With simple adjustments you can reach your weight loss goal

You snack on fruit, check calorie counts, and start most days with a walk or swim. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what you're doing wrong. Even with such healthy habits, sometimes a seemingly inconsequential snack choice or a larger (but common) food myth can keep pounds in place. Take heart: A simple, slight adjustment in how you eat and think can help you reach your weight loss goal.

Healthy habit

You count calories

The key to weight loss: Take in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and you will drop pounds. But very few people correctly estimate their ideal daily calorie requirements. The rest of us tend to over estimate, and that's what keeps us from losing weight. Assume that a target of 2,000 calories per day will allow you to get to your weight goal, but it really takes 1,800: Those extra 200 are enough to keep an additional 20 pounds on your frame.

Do it better

Determine the right number of calories you need each day — and stick to it

Get your maximum intake

Ascertainthe weight you want to be (as well as your height, age, and activity level) to get your daily calorie allowance.

Divide it up

Set limits on your meals and snacks. If 1,800 calories is your maximum, split it into three 500-calorie meals and one 300-calorie snack.

Create a custom meal

If your favourite dish has 500 calories, that's all you get. Find one for 300, however, and you can have some fresh fruit and a small salad with it.

Healthy habit

Choosing nutritious foods

What you put on your plate is important, but healthy eating is also about being mindful of how much you consume.

For example, your husband has pancakes with butter and syrup for breakfast, your son grabs a doughnut, and you opt for a cup of oatmeal with a handful of walnuts, a sliced banana, and a large glass of juice. You may win on nutrients, but when it comes to calories you're dead last: That healthy-sounding meal adds up to almost 700, more than a third of your allotment for the day.

Do it better

Keep portions of even healthy foods in check.

The best way to know if you're eating too much is to write it down.

“Even if you note it on a napkin and then throw it away, that's OK. Just the act of writing makes you more aware,” says Taub-Dix. Portion control cues help, too: a baseball-size serving for chopped veggies and fruits; a golf ball for nuts and shredded cheese; a fist for rice and pasta; and a deck of cards for lean meats. Also, swap higher-calorie healthy foods for high-fibre, lower-cal varieties like these:

Fruit

A half-cup serving of strawberries has 23 calories, while a medium banana has more than 100. An orange has almost half the calories of a glass of orange juice. A more low-cal pick is melon.

Vegetables

Per 1 cup, raw spinach has 7 calories and boiled eggplant contains 35 calories; mashed sweet potato, however, has 249.

Whole grains

Two full cups of air-popped popcorn – a whole grain – has about the same number of calories as three little whole wheat crackers.

Healthy habit

You order the healthiest sounding item on the menu

Choose the sandwich over pizza and you think you're being good, but again, looks can be deceiving. A sandwich that comes with cheese and mayo is high on calories .

Do it better

Look up fast-food nutrition facts in advance.

Many restaurants offer nutrition information. See if your favourite eatery has nutrition facts online or in the store — you may be surprised at what you see.

Healthy habit

You satisfy cravings with “diet” treats

When you want something sweet, all those fat-free, sugar-free options seem like a smart idea. But researchers at Cornell University found that overweight people who choose low-fat versions of snack foods rather than the regular kinds consume on average twice as many calories. “The terms fat-free or sugar-free can create a green light effect, triggering people to eat more,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Prevention's nutrition director. But many fat-free foods have about the same number of calories (or more) as their full-fat counterparts. Case in point: One variety of oatmeal-raisin cookie has 107 calories and 9 grams of sugar, and the fat-free version of the same brand has 106 calories plus 14 grams of sugar.

Do it better

Go for reasonable amounts of the real thing.

If you adore ice cream, have a small scoop. “You won't stick to a diet that doesn't include your favourites,” says David Grotto, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Bottom line: Life's too short for forbidden foods.

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