Eating at your desk or in front of the TV is distracting, and because your brain doesn’t fully realize what you’re eating, you could end up unsatisfied, even with big portions, says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “People look down after their meal and have no memory of what was on their plate,” she says. “They don’t feel satisfied and are hungry again in an hour.” Ideally, you should spend the full 20 or 30 minutes it takes to eat focusing on your meal. If it’s unrealistic to leave your desk that long during lunch, take at least the first five to ten minutes chowing down without distractions, she says. Find out more about what healthy people do on their lunch breaks.
Pick the smallest container
Whether you’re at a salad bar or frozen yogurt shop, always grab the smallest dish offered. You’ll be surprised by how much you can pack inside, but you’ll have less risk of going overboard like you would with an oversized container, says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition NYC. “You can still fit a pound of food in the smallest container,” says Shapiro. “People go for the large plate so they don’t get hungry later, but you can always eat again later.”
Drink water before your coffee
A little bit of dehydration can mask as hunger,” says Rumsey. “You might not feel thirsty but are a little dehydrated and can feel hungry, even if you just ate.” But if you stay hydrated, it will be easier to recognize if your body actually needs the calories. Drink 16 ounces of water as soon as you wake up to replenish the water your body lost when you were sleeping, suggests Rumsey. Are you showing signs of dehydration?
Eat a snack before grocery shopping
Hunger pangs at the grocery store could tempt you into unhealthy impulse buys. “You’re bound to react based on how you’re feeling at the time,” says Shapiro. “If you’re not hungry, you will make better choices.” You’ll find it easier to stick to the perimeter of the supermarket, where you’ll find healthier, whole foods like the produce section and the butcher instead of high-calorie, unsatisfying snack foods. (Related: Steal these things nutritionists always do when grocery shopping.)
Eat chips from a bowl
Even if you promise to stick with one serving of chips, there’s a good chance you’ll blow right through that if you’re reaching straight into the bag. “Never say you’ll stop when you eat ten—don’t trust yourself to do that,” says Shapiro. Instead, measure out a cup or two into a bowl and put the bag away. If you still can’t resist seconds or need something to munch mindlessly, try buying individual-sized bags of snacks, or stick with raw vegetables when you’re chilling out in front of the TV. Check out these genius portion control tricks to get better at eyeballing single servings.
Fill your freezer with frozen vegetables
You probably know you should eat more vegetables, but by the time you finally get to cooking, the big box of fast-cooking macaroni and cheese your kid wants seems much easier. Keeping frozen vegetables on hand will make it easier to cook a produce-rich meal without much planning. “Those cook up really quickly,” says Rumsey. “A lot of people complain that they buy vegetables and they go bad, but frozen ones can sit for months and still be fine.” Roast them for a tasty side that brings out their natural sweetness. These are some subtle signs you aren’t eating enough vegetables.
Serve away from the table
Dish out food at the stove, then leave the pots there when you sit down so you’re not tempted to refill your plate too soon. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for fullness signals to reach your brain, so wait at least that long before getting up for seconds. “If you start helping yourself to bigger portions prior to that timeframe, you can end up feeling overstuffed,” says Rumsey. Check out these other ways your kitchen setup can help you eat healthier.
Say no to the breadbasket
It’s hard to resist a basket of bread staring you in the face at restaurants, even if you’re not hungry. “It’s sitting there because they know you’re hungry, and they don’t want you to complain,” says Shapiro. “You’re just eating it because it’s there.” Those calories add up, and you’ll probably forget to count them as part of your meal. To make sure you don’t fall into the mindless eating trap, kindly reject the bread when the server drops it off. Don’t miss these tricks for losing weight over the weekend.
Always get a doggy bag
Restaurant portions are notoriously large, and you could end up six servings when you’re eating out, says Shapiro. To prevent overeating, ask for a half portion or commit to only eating half your meal. “Make a mental note of when to put your fork and knife down,” she says. Once you reach the halfway point, put your silverware under your plate or casually suck on a mint so you’re not tempted to keep picking.
