Weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's Resolutions. Though thought of as difficult, losing weight is quite simple if you follow one basic rule: burn more calories than you consume. Even if you ignore every other health guideline, following the energy balance equation still leads you to weight loss. Since weight loss is somewhat meaningless without health, you should decrease calorie intake in a way conducive to improving overall wellness. When you make smarter food choices, calorie intake decreases, weight loss ramps up and overall health improves. Here are a few diet tips to make a weight loss resolution succeed in a healthy way.
1. Limit Intake of Junk Food. Junk food is high in calories but void of nutrients. An important step in creating a healthy weight loss diet is to severely restrict or eliminate the intake of junk food (cookies, potato chips, soda, muffins, donuts). While there is room in a healthy and balanced diet for the occasional junk food snack, it's important to choose healthy foods most of the time which allows you to splurge some of the time. Replace junk food snacks with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. These healthier alternatives are much lower in calories and higher in nutrients.
2. Don't Drink Calories. Liquid calories are just as bad if not worse than whole junk foods. Liquid calories, found in soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, fruit juice, coffee (with sugar, cream, whole milk), energy drinks and other sweetened beverages are high in sugar and low in nutrients. Liquid calories are digested very quickly. Rather than leaving you feeling full, a meal or snack made up of liquid calories leaves you feeling hungry soon after eating. This causes you to eat again very soon, increasing calorie intake and lowering the chances of weight loss. Drink water to satisfy thirst and replace liquid calorie snacks for healthier, whole food alternatives to satisfy hunger.
3. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fiber is digested slowly and plays an important role in weight loss. This slow digestion causes you to feel full for a much longer period of time than quickly digested foods such as sugary snacks and beverages. Satiety keeps you from eating more and decreases calorie intake. Fruits and vegetables are also high in nutrients which improve health and prevent disease.
4. Avoid Cravings, Eat Often. Cravings are rarely for healthy, diet-friendly foods, and are therefore detrimental to weight loss goals. Cravings happen for high calorie, low nutrient foods such as pizza, hamburgers, cookies and fried chicken. Cravings happen when you get hungry. Avoiding hunger allows you to skip these high calorie cravings and stick to lower calorie options. A great way to avoid cravings is to eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. When you preemptively attack hunger with a small snack, you're much less likely to get these high calorie cravings.
5. Start Cooking. Limit how often you eat out. Restaurant foods are typically much higher in calories than home cooked meals. When you cook your own food, you choose exactly what goes into the meal which leads to fresh, healthy, low-calorie and nutrient dense dishes.
The Bottom Line
Health is much more than simple weight loss. Losing weight is all about controlling calorie intake. Improving health is more complex and requires healthy eating, exercise, weight control and stress management. Building a diet around the principles outlined above improves eating habits and puts a weight loss resolution on the right track.