Weight Loss Diet

Weight Loss Diet

Easy ways to incorporate healthy eating habits in your daily life

In our fast-paced, bigger-is-better society that flaunts value meals, free breadsticks and extra scoops of ice cream, learning to incorporate healthy eating habits can feel overwhelming and daunting. The key to a successful reduced calorie diet plan is to start making little changes that lay the groundwork for big results.

The first step to eating healthier is replacing fast food and processed meals with healthy recipes. It seems easier on your lunch hour to skate through McDonald's or grab a candy bar from the snack machine, but the truth is, packing your lunch the night before will save you time, money and inches on your waistline.

Pick up a small cooler or a lunch bag from the store. Stock your fridge with veggies, fruit, yogurt and string cheese. If you like meat, buy some chicken breasts and bake them over the weekend. Chop them up and put them in Ziploc baggies to add to the tops of salads, to toss in a stir fry or to enjoy as a lean snack. If you have a microwave at your workplace, even look at frozen meals. Stores like Trader Joe's have low-sodium, all-organic meals for only a few bucks.

Now, since you are eating a healthy, low-fat and reduced-calorie lunch, make sure you pack snacks to curb your appetite throughout the day and have a bottle of water constantly on hand. Most times, we eat because we are actually dehydrated, bored or just craving something to munch on out of habit. Have a Ziploc bag of carrots, an apple and a pack of gum constantly in your desk drawer.

At home, go through your pantry and get rid of fattening and processed foods. Keep a little treat on hand for when cravings hit, but limit yourself to a small indulgence ... a snack-sized pack of candy or a one-serving bag of chips. When we try to deny ourselves, we end up obsessing about what we are denying ourselves, so treat yourself occasionally.

Prepare for what moods may strike you. Freeze some grapes if you want a sweet treat. Stock your fridge with fruits and yogurt to blend into a smoothie. Make sure your cabinet is full of oats, wheat flour and sweeteners like honey for healthier baking. Get rid of oils rich in trans-fat and stick with olive oil, which has heart-healthy fatty acids.

Key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is constantly keeping a variety of food coming across our plate so that you don't get bored. Healthy foods shouldn't be tasteless. Take a heart-healthy cooking class, pick up a cookbook or hop online to look for recipes. By using spices and making small changes like using reduced-fat cream cheese or skim milk, we can make drastic changes in our diets. Chop up spinach and carrots to mix into your turkey meatballs, throw veggies instead of fattening meats on your pizza and choose whole-wheat instead of white bread.

Once you start incorporating vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins into your diet, you will start to see a pattern. You won't crave the takeout meals of fried chicken or french fries, and a few bites of cake will seem rich enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. By training our bodies, we start to crave what makes us feel good. So have fun; look at eating healthy as a new experience, and use some creativity.

Diet Plans

For those who need a bit more structure to change their eating habits, starting with an actual diet plan may be the best route. Most plans have preset meals or at least suggested meal plans, and they tend to produce results quickly, which can be just the motivation you need to keep going. Of course, diet plans are notoriously restrictive, so most people eventually go off them, and unfortunately, those who've failed to take on the habits the plan was meant to teach often end up gaining weight back. If you're going to use a diet plan, pick one that includes foods or meals you can continue to eat regularly, even if you eventually decide not to follow the plan strictly.

Popular diet plans include the Atkins and Zone diets, which both promote high-protein, low-carb eating in order to stimulate weight loss. The main difference is that Atkins also sponsors high fat consumption while Zone insists on more controlled fat intake, though there are other dissimilarities. The Idiot Proof Diet is another high-protein, low-carb option (though it doesn't bill itself as such) that seems to be showing some initial success.

One diet that can produce dramatic and fast results if properly followed in the soup diet. With a soup diet, you substitute a filling, low-calorie soup for most of your meals; the liquid helps you feel full, and you will get all the nutrients you need from the soup.

If you have high cholesterol, your doctor can also help you switch to a cholesterol diet that will reduce your levels to safer, more acceptable targets.

Although it is mainly used to lower cholesterol and promote heart health, the Mediterranean Diet can also contribute to weight loss, and many people find it easier to stick with than more restrictive diet plans, though the weight loss tends to be less substantial and more gradual. If you've committed to losing weight through dieting, consulting a nutritionist or signing up at a weight loss center will help you connect with all the resources and support you'll need to succeed.

By Molly Carter