Dieting is out; smart eating is in. That doesn’t mean deprivation. The best ways to maintain your weight include making changes you can live with forever.
Some of those changes are downright sneaky—you can slip them into your daily eating plan without any stress and they’ll help you feel healthy each day.
1. Take out a ruler and measure your plate. The size of American dinner plates has grown in recent years. Many are now 12 or even 14 inches wide, great for loading up but not so good for encouraging healthy eating. Big plates result in big portions and weight gain, since most of us are conditioned to eat what’s on our plates. Instead, get out those old 9- or 10-inch “luncheon” plates you may have received as hand-me-downs or buy some inexpensive new ones. You’ll serve yourself less food with smaller plates, but still feel satisfied.
2. Make your second helping all veggies. You may have heard the advice to mentally divide your dinner plate in fourths and fill two of those sections with vegetables and/or salad, one with a starch and one with a meat or other protein. That works well as a guideline for smart eating, but if you’re still hungry and want more, commit to making your second helping all veggies. For seconds, start with one-fourth of the plate or less. Eating more cooked or salad vegetables increases your feeling of fullness without adding a lot of calories—so long as you don’t butter the vegetables and use only nonfat or low-fat salad dressings.
3. Serve from the stove, not at the table. Although the image of filled serving bowls on the family dinner table is associated with well-being, serving food directly from pots on a stove or counter is better for healthy weight, according to Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. The reason this sneaky tip works for weight control is simple: When you sit and look at food, you take more and eat more. For a modified approach, reduce traffic jams at the stove and promote better food choices by keeping only the cooked vegetables and salad on the dining table.
4. Eat breakfast every day. More reason to wake up and smell the coffee: Eating breakfast improves weight loss efforts and helps keep weight off long-term. When you skip that starter meal of the day, hunger hits stronger, often well before lunchtime. To quiet hunger pangs quickly, you might reach for something calorie-loaded without much nutritional benefit, such as a doughnut (or two!), muffin or bagel. Whole-grain cereals, like oatmeal, will carry you through the morning. Other options: have nonfat yogurt, eggs or peanut butter for protein, with whole-grain toast.
5. Have a tall, thin one. Time to hide the wide glasses! Dr. Wansink and his research colleagues have shown that you’ll pour less and drink less (thus cutting calories)–yet still be satisfied—when you use tall, skinny glasses for serving beverages. You can still use your wide glasses for water and other calorie-free drinks.