Put gym time on your calendar
Commit to physical activity by scheduling it in your calendar. To take it a step forward, plan out exactly what you’ll do each day so all you have to do is lace up your sneakers and get moving. “Be really specific. That way, when the day comes, it’s already in your calendar and you know what you’re doing, which makes it easier,” says Rumsey. For instance, you might block out 30 minutes for weight training on Monday, a 20-minute interval run on Wednesday, and 30 minutes on the elliptical on Friday. Don’t miss these other secrets of women who manage to work out every day.
Quit worrying that your workouts are too short
You’ll see benefits from even ten or fifteen minutes of exercise, but a short gym session will be more effective if you keep moving. “It keeps your heart rate up for a more intense workout,” says Rumsey. Between sets during weight training or abs work, do jumping jacks or hop on the treadmill for a minute. Try these gym hacks that make working out less of a chore.
Take the stairs more
Sneaking in little bursts of activity will help you reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day. “Even if it takes time to go ten floors, you still get moving,” says Shapiro. But don’t stop at just taking the stairs to your office, then hunkering down in your chair—find more excuses to get moving, like using the restroom on another floor, she suggests. Here are some clues you need to move more during the day.
Read More: 10 Must Have Weight Loss Smoothies
Make your breakfast at night
Starting your day with a protein-rich meal will keep you fuller until lunch and banish cravings for the rest of the day. Still, when you’re trying to dash out the door, a balanced breakfast is probably the last thing on your mind. Instead of popping into the deli for a bagel and cream cheese, give your fuel source some thought before the morning rush hits. “Most people are really busy in the morning, so make sure you’re planning and doing a little prep work in advance,” says Rumsey. At night, put a jar of overnight oats in the fridge so they’re soft and creamy by morning, or stick Greek yogurt, nuts, and cut fruit in a plastic container so you can grab it and go. Make sure to avoid these other healthy breakfasts mistakes you need to stop making.
Show avocado some love
Mayonnaise and cheese add about 10 grams of fat and 100 calories each to your lunch—and people often slap on more than one tablespoon or slice. To skip them without missing that creaminess, try replacing them with avocado, which is packed with healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber that make your meal more satisfying. “It gives you that creamy mouth feel, plus a lot of fiber to keep you full,” says Shapiro. Read this to find out if you need to eat more healthy fats.
Use full-fat salad dressing
Fat-free salad dressings are usually loaded with sugar to replace the flavor lost from the fat, and they aren’t as satisfying. Pay attention to how much you pour, but feel free to stick with a full-fat version. “Get a little of the real deal because it’s the taste and mouth feel,” says Shapiro. “It gives you what you’re looking for, and you use less but get more.” Just stay away from full-fat ranch and bleu cheese dressings, which are too decadent. Stick with vinaigrettes that have healthy fats from olive oil bases instead. Don’t miss these other food mistakes even healthy people make.
Pick veggies at lunchtime
Vegetables are low calorie but fill you up, so packing more into your day will help you shed pounds almost effortlessly. “Most people don’t get enough vegetables during the day in general,” says Rumsey. “A lot of times they get to dinner and have had none all day, and the three-cup recommendation is not doable.” By adding more produce to your lunch, you’ll be midway to your goal by the time dinner rolls around. At least three days a week, swap out your usual bag of chips for raw veggies or a side salad, says Rumsey.
Replace white with brown
During processing, enriched white flour is stripped of the parts of the grain containing most of its fiber. “Fiber makes us feel full because we don’t digest it, but our bodies think we do, so we spend a lot of time trying to digest it,” says Shapiro. “We end up eating less food because we get full faster.” White carbs also turn quickly into sugar, which gives you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash. But the fiber in whole grains keeps you feel longer, so you’ll eat less later in the day. Swap out white bread and rice for whole grains like 100 percent whole wheat bread and couscous to enjoy your favorite foods without going overboard. Find out how you’ve been reading bread labels wrong.