Sneaky calorie bombs are hiding everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer scale creep. “You’re still in control of your eating,” says Keri Gans, RDN, who counsels clients in New York City. “Don’t worry too much about occasional indulgences. It’s the little things you do every day that can keep you on track.” She’s talking about super-simple tricks that help you feel less hungry and burn more fat from breakfast to bedtime. Here, we’ve collected our favorite nondiet tips.
Feast in the a.m.
Do so and you’ll breeze right past your co-worker’s homemade cheese straws at 3 p.m. A 2013 study found that women who enjoyed a big breakfast (think 700 calories) had a larger drop in the hunger hormone ghrelin than women who ate just 200 calories’ worth.
Work out early
You may reap the rewards all the way through the neighborhood potluck. Researchers at the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis, N.C., found that people who exercised for 45 minutes experienced a metabolic spike that lasted 14 hours, torching an extra 190 calories.
Take a coffee break
Besides keeping you energized, a cup of joe may goose your calorie-burning machine by 12 percent for three hours, according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Spice up lunch
Try grilled chicken with an ancho chili rub, or paprika and red pepper soup. Capsaicin—the chemical that gives chili peppers their kick—activates your sympathetic nervous system and may speed up your metabolism for more than four hours, according to a study in Physiology & Behavior.
Have water on the rocks
You may be craving cocoa in the colder months, but down a glass or two of icy H2O and your body will thank you. A German study showed that drinking a little more than a pint of cold water can supercharge your metabolic rate by 30 percent for 60 minutes.
Go beyond rosemary
Look for recipes that call for dill, basil and chives. They all contain kaempferol, a polyphenol that spurs the production of metabolism-boosting thyroid hormones.
Watch the clock
Before you cave to nighttime cravings, consider this: Research suggests that if you eat breakfast at 8 a.m., your kitchen should close at 8 p.m. Mice that had their daily calories within a 12-hour window kept trim, while ones allowed to eat whenever they pleased put on weight.
Wield your remote
When you curl up on the couch for a movie marathon, change the channel during commercials, and skip quickly past the Food Network. A recent study found that seeing images of fatty foods while sipping a drink high in fructose stimulates the brain’s appetite center, triggering hunger.
Tuck yourself in early
“When you’re tired, the hormone that craves carbs can go through the roof,” says Robert Maurer, PhD, professor of behavior sciences at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center. Another reason to prioritize those z’s: A 2007 study showed that when people slept just four hours a night for six days, the rate at which they processed calories from glucose fell by 40 percent. You snooze, you win (at least at weight loss).
Don’t use your earbuds to chat
You may be setting yourself up for gain at the grocery store if you’re having a phone conversation while you shop. It’s distracting enough to lead to impulse purchases you’ll later regret. (How’d that candy corn get in my bag?) Better to crank up Katy Perry: Research shows that upbeat music makes people shop faster, meaning less dawdling over tempting products.
Have a small doughnut
It sounds too sweet to be true, but eating dessert in the morning (after a high- protein breakfast) may be the secret to curbing your cravings for the rest of the day, Israeli researchers found. Women who did this over the course of eight months lost an impressive 38 more pounds than women who ate a more modest morning meal.
Stop powering up for shopping with sweets
When study participants had an apple as a pre-shopping snack, they ended up buying 25 percent more produce than people who ate a cookie. Have a healthier nosh and you’ll likely beeline for fresher food.
Don’t always buy in bulk
Here’s a stat that will make the economy-size granola seem suddenly less appealing: When people stockpile groceries, they devour them twice as fast, research shows. “Psychologically, you can feel pressure to eat when there’s a lot of food in the house,” explains Keri Gans, R.D.N. Limit your bulk purchases to cooking staples, such as olive oil and eggs.
Fill the fruit bowl
A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people who did this weighed an average of 13 pounds less than folks who didn’t. (Load up on apples, bananas, pears and oranges—none of which need to be refrigerated.)
Hide your munchies in a cabinet
The same researchers discovered that women who kept a bag of potato chips on the counter weighed 8 pounds more than women who didn’t.
Move your smaller plates to the bottom shelf
You’ll be more likely to use them, and that’s good: People take in less food when they eat off a 7-inch salad plate rather than a 10-inch dinner plate, research shows. (Be sure to check out these 14 other easy portion control tips.)
Ditch your trivets
And stop bringing pans to the table for easy serving. Same goes for takeout containers. When you have to get up for seconds, you’ll likely eat about 20 percent less, a 2010 study suggests.
Stock the fridge with produce that lasts
Healthy cooking starts with making sure you always have vegetables on hand,” says best-selling cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman. “Romaine lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage and cauliflower are good for at least a week.” And if you decided to blanch veggies, some can last up to four days.
Zap the stressors
According to a study in Psychological Reports, people eat about 18 percent less when they’re in a relaxed environment. Scan your kitchen for anxiety triggers (a stack of bills, a long to-do list) and move them elsewhere.
Fill up on these 6 no-regret snacks
A midday pick-me-up can be crucial because it helps with satiety, says Keri Gans, R.D.N., who wrote The Small Change Diet. But it has to be the right snack—with protein or fiber and fewer than 200 calories. Try one of these naturally nutritious ideas.
- Kumquats: This citrus is eaten whole. The thin, sweet rind supplies a healthy dose of roughage.
- Kind Healthy Grains Caramel Macchiato Bar: Like all Kind bars, this new one is low in sugar.
- Blue Hill Yogurt: Made with real veggies (like beets and tomatoes), it’s surprisingly luscious.
- Pop Art’s Nori Sesame Popcorn:Toasted seaweed gives the classic circus treat a briny twist.
- Epic’s Bison Bacon Bites: Poppable pieces of upscale jerky that are packed with protein.
- Brussel Bytes: Look out, kale chips! These dehydrated sprouts come in three yummy flavors.
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