So, the winter holidays are finally over with. All those cookies, turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake have been eaten. And now?
Your waistband is feeling a bit tight.
There’s an urban legend that goes around every year which says most people will gain 5 to 10 pounds through the winter holidays. The good news? It’s truly a myth. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most of us gain around one pound.
The problem is that we often don’t lose that pound once the holidays are over. It sticks around and, according to the NIH, can contribute to obesity in the years to come. So, it needs to come off – which is probably why it’s usually one of the top New Year’s resolution ideas.
Taking part in consistent exercise routines and programs is absolutely the best way to get, and stay, healthy. Our bodies were designed to move, a lot, and they’re happiest when they can do that. Best of all, exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. There are some really fun ways to sneak a workout routine into your day without hauling yourself to the gym. Staying in shape can also help us avoid expensive health expenses down the road.
In addition to regular exercise, however, here are 8 clever ways to cut down on the number of calories you eat every day so you can lose weight fast without sacrificing flavor.
1. If you’re hungry, drink first
Like most people, I often put on a bit of weight during the winter months. It’s cold, I’m inside a lot, and the temptation to snack can be irresistible. Plus, I work at home so the temptation is always there to head into the kitchen for a break…
Before I snack on anything, I make myself drink a full cup of water. Many experts claim that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Whether or not that’s true, dehydration does make you think you’re hungry, when really you just need water.
I sip water constantly throughout the day, but before I snack, I down an entire glass. I always eat less when I do.
Often, the urge to snack is simply a response to boredom and a desire to enjoy some flavor. So, make yourself a creamy cup of tea when you feel the urge to munch. My favorite is Dilmah’s Irish Breakfast with a bit of soy milk. It’s hearty, flavorful, and helps take away the craving to snack.
2. Use smaller plates
Most of the time when I eat dinner at home, I use a salad plate, not a full dinner plate. This helps me keep the calories down because I’m not filling up a gargantuan plate full of food.
3. Use honey instead of sugar
You’re craving something sweet, and you’re not going to stop until you get it. Instead of a gobbling up a king-sized Snickers bar, slowly eat a spoonful of honey. Honey is much healthier than refined sugar and sweet enough to satiate your craving. One tablespoon of honey has 64 calories; one Snickers bar has around 270 calories. That’s a very big difference. I do this all the time and, at least for me, it works.
If you’re still craving food, then drink a glass of water, make a cup of tea, or move on to #4.
4. Snack smart
Want to know what I eat when I really want a snack and I’m trying to save my calories for dinner?
Pickles. I eat a lot of pickles.
I love to eat pickles (and dilly beans, and other pickled vegetables) because many of them have zero calories (yes, zero), they’re filling, and they have a strong and satisfying flavor. Learn to snack on pickles. You won’t be sorry.
Another good alternative is air-popped popcorn. I’m not talking about buttery, calorie-laden Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. I’m talking about loose popcorn kernels that you can make in your microwave in a brown paper lunch sack or in a skillet on the stovetop. With a bit of salt, this is a low-calorie, fiber-heavy snack that is satisfying because it’s crunchy, and a little salty.
5. Take home half your restaurant meal
When I go out for dinner, I always ask the waitstaff for a to-go box the moment they bring out my plate. They give me a funny look every time.
Before I start eating, I put half of what’s on my plate into the to-go box for tomorrow’s lunch. Restaurant portions are huge and most of the time, when we go out, we stuff ourselves. This is an effective tip to save money eating out at restaurants as well.
Cutting your meal in half before you even start eating is an easy way to cut calories and force yourself to savor the correct portion that’s now on your plate.
6. Hide your leftovers
Here’s the scenario: you’re at the table, and you’ve finished eating, but you have left a sizable amount on your plate for lunch tomorrow. Everyone else is still eating and talking, however. So what do you do? Almost unconsciously, every few minutes, you take a bite or a nibble of what you left on your plate as you talk.
Do that for 15 minutes and before you know it, you’ve finished the food you deliberately left on your plate. I used to do this all the time.
You can avoid this situation by discreetly laying your napkin over your plate when you’re done. This is a visual signal to your brain that you’ve stopped eating and it will stop the temptation to keep nibbling at your food.
Alternatively, you can follow tip #5 and put away a certain amount of food before you even begin eating, whether you’re at home or out at a restaurant.
7. Have a big breakfast
When I was in college, one of my friends gave me a great piece of advice I’ve never forgotten.
She said, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
I’ve aimed to do just that ever since.
Experts have touted for decades that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So if you’re going to have a big meal, do it at the beginning of your day. This will give you the energy you need, and you’ve got all day to burn off the calories.
8. Revise your dressing
Salads are great for helping you eat healthy on a budget and lose weight – they’re extremely nutritious and low in calories. That is, until you dump a gigantic blob of ranch or blue cheese dressing on them. Most commercial dressings, especially creamy ones like ranch or French, are loaded with calories and sugar.
Instead, I use olive oil and red wine vinegar every time. I go light on the olive oil, heavier on the vinegar, and then sprinkle a high quality, tasty salt on top (like Black Lava or Pink Himalayan salt). This adds a ton of flavor, and very few calories.
Do you have any clever ways for cutting calories out of your diet without sacrificing good taste and flavor? I’d love to hear from all of you about this in the comments below.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)