Kick the New Year Right With These 10 Diet Tips

Monday, January 14, 2008 - 12:06pm

By Stephanie Clarke, MS, RD, CDN and Willow Jarosh, MS, RD, CDN

This year we moved in a good direction with weight loss advice! Instead of seeing a surge of fad diets, the trend shifted more toward strategies for healthy, long-term weight loss. Here are some of the top weight-loss strategies of the year.

Use the "hunger scale" and not the bathroom scale for dieting

We're all well-acquainted with the bathroom scale, but using the Hunger Scale can increase energy, stabilize mood, AND help you eat less. Imagine hunger on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being so hungry you feel light-headed and 10 being so stuffed you need to unbutton your pants. Around a 2 or 3 is hungry, a 7 is full but not stuffed. Snack when you're at a 2 or 3, to prevent arriving at meals famished. Never go below a 2 or above a 7, and you'll likely see your energy rise and the number on that other scale fall!

1,2,3, Snack rules for eating healthily

Snacking the right way is great for your health and your waistline. Pack nutrition and satisfaction into snacks to decrease hunger at meals and maximize nutrition. Use the 1,2,3 rule to maximize the positive impact snacking has on your weight:

  • Eat one calcium-rich snack each day - aim for at least 300mg of calcium and around 150 calories.
  • Plan two snacks each day - knowing that you have a healthful snack available between meals helps you stop eating before you're stuffed at a meal and makes it more likely that you grab something healthful.
  • Don't go more than three to four hours without eating - eating at regular intervals keeps blood sugar stable, energy up, and the likelihood of overeating at your next meal down.

Visualize a perfect plate

Imagine your plate divided in two. Fill one half with vegetables (cooked vegetables, salad, vegetable soup). Divide the remaining half into two equal sections. Fill one with lean protein (fish, skinless poultry, beans, tofu, or lean beef) and the other with a healthy starch (whole grains, whole grain products, potatoes, peas, beans.) Designate a sliver of the plate to a source of healthy fat (oils, nuts, avocado, etc.)

Start the New Year by removing goodies from the house

The holidays leave goodies lying around and now it's time to get rid of them. It is important to stock up on healthy foods and keep "trigger foods" out of the house. Trigger foods (those that are difficult to eat in moderation) are different for everyone - for some it's a bag of chips and for others it's a jar of peanut butter or chocolate. Identify what these foods are for you and keep them out of the house or only buy small portions.

Downsize your eating utensils for your New Year plan

A recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who used larger bowls ate 31% more ice cream, and those who used larger scoops ate almost 15% more, than those with smaller bowls and scoops. Over half of Americans say they clean their matter how much food is served. Smaller dishes look full with less food, helping our minds believe what our eyes see - a plate heaped with lots of food. Scaled-down utensils make us eat more slowly, meaning there is less chance of ending a meal feeling stuffed.

Re-arrange your refrigerator and put healthy foods within your reach

Whether you're bored or ravenously hungry, we tend to reach for the first thing we see. Make it a point to put healthful foods front and center. Keep yogurt, baby carrots, leftover roasted veggies, hummus, edamame, and string cheese on front, eye-level shelves. Instead of produce going bad before it gets eaten, maybe that leftover piece of cheesecake will get left in the back of the fridge!

New Year Diet: Don't use exercise to compensate for calories

Avoid using exercise to punish yourself for eating too much or to justify the extra slice (or two) of pizza you are planning on eating. This mentality will set you up to hate exercise no matter what the activity. Instead, focus on the positive effects of exercise like improved sleep, increased energy, and more "you time." Activity should be something you continue throughout life, not just when you are trying to lose weight.

Set a practical goal: 10% for your New Year weight loss

By focusing on changing lifestyle and eating habits, as opposed to a quick fix, you will be much more likely to keep weight off. Research shows that starting with a weight loss of 10% of your current body weight sets you up for long-term success. Once you have reached this goal, maintain that weight for 6 months, then you can try for more. It may seem like a slow approach, but experts agree that the body actually needs time to adjust to a new weight before it will allow you to take off more. If you lose 20% of your body weight in 2 years and keep it off forever (34 pounds total for someone starting at 170 pounds) that's some serious success.

Healthy habits will lead to weigh loss

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight by eating well and exercising decreases your risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. But sometimes it is easy to forget about health when those extra pounds are on your mind. If you make developing healthy habits your primary goal, it's likely that this will also result in weight loss. Furthermore, even thin people increase their risks for heart disease if they don't exercise and eat well.

Be more active in the New Year

We're not talking about hitting the gym seven days a week. A major difference between people who carry extra pounds and those who stay lean is movement throughout the day. A study done by scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that lean people tended to sit less than heavier people - a difference that used around 350 more calories each day! Actions as simple as standing up at your desk, walking around the office, or stretching every hour really add up.