1. Drink at least 64 ounces of water/day.
Cut down on calories by substituting water for other calorie-containing beverages. Drinking more water not only suppresses your appetite and improves your body's ability to process the food you eat, but it also helps keep your core temperature down during workouts, which greatly reduces your perceived exertion and helps prevent mistaking thirst for hunger. Studies suggest drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day 1 and to make sure that your urine is pale yellow or clear to ensure that you're hydrated. Having a 32-ounce, refillable water bottle at your side makes this step easy2.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
When you wake up in the morning, you more than likely have gone eight hours or more without eating. Your body needs fuel, and breakfast is the best source of that fuel. Skipping breakfast can cause as much as a 40% drop in your basal metabolic rate, and even a strenuous workout may not make up for this drop in metabolism. That's why starting the day with a healthy breakfast is key. Try consuming at least 2 or 3 different foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates and protein, which includes: whole grain cereal with skim milk, sliced fruit like apples and mangos, and oats 3. These are all great breakfast foods that will set you on the right path.
3. Eat at least 3 servings of fruit per day (and whole fruit, not juice).
While slurping down an ice-cold smoothie or glass of orange juice may be tempting, eating a piece of fruit is far more satiating to your body. Whole fruit also contains fiber and takes longer to consume, meaning you won't get cravings in the middle of the day. The fiber in fruit can decrease the number of calories your body absorbs as well. So while juice and smoothies may feel good in the short-term, eating whole fruit is the way to go.
4. Eat at least 4 vegetable servings per day (1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked = 1 serving)
If you're counting calories, vegetables are the star players. Non-starchy vegetables contain only 25 calories per serving, and about a 1/2 of a cup of starchy vegetables contains about 80 calories per serving. Both of these types of veggies are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, so plan on including some vegetables in your summer diet as well.
5. Avoid eating until you are "over-stuffed."
Sometimes, counting calories feels necessary because we have a difficult time following hunger and satiety cues. But there are a few ways to tap into our satiety cues so that we no longer need to count calories. Don't allow yourself to get too hungry. Choose healthy foods and eat slowly to the point that you feel comfortable or almost full. Eating until we are well-passed full is where we get into trouble, so slow down during meals and think about how full you are feeling. This is a great way to control your portions for the summer and beyond!
6. Avoid eating foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats as much as possible.
Foods packed with hydrogenated fats include virtually all deep-fried foods. These fats are typically used in flavor enhancement and food preservation. They may cause negative reactions in the body such as undesirable cholesterol levels and gastrointestinal issues. Most foods that contain these types of fats are usually highly processed, low in fiber, high in calories and low in nutrition. So we need to be conscious of the ingredient labels to determine if a food contains hydrogenated fats. Following this tip will drastically improve your ability to make healthier, less-processed lower calorie food choices, thus reducing caloric intake.
7. Eat sweets, desserts and unhealthy snack foods less than once per day and limit the serving to 200 calories or less.
There's nothing wrong with indulging in the sweet stuff every once in a while during the summer. But sometimes snacking occurs several times a day, especially during those long summer barbecues. By indulging in tempting foods less often, we can reduce our cravings and cut our caloric intake. While cutting out these savory treats is ideal, it can be difficult. Don't worry; we can indulge in at least one, sub-200 calorie sweet per day. We just have to watch our portions over these summer months.
8. Avoid snacking after dinner.
What time do you generally eat dinner? How much time passes between dinnertime and bedtime? Do you find that you need an extra snack to get through the evening? These questions are important in following a successful diet. Most snacking after dinner takes the form of absent-minded eating in front of the television or while decompressing after work. By skipping the late-night snacking, we can cut calories and go to bed feeling accomplished in our discipline. Plus, you will wake up hungry and want to eat a good, healthy breakfast.
9. Avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram (just slightly less than fat), and it enhances the taste of food and increases the chances that you may eat more 4. With just one night of drinking, we may negate the calorie deficit from a whole week of workouts! Like sweets, we don't have to swear off drinking to get weight loss results. But it's best to think twice before taking part of these kind of libations. If there are drinks at a BBQ or beach day, be sure to consume that alcohol in moderation.
10. Exercise more to lose weight and stay in shape.
Dieting certainly helps in achieving weight loss goals, but don't forget about a progressive exercise program. We can double our weight goals by cutting calories and increasing physical activity. If those 10-mile rides can grow to 12-, 15- or 18-mile rides over the course of the summer, your fitness results will come sooner than expected! Purchasing a home Spin® bike may be a great way to get you started or stay on top of your fitness regime,
11. Measure your progress.
Weight isn't the only measure of improved health; a body composition test is a great way to keep track of weight loss results. You can complete a VO2max test in a laboratory setting, or simply time how long it takes you to walk a mile. Typically, when you start an exercise or weight loss program, your fitness will typically improve first. Weight loss comes afterward. But a reduction in calories combined with a well-rounded exercise program can create a dramatic difference in waist size, muscle tone and appearance without huge losses in weight. So don't get discouraged if the number on the scale doesn't fall as fast as you would like. You are already well on your way to a happier, healthier life for the summer and beyond!