1. EAT MORE OFTEN—AND ADD SOME PROTEIN
The strategy: Switch from two or three large meals to five or six smaller ones of 300 to 400 calories.
The weight-control benefit: By eating more often, you're less likely to get ravenous and scarf down everything in sight. When you eat a midmorning and midafternoon snack, you're not starving at lunchtime or after work, so you won't come home and binge. For each meal or snack, eat both protein and carbs, such as cereal with milk, an apple with peanut butter or a turkey sandwich. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, so you'll stay satisfied longer. A small Yale study showed that when women had a high-protein lunch, they ate 31 percent fewer calories at dinner than when they had a high-carb lunch. Tip: Try adding 2-3 ounces of fish or chicken breast to your lunch.
The health bonus: By eating more often you will keep up your energy, concentration and alertness levels—and you'll ward off the late-afternoon energy drain that's common among women. Plus, you are likely to eat more nutritiously because you won't be bingeing and loading up on empty calories.
2. SWITCH TO WHOLE GRAINS
The strategy: As often as possible, choose whole-grain products over their refined counterparts. For instance, try barley or bulgur instead of white rice. Eat whole-wheat bread instead of white or enriched wheat, oatmeal instead of grits, Grape-Nuts instead of Special K, or worse, Cap'n Crunch. Here's why you need to read nutrition labels:
* Bran for Life bread contains 5 grams of fiber per slice—80 calories—while Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced white bread also has 80 calories but zero grams of fiber.
* 1 ounce of Grape-Nuts contains 2.5 grams of fiber and 104 calories while 1 ounce of Special K has 0.88 grams of fiber and 105 calories (1 ounce of Cap'n Crunch has 0.9 grams of fiber and 113 calories—and lots of sugar).
The weight-control benefit: Whole-grain foods are chewier and more satisfying. Their fiber makes them more filling, so you'll eat less and not be hungry as soon. Tip: Eat 1 whole-grain serving at every meal.
The health bonus: High-fiber foods like whole grains help protect against heart disease, diabetes and, possibly, cancers of the breast, pancreas and colon. They also contain trace minerals that are stripped from refined food products.
3. ADD A FRUIT AND VEGETABLE TO EVERY MEAL
The strategy: This doesn't mean adding a fruit juice or veggie drink—which often contains no fiber, negligible vitamins and lots of calories—to lunch and dinner. (To wit: A 6-ounce serving of Tree Top Apple Juice contains 90 calories and only 0.2 grams of fiber—no better than Hi-C Candy Apple Cooler. By contrast, a medium apple contains 81 calories and 3.7 grams of fiber.) You need to add a whole fruit and a whole vegetable. Or, if adding them at mealtime is inconvenient, you can just aim to double your intake of both.
The weight-control benefit: To feel satisfied, you need a certain amount of weight in your stomach. A whole fruit or vegetable will give you that feeling of fullness. Meaning, you will likely eat less during and after your meal. Tip: Choose fruits and veggies with deeper color.
The health bonus: Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and phytochemicals. There are plenty of nutrients that ward off cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are often lost when we process fruits and vegetables into juice. So trading juice for whole produce can decrease your risk for these diseases.
4. CHOOSE LOWER-FAT DAIRY PRODUCTS
The strategy: Gradually work your way from full-fat to reduced-fat to low-fat to fat-free milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese. If the last time you sampled low-fat cheese it tasted like rubber, give it another try. Low-fat products have greatly improved.
The weight-control benefit: This is an easy way to save on calories without sacrificing taste. Four ounces of regular cottage cheese has 120 calories, compared to 100 calories for 2 percent, 90 calories for 1 percent and 80 for fat-free. One ounce of Cheddar cheese has 114 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat; 1 ounce reduced-fat Kraft cheese has 90 calories and 4 grams saturated fat. One scoop of Breyers vanilla ice cream has 150 calories and 5 grams saturated fat; Häagen Dazs has 270 calories and 11 grams saturated fat; Breyers Light has 130 calories and 2.5 grams saturated fat. Tip: Focus on cutting saturated fat.
The health bonus: You drastically cut back on saturated fat, the kind that increases your risk of heart disease. For instance, those 4 ounces of regular cottage cheese contain 3 grams of saturated fat, compared to 1.4 grams for reduced-fat cottage cheese, less than 1 gram for low-fat and no saturated fat for fat-free. Experts recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories, which translates to 22 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet.
5. DRINK MORE WATER
The strategy: Women should drink 9 cups of fluid daily, more if you exercise, but most consume only 4-6 cups a day. Keep a water bottle on your desk, in your backpack and in your car.
The weight-control benefit: Drinking water makes you feel fuller, so you're likely to eat less, and helps prevent you from eating when you're not hungry. Many people turn to food when they're actually thirsty. Tip: Drink water instead of sugary drinks and juices to hydrate and save calories.
The health bonus: Staying well hydrated may reduce your risk for diseases, including cancers of the colon, breast and bladder. In one study, women who reported drinking more than five glasses of water a day had a 45 percent lower risk for colon cancer than those who drank two or fewer.