Passing on breakfast or lunch to reduce the amount of calories you eat each day can seem like a shortcut to losing weight, and this strategy may lead you to drop a few pounds in the short term. But a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports that skipping meals actually increases belly fat, so no matter what the scale says you end up looking like you’ve gained rather than lost weight.
Do: Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism working steadily–that’s the safe way to reduce calories.
2. Juicing instead of eating.
Many people today are trying juice “cleanses,” hoping to lose weight by replacing meals with fresh fruit and vegetable drinks. But juicing extracts the fiber in fresh produce that helps you feel full and it can increase your calorie intake. A cup of fresh pineapple, for instance, is about 83 calories, while a cup of pineapple juice is about 120 calories.
Do: Enjoy juice as an occasional between-meal snack, but not as a substitute for meals. And make vegetables the primary ingredients in juice, as they are lower in sugar and calories than fruit.
3. Choosing fat-free everything.
Many food brands try to appeal to dieters with fat-free products, such as salad dressing and snacks. But fat-free items often have as many or more calories as full-fat versions (because extra sugar has been added, for instance, to help with flavor). Even worse, researchers at Cornell University found that people who eat fat-free snacks tend to consume more calories than those who eat the standard versions because they make up the difference by consuming more of the food.
Do: Reduce your fat consumption by eating foods that are naturally low in fats but still filling, such as vegetables and fruit, and opt for healthy fat options like avocados and nuts. When selecting low-fat or fat-free products, check the sugar content on the item to ensure all of the fat hasn’t just been replaced by sugar. (Luckily, if you’re on a Nutrisystem program, you don’t have to worry about this one! All of our meals and snacks are prepared with the best balance of fat, protein, fiber and good carbs!).
4. Eliminating carbs or fats.
Many fad diets claim that certain types of foods, most notably carbohydrates and fats, are the primary cause of excess weight gain and should be eliminated from your diet. But a study published in Cell Metabolism found that low-carb and low-fat diets do not lead to faster weight loss than eating a reduced-calorie diet that includes these food groups.
Do: Eat a well-balanced diet, that includes complex carbs (like whole grains and fresh fruit) and healthy fats (like avocados and nut butters) to ensure your body has the fuel it needs to keep you energized and your metabolism burning.
5. Underestimating portions.
Paying attention to the amount of food you consume is an important step in eating healthy to lose weight. But most of us are so conditioned by the enormous portions of food served in restaurants that we don’t accurately gauge the right amounts when we’re eating at home.
Do: Remember these simple rules of thumb for healthy portions: 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 and fish.
6. Overeating after working out.
Regular exercise is important to your health and helps keep your body burning calories, but working out does stimulate your appetite and that can leading to overeating. The journal Obesity Review published an analysis of many studies which revealed that up to 50 percent of people trying to lose weight actually increased their daily calorie consumption when they begin an exercise routine.
Do: Stick to your healthy eating plan even when working out leaves you extra hungry. Your metabolism will adjust as your body adapts to the increased activity.
7. Expecting too much.
The first week or two of a diet can result in five or more pounds lost, a significant change that can be exciting for anyone who has struggled with excess weight. But after that initial drop, progress generally slows to a healthy one to two pounds lost each week. That can be discouraging, but remember that you are probably trying to reverse years of weight gain.
Do: Be patient. Slow but steady isn’t exciting, but a study by the National Institutes of Health found that those who lost at the healthy rate of one to two pounds per week were far more likely to keep the weight off than those who lost faster.