Dieting to lose weight isn’t fun, and there aren’t any shortcuts — you need to eat less. It can be tedious, and progress is slow. You may feel deprived without your favorite high-calorie goodies.
Weight Loss Strategies
You need to eat less food or become more physically active. Better yet, do both. Exercise will help you lose weight and improve your health. You don’t need to do anything fancy, just get out for an hour of walking five days each week. Or you may prefer the intensity of weight training or exercise classes at a health club. Just choose what works to keep you motivated.
Let’s get back to your diet. Taking care of your nutritional needs is important so make it a priority in your life. First, you need to know how many calories to take in every day. Use a calorie calculator to help you figure this out. You’ll need to eat fewer calories than you are currently eating every day to lose weight, but please don’t go below 1,200 calories per day without speaking to your doctor.
You need to keep track of the calories you take in (and the calories you burn during exercise). Use a food diary to keep track of all the foods you eat.
Choose Healthy Foods
There’s more to dieting than just cutting calories. You need to eat nutritious foods and in the correct amounts so that you get enough carbohydrates, protein and fats, plus lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber while avoiding excess saturated fats, trans-fats, added sugars, and sodium. The best way to do this is to plan your meals ahead of time, every day.
You need to understand how much food you are actually eating. Many of us tend to underestimate the actual volume of food we eat during the day, so it’s best to measure all your servings, at least until you become more skilled in estimating portion sizes by sight. Invest in a digital kitchen scale and use measuring cups and spoons and measure everything.
Make a Meal Plan
So what foods go into your meal plan? Become familiar with ChooseMyPlate.gov so you know how many of the different food groups you need. Aim for:
- Five to 11 servings of grain (half your servings should be whole grain).
- Two to three servings dairy or foods high in calcium.
- One or two servings of protein sources such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish or legumes.
- Five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Limit the amounts of extra fat, sodium, and sugar found in condiments, dressings, and sauces.
Strive to fill your daily meal plan with a variety of healthy foods and leave room for a small treat so you’ll feel less deprived. Remember that beverage calories count too.
Make your meal plans for a few days at a time so you can go to the store and buy all the foods you need. Planning meals can help you save grocery money when you eliminate impulsive purchases from the snack aisle.
Here’s an example of a meal plan for one day. It provides about 1,800 calories for the whole day, with plenty of fiber and nutrients. If you wish to whittle away some more calories, you can omit the glass of wine, dark chocolate, honey, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar dressing, and the butter to save about 450 calories. You can also look for reduced calorie varieties of your favorite condiments and dressings and use non-nutritive sweeteners to tame your sweet tooth.
What you don’t want to do is cut back on the healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because they’re packed with nutrients and fiber.
- Three-fourths cup oatmeal
- One tablespoon honey
- One-half cup non-fat milk
- One-quarter cup blueberries
- Six ounces orange juice
- One cup black coffee
- One apple
- Twelve almonds
- Sparkling water with lemon
- Sandwich with three ounces tuna, a thick tomato slice, one tablespoon mayonnaise and lettuce on two slices whole wheat bread
- One cup raw baby carrots
- Sparkling water or diet soft drink
- One cup plain non-fat yogurt
- One-quarter cup crunchy whole grain cereal
- One tablespoon honey
- Salad with one cup raw spinach, one-ounce cheddar cheese, one-half cup cherry tomatoes and one tablespoon oil and vinegar dressing
- One three-ounce steak
- One-half cup mashed potatoes with one pat butter
- One cup green beans
- Four ounces red wine
- One and one-half ounces dark chocolate
Does this meal plan look like it can keep you feeling satisfied all day? If not, you can alter your meal plan to include more nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods like green and leafy vegetables. If your meal plan leaves you feeling hungry every day, maybe you are cutting your calories back too severely.
Remember that it’s okay to lose weight slowly.
Be sure to allow yourself room for one treat every day (about 100 calories) and you can experiment with artificial sweeteners to control sugar cravings.
Drink more water. A big glass of water has zero calories, and you can flavor it with a slice of lemon or lime, or choose sparkling water if you like the fizz.