With New Year’s resolution season upon us, many of us have weight loss on the brain. And while fad diets might seem like the quickest and easiest ways to lose weight, this approach isn’t always sustainable and can sometimes do more harm than good.
“The problem with fad diets is that they often involve some level of deprivation and restriction, such as cutting out entire food groups or lowering calorie intake substantially,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. “This can lead to increased hunger and cravings, which means people over-rebound after the diet and wind up eating even more.”
Looking to lose—and keep off—a few pounds in 2021? Here are some simpler ways to lose weight than falling into the diet trap.
1. Don’t drink your calories
It’s important to be equally mindful of what you drink as you are of what you eat. “Switching from sugary or high-calorie drinks to those with zero or nearly no calories is one of the easiest ways to cut calories from your diet,” says Axe. “Drinks don’t tend to make us feel satisfied, even if they contain lots of sugar and calories, which is why they are often called ‘empty calories.’”
2. Eat more fiber and protein
High-fiber foods, like veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, tend to be lower in calories but take longer to digest (meaning they keep you full longer), according to Axe.
Read More: 9 Easy Ways To Increase Your Protein Intake
In addition to filling up on fiber-rich foods, he suggests focusing on protein, such as quality meats, fish, eggs, or Greek yogurt. “Protein is linked to a reduction in appetite, plus it takes your body more energy to digest protein than simple carbs and fats, using up calories and benefitting your metabolism,” he says.
3. Keep a food journal
Even if you think you know how much food you eat in a given day, chances are your estimations are way off. One of the best ways to get a clear picture? Track your meals and snacks in a food journal.
“By writing down exactly what and how much you eat and drink, you’ll be able to spot patterns and notice areas where you can improve,” says Axe. “For example, maybe you notice that your portions are bigger than you realized, or that snacking often is increasing your sugar intake.”
Having this better understanding of your eating patterns can help you make the changes you need to shed pounds. In fact, one study published in the journal Obesity found that participants who spent just 15 minutes a day logging their meals lost more weight than those who did not.
4. Cut back on booze
You’ve probably heard plenty about the importance of drinking alcohol in moderation. It’s true that drinking alcohol comes with many health consequences, including lowering your immune system and increasing your risk for a myriad of diseases including cancer. On top of all that, drinking alcohol racks up calories that are not nourishing your body, says Christen Cupples Cooper, R.D.N., founding director of Pace University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Program. “Only one drink per day for women and two per day for men are considered healthy,” she says.
Cooper also recommends opting for more diluted alcoholic beverages, or lower-alcohol drinks like hard seltzers, light beers, or wine spritzers. “Alcohol is seven calories per gram as opposed to four for carbohydrates and protein, so the higher the alcohol content, the more caloric,” she explains.
5. Plan and prepare your meals and snacks in advance
Meal prepping might seem time-consuming, but it’s really just consolidating all of the work you’d be doing throughout the week into one session, which saves you time later. It also encourages you to create healthy meals that you can grab whenever you’re hungry instead of relying on processed snacks or fast food on the fly.
At the very least, “when fruits and veggies come home, wash and chop them, and place them at the forefront of your fridge,” says Cooper. “This makes it easier to make a good choice when you reach for a snack.”