One of the biggest problems dieters have is a lack of time to prepare healthy meals. After working a 10-hour shift, driving home in heavy traffic and dealing with chores at home, not many people want to prepare a healthy meal from scratch. They turn to junk food, fast food and quick items that contain very little in the way of nutrients and too many calories and grams of fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates. One way to combat this problem is to plan ahead.
You have several options when it comes to planning your meals ahead of time. Create a weekly menu that lists your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack for each day of the week. Use this menu to create a weekly grocery shopping list. You’ll have a list of all the ingredients you need and you may even avoid wasting time and money on an extra trip to the grocery store. If you have time, set aside a Saturday or Sunday to prepare all of your dinner meals for the week. Good meals to freeze include turkey chili, rice dishes, low-calorie soups and meat and vegetables for a stir fry dish.
Clean the Cupboards
If you plan to diet and then fill your cupboards with potato chips, salted nuts, butter-laden microwave popcorn and other junk foods, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When you start a healthy eating plan, go through your cupboards (and refrigerator) and get rid of high-calorie snack foods, cream-based soups, crackers, cake mixes and other unhealthy foods. Give unopened packages to your local soup kitchen or food pantry. Toss the rest to avoid temptation.
Reduce Portion Sizes
Even healthy foods can derail a diet if you eat very large portions. Take a piece of roasting chicken, for example. One four-oz. serving has only 117 calories and 4.64 g of fat, according to the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. If you don’t measure your portion size properly, you could end up with 12 oz. of meat. This would increase the amount of calories you consume to 351 and the number of fat grams to 13.92. If you triple the calories and fat grams you consume for every meal, this could do serious damage to your diet. Try using a small salad plate instead of a large dinner plate at each meal. You have less room for food so you’ll have to reduce your portion sizes.
Quitting all of your favorite junk foods cold turkey is a recipe for failure. Start slowly by making small changes that are easy to implement. If you usually drink two cups of coffee with sugar per day, cut back to one per day. If you eat a 12-inch sub for lunch, try a 6-inch sub with a small salad instead. Small changes will give you a better chance of succeeding at weight loss.
Make Smart Substitutions
Many companies sell diet meals and desserts that promise to help you shed the pounds without sacrificing taste. Unfortunately, many of these pre-packaged meals are loaded with sugar and salt instead of fat. Instead of relying on pre-packaged meals, make smart substitutions to cut calories and fat without loading up on salt, sugar and cholesterol.
Do Your Research
At some point during your diet, you will find yourself eating at a restaurant with a group of friends or colleagues. The best way to handle this type of situation is to research the restaurant menu ahead of time and find out which meals best fit your diet plan. If you’re doing a low-carb diet, you’ll want to look for low-carb entrees and side dishes. If you follow a heart-healthy diet that is low in fat and cholesterol, look for entrees that have broiled or grilled meat and steamed vegetables without butter or cream sauces. Avoid high-calorie desserts, fried appetizers and salads that have hidden calories and high-fat dressings.
Almost everyone attends a birthday party or other special event at least once each year. Take this opportunity to indulge in a small piece of a cook or serving of ice cream. Instead of eating dessert with every meal, treat dessert as a special event to savor. Don’t binge on sweets during one of these special events. Limit yourself to a half-cup serving of ice cream or a small sliver of cake. This will give you the satisfaction of a sweet taste without completely derailing your diet plan.
Invest in a Food Scale
One good way to manage your portion sizes is to invest in a food scale. A high-quality food scale will help you determine the weight of your food portions so you can look up the nutrition information for each food you eat. If you know you’re supposed to eat only four oz. of meat, the food scale will help you limit your portion to exactly that amount. This tool helps you cut fat and calories from your diet so you lose weight successfully.
Find a Weight Loss Partner
Starting a diet plan without anyone to support your efforts is very difficult. It is especially difficult if you live with someone who is not dieting and constantly buys snacks, desserts and other unhealthy foods. Find a weight loss partner to discuss your goals with on a regular basis. This could be a friend, family member, someone from a local community group or a co-worker. Share your weight loss goal, the struggles you face each day and your failures. Be sure to celebrate your successes together to increase your motivation and keep you on track.
Helpguide.org: Healthy Eating
United States Department of Agriculture: Tips & Resources