know exactly how many calories you're consuming. The majority of your meals and snacks are best prepared at home to help you keep track of your caloric intake. On Sunday night, pack salads for the week or make a big pot of one of these 300-calorie soups. Prep snacks for the week too, and when it comes to dinner, whip up a healthy recipes instead of ordering takeout.
#13. Indulge a Little
It's obvious that stuffing your face with bars of chocolate and pints of ice cream won't help you lose weight, but it doesn't mean you have to give treats up entirely; in fact, it's better to indulge a little. Don't go overboard, but allow yourself a small nibble of something you have your eye on to satiate your cravings and prevent an all-out binge. Here are some 150-calorie desserts you can make yourself.