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Weight Loss Tips: Small Changes, Big Payoffs


Think small. For real weight loss, experts agree that tweaking your existing diet is by far the smartest approach around.

"Small changes set you up for success," says Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the Weight Management Center at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "And they're easy to fit into your life."

Here's the deal: Since 1 pound of body fat equals roughly 3,500 calories, all you need to do is shave a few calories from your diet every day. Then watch the excess weight drop off - no massive diet overhaul, no meals-in-a-drink, and certainly no scrapping your favorite foods in favor of fat-and-sugar-free impostors that taste like sawdust.

So where do you start? Jot down what you eat every day (and don't even think about tracking calories or fat grams) in a food diary, then look for spots to make minor adjustments, recommends Nadine Pazder, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Chances are, those spots will be obvious," she says.

To get you started, we've rounded up a few small changes you can try right now. Make these swaps just five days a week, and you can give your extra weight the kiss-off for good.

Diet Tips for Breakfast
Skip Bakery bagel with 2 tablespoons cream cheese
Swap Two pieces of whole-wheat toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter
Savings per day 300 calories
Weight loss per year 23 pounds
Payoff White bread products are a great place to start, says weight-management specialist Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D. "They're far too easy to overeat." For fewer calories, the fiber in whole-wheat bread and protein in the peanut butter will make you fuller faster and keep you satisfied longer.

Diet Tips for Midmorning Snack
Skip Large glass of juice
Swap Piece of fruit
Savings per day 90 calories
Weight loss per year 7 pounds
Payoff Weaning yourself off juice (not to mention sweetened soda) is one of the simplest ways to slash extra calories. Eating a piece of fruit takes longer, and you'll get all the filling fiber that juice lacks, besides.

Tweaking your diet—rather than radically changing it—can set you up for success. Here are the weight loss tips that you need to make that happen.

Nadine Pazder, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, is a strong believer in keeping a food diary and then making small changes in what you eat. Here are specific ways to cut out calories without sacrificing taste.

Diet Tips for Lunch
Skip Container of sweetened yogurt
Swap Plain low-fat yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced fruit
Savings per day 100 calories
Weight loss per year 8 pounds
Payoff You'll lose tons of added sugar and gain vitamin- and fiber-packed fruit.

Diet Tips for Mid-Afternoon Snack>
Skip Tall mocha
Swap Tall latte with 1 percent milk
Savings per day 145 calories
Weight loss per year 11 pounds
Payoff Lattes boast more calcium and a lot less sugar. For a chocolate flavor, sprinkle cocoa powder on top.

Happy Hour Weight Loss Tips
Skip Martini
Swap Rum and diet cola
Savings per day 60 calories
Weight loss per year 5 pounds
Payoff when you mix low calorie alcoholic drinks A shot of liquor in diet soda or carbonated water (not tonic, which is full of sugar) will cost you far fewer calories than most mixed drinks. Better yet, alternate alcoholic drinks with water, says Franca Alphin, R.D., senior nutrition adviser at Duke University's Diet & Fitness Center. Studies show that your brain does not register calories from liquid as well as it does from foods, which is why you can drink a lot of calories without realizing it.

Diet Tips for Dinner
Skip Large plate of pasta (2 1/2 cups) with 1/2 cup red sauce
Swap 4-ounce skinless chicken breast with 1 cup pasta and 1/2 cup red sauce
Savings per day 240 calories
Weight loss per year 18 pounds
Payoff If you're a carb queen who loves bagels, pretzels and pastas, you're probably lacking in the protein department. Lean meats such as chicken are satisfying and low-calorie, a good balance to carbohydrate intake.

Diet Tips for Dessert
Skip 2 cups fat-free ice cream
Swap Two miniature (0.7-ounce) candy bars
Savings per day 200 calories
Weight loss per year 15 pounds
Payoff It's easy to go overboard with fat-free foods. Miniature candy bars offer instant portion control, and full-fat versions of foods are usually more satisfying.