When it comes to lasting weight loss, it’s the little things that can really add up to make a big difference rather than aiming for a major diet or lifestyle overhaul.
The key is to keep the changes are practical and sustainable so that you can permanently adopt them into your everyday life.
Here are 19 small changes that can have a really big payoff when it comes to your health and shedding pounds.
1. Eat five or six small meals a day
A South African study found that when men ate parts of their morning meal at hourly intervals, they consumed almost 30 percent fewer calories at lunch than when they ate the same amount of food at one time.
Other studies show that despite eating the same number of calories distributed this way, your body releases less insulin, which keeps blood sugar steady and helps reduce hunger.
2. Downsize your dinner plates
Studies find that the more food in front of you, the more you’ll eat – regardless of how hungry you are. So instead of using large dinner plates (which make them look forlornly empty if they’re not heaped with food), serve your main course on salad plates.
The same goes for liquids. Instead of 16-ounce glasses and oversized coffee mugs, return to the old days of 8-ounce glasses and 6-ounce coffee cups.
3. Serve raw foods at every meal
Vegetables or fruit, that is. Cut-up carrots, celery, radishes, cauliflower, oranges, peaches, apples, or even snap peas are suitable at every meal.
Put a plate in the middle of the table, and make it a rule that the meal isn’t over until the plate is empty.
They’re awesomely healthy, filling, and take the place of higher-calorie cooked foods.
4. Don’t stock splurge food
Leave cake, ice cream, potato chips, buttered bagels, and other high-calorie splurges for the occasional opportunity away from home.
If you buy a carton of ice cream for your home, you’ll quickly eat a carton of ice cream.
Why even be tempted?
5. Eat less pasta
The recommended serving size for pasta is 2ozs or 50g of uncooked pasta (which should be about the size of a tennis ball).
However, people tend to overeat cooked past, especially in the restaurants where a typical portion is easily four times this size.
Additionally, almost any pasta you get when you buy your spaghetti, macaroni or noodles, at least in the Western World, is simply plain white flour mixed with water and eggs.
There are no vitamins, no minerals, and barely any fiber – just empty carbs.
To make things worse, fast food pasta take-aways are becoming more and more popular and not really helping the people trying to shed some extra weight.
Brown rice Pasta makes an excellent substitute. They are made of whole grains and contain anywhere from 0 to 0.7 grams of fiber per serving.
6. Cut back on the bread
Make sure you cut back on the bread and other bakery products which are made from refined wheat flour.
Beside candy bars and sodas full of sugar, bread and bakery products have the strongest effect on your blood sugar and insulin.
The thing is that they actually stimulate the production of the fat storing insulin, which is why they are the type of foods that you will first want to reduce if you really want to lose weight.
If you must have bread, try rye bread.
Traditional rye bread is a much slower digesting food for weight loss, which makes it an excellent replacement.
7. Put away the juicer
Skip the apple juice or the applesauce and bite that crunchy apple. Even though it is far more convenient to drink fruit, juice is actually a far less healthy option than a real piece of fruit.
When the juice is made, the juicing process destroys a vast number of beneficial compounds and antioxidants found in fruit, while it also removes nearly all of the natural fiber.
And don’t be fooled by the etiquette.
Though fruit juices are often marketed as very healthy and natural, they are actually not a low-calorie beverage.
To put things in perspective, just eight ounces of regular orange juice contains over 110 calories, which is the equivalent of almost two oranges.
Nevertheless, you definitely won’t feel as filled up, nor will you insert any beneficial compounds real fruit provides.
8. Pour less dressing
As one website cleverly pointed out: “Dress it, don’t drown it!”
Try to simply swap full fat salad dressing for the reduced fat version, especially if you are dining out.
If possible, ask to get the salad dressing separately, on the side, so you can control how much you use.
As for the store bought salad dressings, they are almost never made of olive oil and most of the dressings contain one or more of the following: canola, corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil.
All of these oils are actually bad for you, so it would best to cut back on them, if not throw them away completely.
9. It’s good to be nutty
It has been proven that people who munch on any kind of nuts automatically eat less at later meals.
So, for a great snack on the run, take a small handful of almonds, peanuts, walnuts, or pecans to go.
They’re packed with nutrients and provide many a health benefit, but they are also full of calories and fat-laden, thus you need to make sure you don’t overdo it, as nuts are notorious for being the perilous and tricky snack.
Remember, portion size matters and, like with any other food, moderation is key. An optimal serving size of nuts is 1.5 oz, or 1/4 cup.
10. Pureed vegetables
If you want to continue enjoying your precious and delicious cheat foods, you better add more veggies to your diet.
That way you are compensating by eating your cheat meals, but also cutting back on the calories you’re taking in, and all at the same time. A bit like having your cake and eating it too.
