If you've ever tried to lose weight, you know how hard it can be. There are virtually endless lists of ways to drop those pounds. Let's be honest though. It's hard to remember them all and some of them are too difficult or time consuming to be worth the trouble. That's why we went to our friends at womanista.com and gathered the 10 easiest tweaks you can make to your meal plans so that you can lose the weight effortlessly. Each of these will take just a small bit of planning, but will pay off big in the end. I'll tell you one thing - you are not going to be sorry you made these tweaks a normal part of your day. Good luck!
1. Drink Water before Every Meal and Snack
Most of us struggle to drink enough water. Not only does that make you dehydrated and tired, "you might even confuse thirst with hunger and end up over-eating because of it," says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D. So get into a habit of drinking water—ideally eight to 16 ounces—before you eat a meal or snack to keep your appetite in check. Doing so has been shown to help you eat less during your meal—meaning you'll potentially eat fewer calories overall, says Marisa Moore, R.D.
2. Make Spa Water
Even though you need H2O to live, some people find the stuff repulsive. If that sounds like you, ditch the sugary drinks and get your flavor fix by infusing your water with fruits and herbs—think citrus, pineapple, mint, or ginger. "I do this at home for my husband who hates plain water. Now he drinks tons," says Lindsey Pine, R.D. Buy an infuser water bottle for the office, and fill up a big glass dispenser at home.
3. Eat Veggies for Breakfast
Veggies are high in filling fiber, low in calories, and stocked with vitamins and minerals that help fight belly bloat, says Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., a New York City-based nutritionist. But you're probably not eating enough of them. "We often go from a bagel at breakfast, to a chicken sandwich at lunch, to pizza for dinner—without including the most nutrient-dense foods of all," says Jennifer Giles, R.D. She suggests adding chopped baby spinach to smoothies, oatmeal, eggs, or plain yogurt, since it has a neutral taste but packs in fiber, folate, and iron. McMordie recommends sautéeing whatever veggies you can scavenge from your fridge and adding them to an egg scramble.
4. Order a Short Drink
Forget the grande and go for the smallest-sized latte or cappuccino at the coffee shop and you'll immediately avoid a hundred calories or more. "A lot of people forget the eight-ounce size exists, but it's a great way to save calories and savor a small amount of the frothy drink you're craving," says Jess Cording, R.D.
5. Make Your Oatmeal Savory
Recent research suggests early risers eat more protein, while night owls down more sugar and saturated fat. The study authors think that the people who eat more sugar and fat are night owls because those nutrients screw with your internal body clock, messing up your metabolism, says Christy Brissette, R.D., president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. Studies show that morning meals with protein may help you to eat fewer calories during the rest of the day, says Jenny Beth Kroplin, R.D. While oatmeal offers a healthy serving of fiber, many people don't feel satisfied after a bowl or go overboard on sugar, says Cording. She suggests making it savory: Cook 1/3 cup of plain oats with one tablespoon of ground flax, your favorite savory spice blend (think garlic powder, ground ginger, paprika, and turmeric), and milk (or unsweetened non-dairy milk) for a dose of protein. Add in grated zucchini for volume and extra fiber and top with a fried egg for extra protein.
6. Enjoy Carbs and Protein Post-workout
Post-workout is actually the best time to eat both carbs and protein, explains Brissette. When you eat this combo, your body uses carbs as energy and the protein can go where you need it most: your muscles, she says. More lean muscle means a faster metabolism, which torches more calories even at rest. Try adding a banana or some frozen mango into your protein shake, or slice peaches or pineapple into your Greek yogurt.
7. Eat Every Three to Five Hours
If there's one easy tip nutritionists agree on, it's to never skip meals. "Eating small meals and snacks throughout the day helps increase metabolic rate," says Giles. Somewhere between three to five hours is usually when your true biological hunger strikes, say Moskovitz. Sticking to that schedule helps regulate your appetite, energy, hormones, and metabolism, says Zeitlin.
8. Graze on Protein All Day
Sneak a bit of protein into every meal and snack: Yogurt, pistachios, lean meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, lentils, and beans are all good sources. "Protein helps stabilize your blood sugar, making you less tempted to eat unhealthy foods," says Kim Melton, R.D. "My favorites are Greek yogurt with berries or veggies with hummus," says food and nutrition blogger Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.
9. Start Dinner with a Salad
Zeitlin recommends filling at least half of your plate at each meal with veggies. An easy way to get there is a salad. Starting your dinner with a bowl of greens starts to fill you up before you begin eating your main meal, helping you to eat fewer calories overall. "Just make sure you stick with an oil-based dressing instead of a creamy one to keep calories in check," says McMordie.
10. Eat Veggies First, Protein Second and Carbs Third
After starting your meal with fiber-rich vegetables, fill up on protein. That's because both of these are the lowest-calorie, most filling nutrients. Saving carbs and starches for last will keep you from overdoing bread and potatoes. "It's an easy way to fill up on the fewest amount of calories while still getting plenty of beneficial nutrients your body needs," says Moskovitz.
To read the rest of the food tweaks to help you lose weight, click here for the original Women's Health article.