It’s entirely possible to eat all of your favorite foods and watch the pounds disappear. In fact, putting yourself on a strict diet might actually be a recipe for disaster: You’re hungry, cranky, deprived, and have no energy for working out, let alone being social.
Instead, a few simple food swaps—and a few insider secrets—can save you hundreds, even thousands, of calories in each and every meal. With a few simple tweaks throughout your day, you can shed weight without even trying. Enjoy this list of 30 no-diet diet tricks from Eat This, Not That! For more weight-loss tips, check out our 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast!
Think skipping your morning meal will help you save some calories shed some pounds? Think again. It can leave you feeling starving, and more likely to overdo it by lunchtime, which is why you should pre-order a book like Zero Belly Breakfasts. “When you’re not eating enough calories, your metabolism can slow down,” Jim White, RD, ACSM Health, and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios says. “You’re more likely to binge eat.”
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Coffee is the lifeblood of productivity: It gets you up and energized for the day, and makes it easier to tolerate your annoying coworkers. It can also help you shed some pounds; a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that coffee can help you burn calories by an extra 12 percent.
Morning people are more likely to be happier and thinner, according to a UK study. It could be because of an early exposure to natural sunlight; researchers from Northwest University found that people who were exposed to bright daylight earlier in the day tended to weigh less than those who didn’t get sunlight until later. Like to sleep in? Train yourself to be a morning person by going to bed earlier, and slowly setting your alarm back in 20-minute increments.
Aside from having more energy throughout the day, morning exercisers are more likely to pass on tempting junk food throughout the day, according to a study out if BYU. Plus, if you save your workout for after the office, you’re more likely to blow it off if something important comes up. By getting it out of the way first thing in the morning, you’ll rev up your metabolism and keep burning calories throughout the day.
Keep healthy snacks visible and within reaching distance. A fruit bowl full of apples, clementines, and bananas will make you much more likely to grab a healthy snack than if they were put away.
Keep your fruit serving sizes in check. Fruit is chock-full of filling and slimming fiber, and beneficial vitamins and nutrients. But they also contain sugar, so make sure you’re not overdoing it. “I always try to shoot for two to three fruits a day,” White says.
Don’t restrict yourself when it comes to vegetables, especially the really good-for-you leafy greens. The more you pile your plate with veggies, the less likely you are to fill up on other less-healthy food. “Focus on unlimited veggies,” White says. “I never put a number on veggies, except for the starchy ones.” Starchy veggies include potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and corn.
There’s so such thing as “bad” foods, but there are some foods that are healthier than others. For more calorie-dense options (think: nut butters, crackers, hummus), make sure you measure out your portion sizes. You may be eating more than you mean to without realizing it, tacking on extra calories throughout the day.
If you stock up on veggies that last longer, you’re more likely to grab them in a pinch. Make sure your fridge is always stocked with produce you can whip up or munch on quickly: carrots, bell peppers, and squash all last for a week or so. Or, opt for bags of frozen vegetables, which last for months and are usually the cheaper option.
Protein helps build lean muscle, which can help burn fat at rest. It’s also satiating, so eating it will keep you full after every meal. “It’s important to have a protein at every single meal,” White says. “Make sure you’re getting a variety of protein throughout the day.” This includes snacks; check out our 23 Best High Protein Snacks for ideas.
Protein is important, but it shouldn’t be enjoyed by itself. “I always incorporate a protein and carbohydrate at every meal or a protein and fat,” White says. “It can curb your appetite and it slows down the glycemic index of some of your higher sugar foods.”
White says to aim for around 25 grams a meal for women, and about 35 grams a meal for men. If you’re a gym rat, the formula is a little different. “For athletes, it’s around 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight,” White says. “That’s for people that are lifting weights and regular exercisers.”
“Try to stick to small, frequent meals throughout the day,” White advises. “I think that’s very important to speed up the metabolism to make sure you’re not feeling overly hungry.” He adds this could lead people to overeat at meals. Plus, more frequent meals means your blood sugar levels are evened out, and you have more energy throughout the day, White explains.
“Try to stop eating after dinner,” White advises. “I’m not a big fan of intermittent fasting, but by going the next 12 hours without eating can really help to control and cut some of those calories late at night.”
