If you are like me, throughout the year you swing between feeling slim (are those abs?) and sucking in your gut to zip up your favorite jeans. I eat healthy for a few months then hit the delicious backslide into weight gain.
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or health coach. These tips are based on my 10+ years of trial-and-error dieting!
The key to losing weight and eventually maintaining your target weight is making healthy eating habits every day.
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Most people do not want to get rid of the good stuff that is bad for you, limiting unhealthy meals to once or twice a week can do wonders for your weight. Wonder what to do for those other meals? Try the substitutes below to keep your favorite meals in rotation with limited hassle.
I love to sweeten my coffee, both with sugar and creamer. Two cups a day adds up over time, though, and I had to find healthier alternatives. I used Truvia and low-fat milk for years without any trouble. Sure, I still love getting a sweet, fatty latte from Starbucks every once in a while, but my everyday intake (aka my habit) was changed for the better!
If you worry about aspartame, choose an all natural sugar substitute like honey, nectar or syrup. Or find a natural sugar extract.
If I was on death row and had to choose my last meal, I would have pasta with a side of mashed potatoes. I LOVE pasta. One of the hardest things for me is NOT to choose pasta when we go out to eat.
But cooking at home, spaghetti squash has been a delicious substitute for spaghetti. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed spaghetti squash. Yes, cutting the vegetable so you can bake it is like a lumberjack sawing a tree, but it is worth it.
Instead of using ground beef, we got into the habit of using ground turkey in our meals. While we did not ban red meat in the house, the health benefits of such a simple switch were a given! I simply used turkey meat in my favorite recipes like meatloaf, burgers and meatballs.
Related: Dukan Diet Turkey Meatloaf Recipe
Another good substitute is ground chicken. Find the flavor that works best for you and stick with it. As long as the meat is low fat (3% or lower), you will reap the benefits.
I know, I know. "But bacon is SO good," you say. I hear ya. But eating bacon in every dish adds up quickly.
We switched to turkey bacon for a few months, and it is doable. I do not like the taste or texture as much as real bacon, but it was fine with breakfast or on top of a burger. And so much easier to clean because of the lack of grease!
This is a killer. Gluten-free peeps will tell you that flour is in seemingly EVERYTHING yummy. If you want to lose weight fast, getting rid of flour (and carbs in general) is one of the best ways to go.
Find flour substitutes for your meals, like almond flour (which is delicious) or coconut flour (also good). It allows you to continue breading items, baking your favorite sweets and making bread to go with your meals.
I will probably never give up meat, but having a vegetarian day once a week is popular with many diet plans. Haven't you noticed that most vegetarians are skinny? (Just kidding, sort of.)
Substitute your meat with hearty vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant. No, it may not taste as good, and yes, it may take more time to prepare. But making the switch once a week is manageable and the effects can be long-lasting. Tofu is another popular meat substitute for vegetarian meals.
Soda and Alcohol
Don't we all have that friend who bragged about losing 15 pounds by quitting soda or alcohol? That diet sounds so simple (because it is), but if you love both types of beverages like I do it is easier said than done.
Instead of soda, try flavored water, juice, unsweetened tea or diet soda if you must. Alcohol still too good to give up? Try gluten-free/calorie free options like clear liquor with a diet soda or tonic water. Wine and beer tend to reek of calories.
General Tips for Shopping
Fresh is usually better than frozen with fruits, vegetables and meat.
Check out the gluten-free section; in general, these items are more diet-friendly, and a good grocery store has a ton of gluten-free items, such as cereal, snacks and pasta.
Create a menu at least a week at a time so you can shop smarter and avoid the whole "well it is too late to fix something so let's just order pizza" dilemma. Make your own or download one of the hundreds of cute printables out there on the interwebz.
Make a shopping list before you go to the grocery store, and STICK TO YOUR LIST. It is so easy to throw that box of Velveeta and Shells in the cart - don't do it.
If you are fixing the meals, your family will learn to eat the healthier options as well. Find the recipes that are family favorites and use them often.
Buy food for lunch that can easily be prepared. If you are not disciplined enough to spend an hour every night preparing your next day's lunch, you need to get recipes and ingredients that are quick and healthy. Cup of Noodles does not count.
If there is a low-fat, low-carb or gluten-free option, it is worth a try. Just seeing healthier options next to your usual food should trigger your impulse to give it a shot.
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