Counting calories is about as much fun as kissing the hairy chin of your aunt Gadzinka from the Old Country. Abstaining from chicken wings sucks, too. Wouldn’t it be much easier if you made a habit of these 7 strategies? (For hundreds more tips and techniques that will flatten your belly, sharpen your mind, and keep you healthy for life, check out The Better Man Project—the cutting-edge book for men from Bill Phillips, the Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health.)
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1. Preload. Going out for dinner? A half-hour before you leave, eat a 200-calorie snack that contains at least 15 grams of protein. With a gut full of satiating protein and fewer hunger hormones circulating, you’ll consume fewer calories at the restaurant. Two good snack choices: a whey protein shake or an apple with string cheese (contains satiating fiber and fat, too).
2. Stop before your tank is full. Picture a gas gauge in your belly. “E” means you’re ravenous and “F” represents a full tank. Aim to stay between half and three-quarters of a tank by eating before you feel famished and stopping when you’re satisfied, not stuffed, says Matt Lawson, M.A., a weight-loss coach for iBehaviorCoach.
3. Chew on it. You’ve heard this one before: Chew each bite 40 times. Well, there’s science behind it. In one study, men who chomped that many times per bite ate 12 percent less than those who chewed 12 times. Researchers believe chewing longer before swallowing speeds the release of gut hormones linked to feeling satisfied.
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4. Eat like a restaurant critic. Take time to note the texture, flavor, and smell of your food. Think about where it came from, the source. Saying to yourself, “Wow, this grass-fed rib eye from Wyoming is juicy” can create a vivid meal memory that keeps you feeling fuller longer, a U.K. study found. (Note: That line works best when you’re actually eating a grass-fed rib eye from Wyoming.) And eating mindfully will slow you down if you typically Hoover your food into your mouth.
5. Plan your grocery trips. Hungry shoppers really do load their carts with more high-calorie options, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine reports. The best time to shop is after breakfast on a weekend, says Anita Mirchandani, R.D., a New York City dietitian. If that’s not a good time for you, preload before you go. Also, studies show that going to the grocery store with a list will reduce the likelihood that you will purchase high-calorie foods that catch your eye.
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6. Buy new dinnerware. The average U.S. plate has been enlarged by 23 percent in the last century. No wonder our waistlines have ballooned! The fix: Eat from plates with wide or colored rims. They make small portions seem larger because the plate looks more filled, according to research in the International Journal of Obesity.
7. Beware of mega portions. Restaurants often plate oversize portions. Check out the chart below for an eye-opening look at how much extra you’re eating when you eat out.