For some, shedding any excess weight can be a task of Herculean proportions, but it doesn’t need to be. While weight loss is typically improved by working out and breaking a sweat, there are some quick and easy dinner time habits you can adopt that will help your waistline shrink without even elevating your heart rate.
For example, controlling the size of your portions and sticking to lean sources of protein such as eggs or chicken can easily save you hundreds of calories a day, and both of those strategies require minimal effort. Research has shown weight loss is also improved when people adopt a dinnertime routine, so it would serve you well to make a habit of breaking bread around the same time each night and taking on some quick and easy dinnertime rituals.
Check out the full list below and if you’re looking for additional guidance on how you can lose weight without making any drastic changes, uncover the 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
No matter what meal you’re eating, a key pointer to keep in mind is to control the size of your portions. This is especially true at dinnertime, as you might be hungrier and more tired than usual, and thus more susceptible to mindless eating. One way to retain control is by making a plate for yourself before leaving the kitchen instead of bringing the entree to the table and serving yourself that way. If you pre-portion your plate prior to sitting down, you’ll be less likely to go back for seconds than if you serve your meal family-style.
Studies have shown that beginning dinner with a salad can actually help you lose weight. According to researchers at Cornell University, starting with a salad helps your body keep its blood glucose levels stable, meaning you’ll stay fuller, longer. To maximize that effect, load up your salad with fiber-packed veggies such as split peas and artichokes, which will also keep you especially satiated.
Speaking of fiber, there’s no reason your intake of the diet-friendly nutrient needs to stop with a salad. Eating meals that are rich in fiber not only means fewer calories, but it also translates to quick and easy weight loss because it counteracts many of the damaging effects of too much sugar. Incorporate fiber-friendly foods such as lentils and beans into your dinners and watch the belly fat melt away. For some added inspiration, check out our list of the 43 Best High-Fiber Foods For a Healthy Diet!
Protein is a pivotal part of a balanced diet, but not all sources of the satiating nutrient are created equal. When picking which protein to eat as part of your dinner, stick to leaner options such as chicken or fish as opposed to red meat. While six ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast contains about 165 calories, and 3 grams of fat, the same portion of beef sirloin has approximately 270 calories, and 16 grams of fat, meaning swapping chicken for beef just once a week will save you over 100 calories and 13 grams of fat.
While it’s easy to overdo it on the carbs, make sure half of your dinner plate is composed of vegetables, while the remaining half consists of a protein and starch. This breakdown will ensure you’re eating a balanced meal, which in turn is an effective way to shed some unwanted pounds. What’s more? Tasty veggies such as peppers, broccoli, and spinach have been shown to contribute to weight loss, so use them generously when making dinner.
When cooking with carbs, those you choose can also impact weight loss. Swapping sweet potatoes for white potatoes, for example, is a simple way to boost your dinner’s nutritional value and shed pounds. Although white potatoes offer some potassium and fiber, sweet potatoes reign supreme in the nutrition department. A large sweet potato contains around 4 grams of satiety-boosting protein, 25% of the day’s belly-filling fiber, and 11 times the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. What’s more? It’s less than 200 calories.
If you’re looking to lose some weight by changing up your dinner habits, what you put in your glass is just as important as what you put on your plate. According to the University of Washington, drinking a glass of H2O before a meal or snack may help fill you up so you eat less, thus decreasing your overall calorie intake for weight loss. And since dehydration increases your appetite, drinking water regularly throughout the day (including during dinner) helps keep your appetite under control.
Another factor that can influence hydration is your salt intake, so it’s crucial to cook dinners that aren’t heavy on the sodium. Since too much salt can cause water weight gain, reducing the amount you ingest could help curb water retention, leading to fluid loss that you’ll notice on the scale. Instead of using salt, reach for spices such as cayenne pepper, turmeric, or cinnamon when cooking dinner, as they have all been shown to aid weight loss.
Generally speaking, people consume more calories when they eat dinner at a restaurant versus when they chow down on a home-cooked meal. As you might have guessed, food prepared at home is healthier because people typically have a much better idea of what they’re eating. Conversely, when dining out it can be very easy to unknowingly consume more calories thanks to bread baskets, sugar-packed dressings and sauces, and more. If you’re looking to lose weight, cook dinners for yourself. Your wallet and waistline will thank you.
Meal prep is all the rage these days, and it turns out the popular practice can even help you lose weight. Though it’s tempting to order takeout after a long day, if you’ve meal prepped for the week and there’s already a delicious and nutritious dinner waiting in the refrigerator when you get home, you’re much less likely to impulse order that burger and fries. And since meal prep requires you to measure out each entree beforehand, there’s also less of a risk you’ll overeat, thus keeping your weight down.
Sure, routines might be a bit banal, but research has shown that those who engage in similar behavior day after day have an easier time maintaining their weight and can even shed pounds. According to a 2016 Science Daily study, an erratic eating schedule can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Similarly, two papers published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that adults who consume meals at the same time every day were less obese and had better cholesterol and insulin levels. To use this to your advantage for dinner, set a specific time to eat each day, and try and remain as consistent as possible.
In addition to eating around the same time each night, sitting down around a table with minimum distractions from your phone, computer, or other electronics should also be part of your nighttime ritual. Research has shown that sitting down to eat dinner means that you’ll eat more slowly and thus consume less overall. Breaking nightly bread at a table also helps you concentrate on what you’re eating, which means you’ll be more aware of when you’re satisfied and full and less likely to overeat. A study from the Netherlands found dieters had more trouble determining the sweetness of a beverage while they were also asked to concentrate on a mental task, so keep distractions to a minimum.
When dinner is finished, go ahead and make yourself a soothing cup of mint tea with no added sweetener. Not only will the low-calorie beverage help you relax before bed, but according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the peppermint in the tea will relax your stomach muscles and increase bile flow, improving your digestion of fats. The powerful flavor has also been proven to act as an appetite suppressant, meaning you’ll be less likely to gorge on late-night snacks. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine found that people who simply sniffed peppermint every two hours lost an average of five pounds per month. And here’s exactly how you can learn to harness the power of tea to lose weight.