Practical tips for losing weight

Here's some advice in the seemingly endless debate on how to lose weight - keep things simple!

First things first, eat small well balanced meals roughly every four hours and don't think skipping meals will cause inches to melt off your waistline.

"Often times they'll drastically reduce their intake and their number of meals they consume and that can affect your metabolism. So they'll have a higher chance of putting on weight as opposed to taking it off," says Dietitian Natalie Martinez.

Dr. Martinez says one way to stay fuller longer is by adding fiber to your diet. It takes longer to break down which means you'll feel fuller longer.

"Trying to add more fruits, veggies and whole grains to your snacks will help keep you more satisfied throughout the day," says Martinez.

And she says it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you're full. So eat slow and listen to your body.

Next up, that daily pick me up of frothy, whipped creamy goodness or a can of your full calorie soda could be one reason you've hit a plateau.

Martinez says, "A lot of times, people don't realize how much they're actually consuming in liquids and it's very easy because you can drink several calories in less than a minute or two."

So swap that sugary drink for water and really focus on flushing your system.

Of course the age old trick to fitting in your favorite jeans is burning more calories than you consume. So start running, walking, biking...anything that gets your heart beat up.

And last but not least, if you're biggest struggle to staying fit is finding time, rethink the way you exercise. If you can't dedicate 30 minutes in one session, break it up.

Martinez says, "You can actually split it up into three 10 minute segments or two 15 minute segments throughout the day and that might be more practical and feasible for people to accomplish."

One last thing to keep in mind is always having healthy snacks at your fingertips wherever you are so you're not tempted to munch on that leftover cake at work or picking something up from a fast food joint. Just set ten minutes each night to pack your lunch. It will be a lifesaver when your stomach starts growling!

To get started, check out these easy and healthy recipes:

1. Black bean salad

Toss together a cup of black beans, salsa, shredded greens, diced tomato, a little crushed tortilla chips and low fat cheese.

TIP: Rinse canned beans to reduce the presence of natural sugars that cause gas. Also, the canned liquid with black beans is dark and will add an unattractive color to your salad if not well rinsed.

2. Chicken/turkey wrap

Fill a small whole grain tortilla with grilled chicken or turkey slices, 2-3 slices of avocado, diced tomatoes, a little low cal dressing.

3. Veggie Sandwich

1 whole-wheat pita pocket with 1 cup fresh or cooked/grilled veggies and 1 oz of low fat cheese or other low calorie spread.

4. Nut butter sandwich (peanut, almond, cashew, or other nut butter)

Add 1 Tbsp. nut butter to 2 slices light whole wheat bread. Top with thinly sliced apple, peach, or pear for a little sweetness and fresh flavor (slice fruit just before adding to your sandwich or treat with a little lemon juice to keep from browning too much before you eat).

5. Bagel, low fat yogurt, and a piece of fruit

Shop carefully! Bagels can be loaded with calories depending on the size and ingredients. Look for bagels with fewer than 200 calories.

6. Quinoa and Bean Salad

Mix pre-cooked quinoa with the beans of your choice (black beans, black-eyed peas, white beans, garbanzo beans also known as chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.) Add diced onions plus diced red bell pepper and/or green bell pepper. Drizzle with a little low calorie Italian dressing or a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season to taste.

7. Pasta salad

Cook up some whole wheat pasta in the beginning of the week. Toss it with a little olive oil and store in the refrigerator. Now you have a base to which you can add tuna fish or some leftover chicken or turkey pieces. Next add some diced veggies, olives, or pickles. Start with 1 cup of pasta, add meat or other protein food (egg, fish, tofu, tempeh, etc.), and veggies.

8. Hard-boiled egg, small salad, and whole grain crackers

9. Hummus and tomato sandwich

1 small whole wheat pita, 2 tbsp. hummus, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup feta cheese, and 1/2 cup fresh spinach (Spread the hummus on the tortilla, add the other ingredients and roll up).

10. Tuna, chicken, or turkey salad

Mix the tuna or diced poultry with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead of mayonnaise. Eat on whole grain crackers along with some seedless grapes or other fruit.

11. Low fat cottage cheese
mixed with diced tomatoes and green bell peppers, season to taste. Eat with a healthy low fat muffin and a piece of fruit.

12. Planned Left Overs

Homemade soup, chili, casseroles, quiche, leftover low fat veggie pizzas, etc. make great planned left overs. Portion out an appropriate amount into a microwave safe container and zap at the office. Or bring hot soup or casserole in a wide mouth thermos.

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