You’ve taken the first step: vowing to eat well, starting now. Many dieters are so determined to finally lose weight that the pounds will indeed start to whittle away. The problem, though, is that many haven’t learned from their mistakes — and within a month or so, they’ve returned to their poor eating habits. Here are seven of the most common dieting mistakes.
Not Eating Enough Protein with Breakfast
A person decides to eat healthy and chooses a bowl of cereal with non-fat milk and a banana; one hour later, he or she starts complaining of hunger. People who make this mistake are definitely moving in the right direction, but if they are truly watching their serving sizes, the 8 grams of protein from the milk is most likely not going to keep them full until lunchtime. Consequently, they wind up over-snacking until then or eating a lunch that’s too big. Adding a healthy fat to the cereal mix, like slivered almonds, or having a little extra protein — like a hard-boiled egg — can make a big difference in their satiety level.
Having a Snack
This is a tricky one. Most dietitians recommend a mid-morning snack if it’s going to be more than four hours between breakfast and lunch. But often, people misjudge the size of their snack and create another actual meal. A 1-ounce serving of almonds is not the same as a 2-ounce serving. Remember, a snack is a mini-meal, and it ought to be less than 200 calories. Plus, it should contain protein, healthy fat or both, or you will most likely be hungry one hour later. In other words, don’t just grab a piece of fruit. And guess what? If you aren’t really hungry, there’s probably no need for a snack at all.
Not Counting the Calories from Alcohol
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but too many people sabotage their weight-loss efforts by their cocktail consumption. Cocktails don’t need to be flat-out avoided, but you can’t drink like a fish on the weekends and reach your weight-loss goals — no matter how well you eat during the week. And watch the size of your weekday pour — a 6-ounce glass of wine doesn’t have the same calories as a 12-ounce glass.
Eating a Salad for Lunch
Dieters often boast they’re eating salads for lunch, as if they think they’re following the No. 1 weight-loss guideline. Here’s the thing: Some salads are healthy, and some are not so healthy. If you’re piling your salad with everything but the kitchen sink, it’s closer to the latter. Croutons, bacon bits, lots of cheese and a creamy dressing can be just the tip of a diet disaster. Too much chicken, too much avocado and too much olive oil can push it over the edge. So just because you’re eating all those healthy greens, you need to make sure all the other ingredients follow suit.
Leaving the Carb Off the Dinner Plate
This is a really popular mistake. Believe it or not, you can lose weight and enjoy carbs with dinner — too many people think more protein on the plate is far better than adding a carb; when you do the math, however, it doesn’t usually work out in the protein’s favor. For example, a plain 8-ounce chicken breast is around 375 calories, but if you were to eat a 4-ounce serving and add a half cup of brown rice, you would save about 78 calories. A small baked potato (topped with salsa) can save you 105 calories, if you stick with a 4-ounce serving of broiled salmon versus an 8-ounce. And besides saving calories, you’ll be getting fiber, which overall may help with weight loss.
Avoiding Your “Bad” Foods
This is probably the No. 1 diet mistake. Ask yourself: What do you love to eat? And don’t list what you think you should be eating. It’s important to continue to eat those foods you really love — though you likely think you should avoid them. Sound crazy? Well, whenever someone completely avoids the foods they love, they inevitably feel deprived and give up on healthy eating. The key is to find a way to keep the favorites in the mix without sabotaging weight-loss goals. For example: Occasionally having a slice of pizza for lunch with a side salad, enjoying french fries with your burger, but losing the bun and/or sharing dessert at a restaurant when dining out, while consciously passing on the breadbasket.
Trying the Next Fad Diet
If you hear about a diet that promises quick weight loss, run. If you hear about a diet that eliminates food groups, run faster. And if you think trying yet another diet instead of attempting to make lifestyle changes is the answer, think again.
Tip of the Day
Make half your grains whole grains! Read the ingredients list and choose products that name a whole-grain ingredient first on the list. Look for “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgar,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “whole-grain cornmeal,” “whole oats,” “whole rye,” or “wild rice.”