If you want to shed some pounds, but you’re not into the idea of a complicated diet with hard-to-remember rules, you’ve come to the right place. These four simple changes will help you lose weight fast, and get you back into your favorite jeans in no time. The best part: there’s no “cleansing” required.
Make veggies the star of your meals
Time to load up on those vegetables. I’m talking at least one to two cups (a cup is the size of a tennis ball) at each meal, even breakfast. In addition to being low in calories, veggies are rich in nutrients and high in both fiber and water. By making them the main component of every meal, you’ll eat fewer calories without sacrificing nutrition, and you’ll still feel full.
For breakfast, scramble a few eggs in extra-virgin olive oil, Italian seasoning, turmeric, and black pepper, with a handful or two of chopped veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell pepper; enjoy with a side of fresh fruit. At lunch, opt for a salad rather than a sandwich or wrap. And whip up dinners comprised of “noodles” or “rice” made from veggies (spiralized, chopped, or shredded) paired with a lean source of protein (like salmon, chicken breast, or lentils) and a healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts, or seeds).
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Load up on liquids
If you start your day with coffee, go ahead make it the usual way (even if that includes some sweetener). But limit yourself to just one cup. Then switch to water, or an antioxidant-rich, unsweetened tea (iced or hot); and try to have four 16-ounce servings throughout the course of the day. If you’re craving a little flavor in your water or tea, add fresh mint, basil, ginger root, or a bit of mashed berries.
However, be sure to nix any other drinks that contain sweeteners (even zero-calorie versions) or bubbles. The former may stoke a sweet tooth, or wreak havoc on your appetite, while the latter can leave you bloated. Also take note: To ensure a good night’s sleep, stop drinking any caffeinated tea at least six hours before bed. And cut off all fluids, even water, fairly early in the evening to avoid late night trips to the bathroom.
Streamline your snacks
You should really only snack under two circumstances. The first is when you’re truly, physically hungry (and not just bored or procrastinating or in the habit of nibbling at a certain time of day). The second is when you need some nourishment to tie you over between meals. For example, if you have lunch at noon and dinner isn’t till 7 p.m., a healthy snack can keep your metabolism revved, and help stabilize your blood sugar, insulin, and energy levels to prevent overeating later on.
In lieu of processed foods, like chips or sweetened bars, commit to noshing on something more nutritious. Try a golf ball-sized portion of nuts or seeds along with a tennis ball-sized serving of fruit; or a cup of raw veggies (like sliced red bell pepper and cucumber) paired with hummus or roasted chickpeas.
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Make dark chocolate your sweet treat
Over the next month, try this simple experiment that’s helped many of my clients in a major way: Build what I call a “dark chocolate escape” into your day. That means enjoying a few squares of high-quality dark chocolate (with at least 70% cacao) during “you time,” without any distractions. So no laptop, no TV, and no phone.
Research shows that a small, daily dark chocolate indulgence curbs cravings for both sweet and salty foods. This trick can help you resist temptation for other goodies. Having one square after lunch and one after dinner may be a smart way to break up your treat, and keep your sweet and/or salt tooth adequately satisfied.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.