There's a reason you've been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It's not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. "Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered around vegetarian proteins — or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that's of interest to you," Gorin says. "Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds." Gorin recommends topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses — which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas — to give your weight loss a boost. One study found eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily.
Visceral fat—a type of fat that lies deep inside your abdomen and surrounds your internal organs—is linked to a whole slew of terrifying health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even scarier: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), your risk of those health issues increases even more if your waist size is greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
There’s a reason why protein takes center stage in many popular diet plans: it helps you feel full and stokes your metabolism enough to help you avoid the typical one or two pounds most adults gain each year. Your body burns slightly more calories after eating protein compared with fats or carbs, and protein from food also helps keep your muscles from deteriorating as you age. (Strength-building exercise is another important part of this process.) In order to get these benefits, you need to include protein at each meal, and getting adequate amounts of protein at breakfast — about 20 grams — is especially important. Making a beeline for the bagels or cereal means your body misses a key opportunity to rebuild muscle tissue, which naturally breaks down as you sleep. If this is your morning routine, your muscle mass will start to decline, and that means your metabolism will slow down. So skip the AM pastries and other carb-rich fare, and opt for an omelet or smoothie made with Greek yogurt or protein powder, instead.
You know the kind, says Jillian: "Everyone's like: 'Give up carbs!' 'Give up fat!' 'Wait, no, now I'm taking pills!' None of them are manageable long-term—and they wreak havoc with your metabolism! Because you're either starving yourself or you're cutting out a major food group. Then you go back into weight-gain mode, but it's even worse, because your body has adjusted to all that crazy fad crap."
When you go on a "program" to lose body fat, you may set yourself up for failure. A program implies an end point, which is when most people return to their previous habits. If you want to lose fat and keep it off, make changes that you can live with indefinitely. Don't over-restrict calories, and find an exercise program that adequately challenges you, provides progression, and offers sufficient variety so that you can maintain it for years to come.
Lifestyle fit: Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work. Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people find that meal planning and preparation takes up too much time, while others enjoy planning meals and spending time in the kitchen.
Fiber—both soluble and insoluble kinds—tends to fill you up so you don’t eat as much, and is prevalent in lower-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. Though not all of them, Crandall cautions. “Lettuce does not have a ton of fiber” so you can’t get by on salad alone. She recommends adding one cup of fruit or vegetables to every meal or snack to meet your quota. Or try these fiber-filled recipes.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a half-cup of granola has anywhere between 200 and 300 calories, 12 to 16 grams of sugar, 3 to 15 grams of fat (depending on low-fat options), and nearly 40 grams of carbs. Plus, granola is usually mixed with something, like yogurt or fruit, which only increases its caloric value. “Although you may think starting your day with a bowl of granola is the healthy thing to do, the calories can easily add up to over 600 calories, just at breakfast,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of the Greek Yogurt Kitchen.