For many years I have spoken with people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles, all with a common goal: losing weight. It’s a resolution millions of Americans make every year (sometimes multiple times each year), and while some may stick with it for a while, most often they fall back into old, unhealthy habits and never see any change.
While there are millions of fad diets out there and dozens of pills all claiming to be the miracle that will finally allow you to lose weight, in my experience there are a few tried and true methods that will help you eliminate excess fat from your body, lose weight, and keep it off. None of these are a miracle cure, and all of them require you to stick to a healthy eating plan, but if you do, you will find that losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t as hard as it may seem.
1. Reduce Your Salt Intake
In a modern American diet, the average person consumes 3,436 milligrams (mg) of salt every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is more than double the recommended daily intake of 1,500 mg, and even considerably higher than the “tolerable upper intake level” of 2,300 mg recommended by the CDC.
The high salt intake could be blamed on many things—diets high in processed foods, eating out at restaurants frequently, or consuming canned goods and other foods with high levels of salt. To cut your intake, I recommend you eat at home more often, and try to cook with fresh fruits, veggies, and meat (rather than from a box or a can.)
2. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
Yes, just like your mother used to tell you—eat your veggies and fruits! Instead of filling your plate with carbohydrates in the form of refined grains, such as pasta, bread, or rice, fill your plate with complex carbohydrates in the form of vegetables. Remember to choose a wide variety of different color vegetables (I like to think about my veggies as a rainbow), and go for the ones with deep, dark colors for the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals.
Fruits are one of my favorite snacks, and most come in ready-to-eat handy snacking portions already. Grabbing an apple, orange, peach, or pear is easy on your way out the door, and having things like grapes, berries, and other healthy fruits ready to eat in small servings helps you keep cravings under control between meals.
3. Eat Whole Grains
If you are going to consume grains, be sure to choose the ones that are closest to their natural state, in other words, whole grains. That includes 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain cereals, all of which have high levels of fiber, which help regulate a healthy digestive system and maintain good cholesterol levels. Getting the recommended 6-8 servings each day is important, but be sure you understand what a “serving” is so you don’t go overboard. One serving of whole grains is the equivalent of 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of cereal, or about ½ cup of rice, oatmeal, or pasta.
4. Cut out the Sugar
You will find sugar lurking in many foods today, even ones you thought were otherwise healthy. I recommend avoiding processed foods as a way to reduce hidden sugars in your diet, as well as staying away from sugary drinks and other treats. If you crave sugars, try snacking on some fruits—they have naturally occurring sugars in addition to fiber and other vitamins and minerals that will benefit your body.
5. Consume Good Proteins
Lean meats, plus low-fat dairy products, can give you the right boost of protein in your diet without adding unnecessary fats. Eat red meat in moderation, especially fatty cuts of red meat, sticking with lean proteins like chicken, turkey, pork, and fish instead. Add some low-fat or fat-free yogurt, low-fat milk, and reduced fat cheeses to get a good dose of calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
No matter how many times you have set a resolution to eat healthier, or promised yourself that you would get “back on that diet” on Monday, it’s never too late to make changes to your eating habits that can lead to weight loss and overall better health. A good eating plan is the first step toward a healthier you.
Lauren Hill is a freelance writer with a rich background in health and nutrition. She is a contributing author for Cardiac Vascular & Thoracic Surgery Associates (CVTSA), a northern Virginia surgical group specializing in robotic, open heart and varicose vein surgeries as well as heart and lung transplants. Go here to see how they can help you today.