It’s an age-old weight-loss tip because it works: sipping on water throughout the day can help rev your metabolism, lose weight, and stave off belly fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Plus, if you drink before meals, you’re more likely to eat less without even trying, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. All the more reason to keep chugging H2O — aim for at least 64 ounces a day.
When you have delicious, naturally-flavored water, you’re more likely to drink it. And the extra vitamins and antioxidants from fruit and herbs don’t hurt. Mix up your plain old water with one of our 50 Best Detox Waters for Weight loss.
Don’t be afraid of a little heat. Add some spice to your meals with some chili pepper or hot sauce; chili contains capsaicin, a known appetite suppressant. A study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate capsaicin ate 200 fewer calories at the next meal. Plus, researchers have found that capsaicin can help you lose belly fat.
Make your dishes flavorful with fresh herbs such as dill, basil, and chives; they contain a flavonoid called kaempferol which can boost metabolism and help you lose weight, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
You don’t normally think of lemons as a fruit you can peel and eat like a snack, but these little citrus fruits pack a major weight-loss punch. Lemons are packed with polyphenols, which can help combat weight gain, and vitamin C, which has been known to reduce the fattening stress hormone cortisol. The peels are also good sources of pectin, which researchers have found help people feel fuller, longer. Add a squeeze of lemon or some fresh lemon zest to your meat, salad, or roasted veggies.
Out of sight, out of mind… especially when it comes to triggering junk food. If you keep treats in the house, stash them away in a tall cabinet or far-away shelf. People who keep snacks out on their counters are more likely to mindlessly munch on them, research has found.
This common-sense advice goes a long way; when you hit the supermarket starving, you’re more likely to stock up on the high-calorie processed foods that make you gain weight. Better yet, fuel up with something healthy before you hit the aisles. Cornell researchers found that participants who ate an apple before grocery shopping were more likely to pick up better-for-you items than those who indulged in a cookie.
Getting large quantities of your favorite snack foods may save you some cash, but it will cost you in the calorie department. Research shows that people who stock up on groceries are more likely to eat them faster. Make sure you’re only grocery shopping for what you need for the week, and portion out any snack food so you’re not tempted to overeat.
Being too restrictive with your food choices is a recipe for disaster. It leads to the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes your body to hold on to fat. Plus, it’s not realistic in the long run; if you’re feeling deprived, you’re more likely to binge on more calorie-dense comfort foods, White says.
Not only will you save money, but you’ll save on calories when you eat most of your meals at home rather than in a restaurant. Portion sizes are typically two or three times a proper serving size when you dine out, and places love to tempt you with free tortilla chips and bread baskets. Plus, most restaurants cook with vegetable oil, which can be worse for you than sugar.
Leave the large dinner plates in the cabinet, and eat off a salad plate. When you eat off a smaller plate, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating more. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to smaller portions.
If you eat in front of the TV, you’re more likely to eat more, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. So put your phone away, shut off the TV, and focus on your meal. The more you enjoy your food, the more satisfied you’ll be.
You don’t have to say no to bread and pasta, but be wary of what kind you’re eating. 100% whole grain bread is a complex carbohydrate, which means your body will digest it slower and it won’t spike your blood sugar. Plus, whole grains are chock-full of filling fiber, which has been proven to lower cholesterol and help people lose weight.
Enjoying your favorite glass of vino can actually be a healthy part of your day, thanks to the antioxidant properties from the grapes. One major one is the polyphenol called resveratrol, which studies have shown can be good for your heart. Red wine is best, but make sure you’re portioning out the proper amount. A serving of wine is only 5 ounces, which is totally easy to bypass when you’re drinking out of a standard wine glass. Make sure to measure your pour, and stick to only a couple glasses, tops.
Adding some tea to your daily diet could help you shed weight without even realizing it. Green tea especially contains EGCG, antioxidative compounds researchers believe could help rev your metabolism and blast away fat. Another study found that people who drank 4-5 cups of green tea a day and exercised 25 minutes lost more weight than the non-tea drinking exercisers. For more ways tea can help you slim down, check out our 22 Best Teas for Weight Loss.
You know getting enough sleep each night is crucial for productivity, brain function, and your overall health. But it’s also important for your waistline, too. People who don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night are more at risk for weight gain, a study published in the journal Sleep found. And to burn fat even quicker, don’t miss this essential list of 55 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism—Fast!