The first rule of diet success is to make changes you can stick with for the long term. And that means scheduling — not skipping — meals and snacks. This keeps you feeling satisfied and helps you say no to tempting high-fat foods.
You might do best on a plan with many small meals throughout the day. Or maybe a schedule of three meals, two small snacks and a low-calorie dessert would work better for you. People often find that mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks help them stick to a diet.
For a small-meal schedule, you might plan out five 200- to 250-calorie meals for 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For a three-meal/two-snack schedule, you could schedule breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then dinner with dessert. Schedule snacks for about two hours after breakfast and lunch.
Once you decide on a schedule, plan out your meals and snacks. Using a diet diary can help keep you on track. Pick and choose from lean protein, low- or no-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and some heart-healthy fats.
Snacks can be a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your day.
Great veggie snacks include:
- Bell pepper strips.
- Baby carrots.
- Pea pods.
For fruit snacks, consider:
- Small apples or pears.
- A cup of melon chunks or berries.
- A dozen red or green grapes.
A diet-friendly dessert of frozen yogurt and berries after dinner will keep you from missing high-calorie pies and cakes.
But what about calories? In general, aim for 1,000 to 1,200 a day if you’re a woman, 1,200 to 1,600 if you’re a man.
Bottom line: It might take some time to find the right eating schedule for your lifestyle, but nailing this first step will help you lose weight and keep it off.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has menu plans for traditional American, ethnic and vegetarian cuisines.