Sarah Palin is on a diet. So is Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Peyton Manning, the pitching staff of the Texas Rangers, all the judges on America’s Got Talent, and the entire cast of Glee. In fact, from Chris Rock to Kid Rock to The Rock, everyone you can name is on a diet.
And so are you.
How can I be so sure? Because a “diet” isn’t something you go on and go off of, like a prescription. A diet is what you eat, day in and day out, whether you planned to eat that way or not. So when people ask me what kind of “diet” they should follow, I always tell them to follow the one they’re already on—the way you like to eat is the way you should eat. In researching the Eat This, Not That! book series and seeing people lose 10, 20, 30 pounds or more effortlessly, I've learned that if you want to make big changes to your health, forget about following somebody else’s diet. Just make a bunch of little changes to the diet you’re already following. Believe me, it’s the best way to get results. Below, I’ve listed the 25 best new nutritional tweaks you can make that will improve the way you look and feel—fast and forever!
1. Drink a second cup of coffee. It might lower your risk of adult-onset diabetes, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
2. Keep serving dishes off the table. Researchers have found that when people are served individual plates, as opposed to empty plates with a platter of food in the middle of the table, they eat up to 35 percent less!
3. Think before you drink. The average person drinks more than 400 calories a day--double what he or she used to--and alone gets around 10 teaspoons of added sugar every single day from soft drinks. Swap out sweetened teas and sodas for no-cal drinks and you could lose up to 40 pounds in a single year! (To see more proof of how wayward beverages can utterly destroy your diet, check out the 20 Worst Drinks in America. Many of these drinks contain more than a day's worth of calories, sugar and fat!)
4. Practice total recall. British scientists found that people who thought about their last meal before snacking ate 30 percent fewer calories that those who didn't stop to think. The theory: Remembering what you had for lunch might remind you of how satiating the food was, which then makes you less likely to binge on your afternoon snack.
5. Eat protein at every meal. Dieters who eat the most protein tend to lose more weight while feeling less deprived than those who eat the least protein. It appears that protein is the best nutrient for jumpstarting your metabolism, squashing your appetite, and helping you eat less at subsequent meals.
6. Choose whole-grain bread. Eating whole grains (versus refined-grain or white bread) has been linked to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.
7. Think fish. Consuming two 4- to 6-ounce servings of oily fish a week will sharpen your mind. Among the best: salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and trout. They're high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's. Study participants who had high blood levels of DHA also performed better on noverbal reasoning tests and showed better mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary than those with lower levels.
8. Sign up for weight-loss e-mails. Daily e-mails (or tweets) that contain weight-loss advice remind you of your goals and help you drop pounds, researchers from Canada found. We're partial to our own Eat This, Not That! newsletter, and to the instant weight-loss secrets you'll get when you follow me on Twitter here.
9. Cut portions by a quarter. Pennsylvania State University researchers discovered that by simply reducing meal portions 25 percent, people ate 10 percent fewer calories—without feeling any hungrier. Serving yourself? Think about what looks like a reasonable portion, then take at least one-quarter less than that. (By the way, studies show today's restaurant servings are 2 to 5 times bigger than what the government recommends!)
10. Turn off the TV. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts found that people who watch TV during a meal consume, on average, 288 more calories than those who don't eat with the tube on.
11. Put your fork down when you chew. Or take a sip of water between each bite—eating slowly can boost levels of two hormones that make you feel fuller, Greek researchers found.
12. Choose rye (not wheat) bread for breakfast toast. Swedish researchers found that rye eaters were more full 8 hours after breakfast than wheat-bread eaters, thanks to rye's high fiber content and minimal effect on blood sugar. As a result you'll want to snack less and eat less for lunch.
13. Eat a handful of fruit and vegetables a day. In one study, people who ate four or five servings scored higher on cognitive tests than those who consumed less than one serving. (Remember: Salad isn't always the healthy choice. Check out 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper to see what I mean. You'll be shocked.)
14. Sip green tea. It might help you build a strong skeleton, say researchers in China, and help protect you from broken bones when you're older. And one study found that it helps fight bad breath, too.
15. Work out before lunch or dinner. Doing so will make the meals you eat right afterward more filling, according to British researchers—meaning you'll eat fewer calories throughout the day.
16. Hung over? Choose asparagus. When South Korean researchers exposed a group of human liver cells to asparagus extract, it suppressed free radicals and more than doubled the activity of two enzymes that metabolize alcohol. That means you'll feel like yourself again twice as quickly.
17. Sleep 8 hours a night. Too much or too little shut-eye can add extra pounds, say Wake Forest University researchers. Not there yet? Try these 7 simple strategies for longer, deeper sleep.
18 Discover miso soup. Brown wakame seaweed (used in miso soup) can help lower your blood pressure, especially if your levels are already high, say researchers at the University of North Carolina.
19. Drink two glasses of milk daily. People who drink the most milk have about a 16 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who drink the least. (I recommend nonfat or 1 percent milk.)
20. Take a zinc supplement. Just 15 milligrams of zinc a day (the amount found in a Centrum Ultra multivitamin, for example) will motivate your immune cells to produce more of a protein that fights off bacterial infections.
21. Go ahead, eat your favorite foods. Good eating doesn't need to be about deprivation—it's about making smart choices. Why eat a 1,000-calorie cheeseburger if a 500-calorie burger will satisfy you just the same? The bottom line: Eat foods that you enjoy, just not too much of them.
22. Choose foods with the fewest ingredients. There are now more than 3,000 ingredients on the FDA's list of safe food additives—and any of these preservatives, artificial sweeteners and colorings and flavor enhancers could end up on your plate. Do you really know what these chemicals will do to your waistline or health? Of course not. Here's a rule of thumb: If a 7-year-old can't pronounce it, you don't want to eat it.
23. Snack on popcorn. In a 2009 study, people who ate 1 cup of microwave popcorn 30 minutes before lunch consumed 105 fewer calories at the meal. Just choose the kind without butter.
25. Scramble your breakfast. People who ate eggs in the morning instead of a bagel consumed 264 fewer calories the rest of the day, according to a Saint Louis University study. That’s because protein is more filling than carbs.
Bonus Tip: Don't let all of your hard work go down the drain: Avoid this shocking list of the 20 Scariest Food Creations of 2010!