Let’s face it, dieting can be exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating. There are tons of different diet plans to choose from, many of which involve calorie counting, food restrictions, and prepackaged foods that are filled with artificial ingredients. But you don’t have to diet to lose weight. In fact, by following these tips you’ll be able to live a healthy lifestyle without feeling deprived.
1. Eat Mediterranean Meals
Eating Mediterranean meals can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, and has also been linked to a decreased incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, Mayo Clinic explains. Following the eating habits of those who live in the Mediterranean consists of eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats, such as oil; and using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor your foods. In addition, Mayo Clinic suggests eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, and limiting your red meat to no more than a few times a month.
Shape adds that you can also enjoy an occasional glass of red wine. By focusing on healthy, antioxidant-rich foods, you’ll feel full and satisfied throughout the day. In fact, Shape notes that by allowing yourself to occasionally sit down to a glass of wine or a steak dinner, you’re ensuring you won’t end up feeling deprived, which can cause you to binge eat or ditch your diet altogether.
2. Eat Small Meals
Eating frequent, small meals has proven itself to be an effective weight-loss strategy. Livestrong.com explains that eating five small-portioned meals a day can help you maintain a healthy body weight by keeping you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day. This ensures you won’t end up feeling extremely hungry and overeating later on.
“After about 3 hours without food, blood sugar begins to fall. And after 4 hours, your body has already digested whatever you sent down earlier,” Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a dietitian, told WebMD. “Once you’ve crossed the five-hour mark, your blood sugar begins to plummet, and you grab whatever you can to refuel.” The best strategy? When you wake up, make sure one of the first things you do is eat breakfast. After that, Web MD recommends continuing to eat small meals every 3 to 4 hours, which should consist of combinations of lean proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruits.
3. Become An Occasional Vegetarian
You’d be amazed at what the occasional meat-free meal can do for you. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, vegetarian diets are high in fiber, naturally low in saturated fat, and filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Those who eat meatless meals have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, states the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. However, you don’t need to swear off meat for life in order to reap these benefits.
SparkPeople explains you can become a semi-vegetarian, meaning you only need to replace some of your meat with plant-based foods. By filling up on more grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, you’ll be eating fewer calories, less fat, and more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Women’s Health Talk suggests eliminating animal products from your diet for one meal each day or one day each week. One thing to keep in mind: Make sure you are replacing your meat with produce, legumes, and grains. You won’t benefit from this if you’re just substituting it for artificial, sugar-packed foods.
4. Eat Slowly
Experts estimate that our brains register they’re full about 20 minutes after our stomachs do. Reader’s Digest warns that if you eat too fast, you won’t give your brain time to catch up to your stomach, which leads to overeating and weight gain. Eating slowly, however, will help prevent you from eating too much. To force yourself to eat more slowly, WebMD recommends turning off the television and any other distractions, and simply concentrating on the meal in front of you. You can use this time, particularly at dinner, to catch up with your loved ones. Remember, the more you talk, the more slowly you’ll eat!
In addition, Reader’s Digest suggests scheduling more time for meals, so you don’t find yourself quickly gobbling up your dinner. If possible, try to tweak your schedule so you’re taking about 30 minutes to eat your meals. You should find yourself starting to get full about two-thirds of the way through. Finally, Greatist states you should take sips of water in between bites. This will force you to take breaks and help to fill you up. You can also pace yourself by chewing each bite at least 10 to 20 times before swallowing.
5. Eat What You Want, When You Want
Don’t deprive yourself of anything. Instead, become an intuitive eater. Science of Us explains that intuitive eaters don’t believe in good or bad foods but know there are nutritional differences between the two. It follows the basic premise that cravings shouldn’t be ignored and by occasionally indulging, you will prevent yourself from binge eating later on. This means that an intuitive eater may eat a piece of pie but will then instinctively crave more nutritious foods afterward to balance out the excess fat and sugar.
“It might sound easy on the surface. But it does take quite a bit of practice,” Michelle Gallant, a Harvard University Health Services nutritionist, told the publication. Gallant explains that this approach doesn’t mean you can overindulge on burgers and fries. Instead, it means listening to your body and figuring out what foods will make if feel best. The main idea here is if you focus on what foods your body actually needs, you won’t find yourself constantly craving junk food.
6. Start with soup or salad
Beginning a meal with a broth-based soup or a nutrient-rich salad will help you eat less. The Huffington Post writes starting with a side salad has been shown to help you eat about 12% fewer calories at that meal. Additionally, research has also shown that people who start lunch with a vegetable soup end up eating 20% less than those who don’t have any.
Livestrong.com explains that the high water and fiber content in soups and salads helps fill you up. But in order to reap these benefits, make sure you’re making the right salad and soup choices. Try to fill your soups and salads with nutritious, low-calorie foods, such as vegetables, lean meats, fish, and legumes. Make sure your salad dressing comes on the side and choose soups that are broth-based. Looking for a few homemade recipes to help get you stared? Eating Well recommends trying its creamy chopped cauliflower salad or spinach and warm mushroom salad.