What if you could take a big chunk out of those weight loss goals and put a dent in your health status by making only a few tiny adjustments to your daily diet? Well, it’s absolutely possible. In fact, you don’t need to turn your life upside down to be healthy and fit, according to Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D. author of "10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman’s Diet," who adds that even cutting 100 calories from your daily fare is all it would take to stop weight gain. Here she offers seven simple steps to get you started:
1. Switch from orange juice to blueberries at breakfast
Think faster, react quicker, and remember more. That’s what you can expect when you add blueberries to your weekly diet, according to a recent study that found that animals fed blueberries showed up to 79 percent lower levels of free radicals and 64 percent higher vitamin C levels in the brain. These little fruits contain potent antioxidants that strengthen tissue defenses against oxidation and inflammation, the underlying factors in most age-related diseases, from heart disease and cancer to memory loss, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's. The antioxidants in blueberries might even help reverse memory loss. Best of all, frozen is just as antioxidant-packed as fresh, so enjoy these nutrient gold mines all year around. But blueberries are more than just antioxidants. Research from Tufts University shows that these little fruits regulate our genes! They turn on the cells’ production of disease-fighting chemicals that then work 24-7 to protect the brain and all the body’s tissues from damage.
Besides sprinkling them on your cereal, blend into smoothies, add to pancake batters, or briefly cook blueberries with a little Splenda, lemon juice, and corn starch and use as a topping for pancakes, French toast, waffles, and ice cream.
2. Sip don’t gulp
It takes the body 15 minutes or more to assimilate one quarter cup of water. Drink water too fast and most of it will flush out of the system before it has had a chance to hydrate you.
3. Drink tea and coffee between meals
Many women have coffee with breakfast, iced tea or coffee with lunch and a glass of red wine with dinner, and unknowingly are putting themselves at risk for iron deficiency as a result. These beverages contain compounds called tannins that reduce iron absorption by somewhere between 60 percent and 94 percent. Women already consume too little iron to meet their needs, placing them at risk for iron deficiency and its symptoms of fatigue, increased susceptibility to colds and infections, muddled thinking and more. Instead, drink your tea, coffee, and wine between meals. Note: Herbal teas do the same: Peppermint blocks iron by up to 84 percent, chamomile and others by half.
4. Chew and brush
This one sounds silly, but it just might work. Women unconsciously chow down on 100s of calories while cooking meals. They taste the sauce not once, but several times. They grab a bite of last night’s leftovers while rummaging through the fridge for tonight’s meal. They munch on a cookie from the cookie jar while stirring the stir fry. We finish off the scrambled eggs and toast on our children’s plates in the morning. You can put away as many calories in this form of nibbling as you would sitting down to a full meal. So, chew sugarless gum when cooking or drink ice water to keep your fingers out of the food and to satisfy your need to munch. Also, rather than circle the kitchen for something sweet after a meal, head straight for the bathroom and brush your teeth. It signals to the body and taste buds that you are done eating and leaves a sweet taste in your mouth.
5. Divide your plate
The sure-fire way to lose weight and lower your risk for most diseases is to load up on colorful produce, whole grains, legumes, and other “real” foods. The simple trick to put this rule into practice is to fill three quarters of your plate with vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit; the other quarter can be extra-lean meat or nonfat milk or milk products. Said another way, take three bites of plant-based foods for every one mouthful of meat or milk.
6. Cut 100 calories each day
Stop the gradual weight gain and even lose one pound a month by eliminating a measly 100 calories from your daily diet. That can be something as simple as
- Replace half cup granola with two cups of Cheerios.
- Switch from one cup of sweetened applesauce to one cup of unsweetened applesauce.
- Replace one cup of caramel-coated popcorn with two and a half cups of air-popped popcorn.
- Spread two tablespoons of fat-free cream cheese, rather than three tablespoons of regular cream cheese, on a half bagel.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Put all nutrition advice into perspective, and never obsess.
- Yes you want to cut back on added sugars, and yes there is sugar in catsup, but you only use a teaspoon of catsup, while you down 10 teaspoons of sugar in a cola.
- Yes, you should avoid trans fats, but there is so little hydrogenated fat in most peanut butters that it would take 153 servings (for a total of 28,764 calories) to get even 0.5 milligrams of trans fats.
- And yes, if you can afford it, organic produce is the best, but the tiny benefits you get from eating organic pale in comparison to losing that spare tire around your waist or even just making sure to include eight servings of colorful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.