When Penn State University researchers decided to test what happens when they add pureed cauliflower and zucchini to the beloved and sacred macaroni and cheese, people actually seemed to like the dish just as much.
However, the trick was that they ate 200 to 350 fewer calories when those healthy vegetables were added to the mix.
11. Start eating yogurt
It doesn’t matter if it is Greek or traditional, yogurt can definitely be good for both your health and your figure.
According to the research done by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, if you intake about 18 ounces of yogurt per day, you can apparently drop a jeans size.
The people tested lost 22% more weight and 81% more belly fat than dieters who skipped the snack altogether.
They also retained one-third more calorie-torching lean muscle mass, which can help you maintain weight loss.
Yogurt is indeed excellent for your digestive system, however, don’t drink it too much, and make sure it is not high in fat.
Not only can grapefruit can help you lose some serious weight and shed those unwanted pounds around your waist, thighs and belly, it can also lower the risk of diabetes.
The research conducted by the Scripps Clinic in San Diego has found that when obese people ate half a grapefruit before each meal, they dropped an average of 3 and a half pounds over the period 10 weeks.
You can also blend the grapefruit into juice and drink it, the same results will show.
It is important to mention that you cannot have grapefruit or grapefruit juice if you are on certain medications program, so check with your pharmacist or doctor if you can start this grape trick.
13. Eat more beans
Ok, beans may have a bad reputation for making people gassy, but that’s no reason not to eat them, especially when experts recommend you consume up to three cups of the legumes a week.
They are inexpensive, filling, and versatile, and also a great source of protein.
Being high in fiber and slow to digest, beans will make you feel full for a longer period of time, which may prevent you from eating unnecessary meals later on.
In fact, if you consume them on a regular basis you won’t get as gassy as you think.
People who eat beans on a consistent basis experience less gas and bloating than people who consume them less often.
14. Eat more soup
A body of research finds that eating water-rich foods such as zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers during meals reduces your overall calorie consumption.
Other water-rich foods include soups and salads, just be sure that the soup is clear and not creamy.
You won’t get the same benefits by just drinking your water, though. Because the body processes hunger and thirst through different mechanisms, it simply doesn’t register a sense of fullness with water (or soda, tea, coffee, or juice).
15. Dark chocolate
Huge chocolate fan? Well, who isn’t? However, there is light at the end of this tunnel, and it is dark.
Always make sure you pick a square or two of dark chocolate over the milky one.
New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract is actually able to ferment all the antioxidants and fiber in cocoa.
Plus, your cardiovascular system can also benefit from this dark treat.
16. Say no to mayo
No matter how awesome it is and how delicious a meal can become by putting some of it in the mix, mayonnaise should be cut out of the equation.
If that is not possible, try using a low fat dressing or lower fat salad cream instead.
To put the numbers into perspective, one tablespoon of typical mayonnaise contains about 90 calories, roughly 4.5% of your daily recommended caloric intake.
In a single tablespoon, that is.
When it comes to fat itself, each tablespoon of mayonnaise contains around 10g of total fat, which is more than 15% of your daily recommended intake.
17. Fish instead of meat
Pardon the pun, but if you don’t eat ample amounts of fish, something must be fishy in your diet.
Fish is known for being extremely low in calorie and high in protein, mainly because those precious polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, and that is exactly why you should start replacing regular meat with fish.
Fish is high in fatty acids, which is why it is a must in your diet and crucial if you are looking to shed some weight and improve your total-body wellness.
It is also excellent for preventing heart disease, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, boosting the brain development in kids and even easing depression.
18. Drink more water
The oldest trick in the book.
Start each meal with a glass of water.
The trick is that you will stay hydrated longer and feel fuller right away, which will prevent you from overeating.
Scientists from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University recruited 50 people to test the theory.
The participants drank a large glass of water 30 minutes before lunch and then freely selected their meals from a buffet and rated their fullness, hunger and thirst every 30 minutes.
The water preload reduces energy intake by 9%, which is around 58 kcal.
So, next time you find yourself looking forward to a huge meal, drink a huge glass of water before you start eating.
It will keep your body hydrated too.
19. Shop wisely
You can start losing weight while you are still at the grocery store. Well, not literally, of course.
Make sure you load your shopping cart with lots of lean protein, fresh veggies, fruit, and whole grains, while you try and avoid all the forbidden fruits that is baconing, sorry, beckoning you.
According many food scientists, the most important thing, when it comes to lasting and consistent weight loss, is the big picture of what you eat.
It all starts at the grocery store.
Bear in mind that a huge part of your weight loss success involves building new and different healthy shopping habits.
Nip it in the bud, as they say.