Ah, fall—my favorite time of year, for sure, but one when it can be tricky to stay slim. The air is too cool for swimming (read: no more wearing no-hiding-a-thing swimsuits) and the still-longish days inspire food-fest get-togethers. Combine that with the security “blanket” of oversized sweaters and many of us end up putting on a few extra pounds. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, for many of us, fall inspires a desire for fresh starts, so channel that motivation into planning healthy meals and you’re good to go—EatingWell has several calorie-controlled plans that will help you lose up to 8 pounds this month. Why do they work and what, in general, is the secret to losing weight? Well, since I helped develop them, I’ll spill the magic formula:
You’ve set a daily calorie goal. How many calories should you be eating per day if you’re aiming to lose two pounds a week? Use the following equation as a guide: Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 12 and subtract 1,000. (This means you’re eliminating 7,000 calories per week. Divide that by 3,500 calories—the amount it take to gain or lose 1 pound—and you get two. Two pounds per week.) Then pick the menu plan that’s closest to calorie level that you calculated. (Note: If you calculate a number that’s less than 1,200 calories, follow the 1,200 calorie plan. Eating less than that, it’s hard to meet your daily nutrition requirements.)
Structure your eating: Research shows that tracking what you eat and, essentially, following a menu plan is like keeping a food diary, in reverse. You track what you’ve eaten (or will eat, rather) before you actually eat it. If you’re someone who uses a plan more as inspiration for healthy eating (i.e., you don’t follow it exactly), it’s a good idea to write down everything you eat in a journal or use an interactive food diary/planner . Try it for one week to see what it’s like with this 7-day diet meal plan to lose weight as a guide.
Fill up on lots of feel-full fiber: Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (think: oats, barley and quinoa) and beans can help jump-start weight loss. Why? They deliver fiber, which helps you to feel full on fewer calories. In a two-year study in the Journal of Nutrition, boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in losing about 4 1/2 pounds. Get the benefits by making room in your diet for these 7 fiber-rich foods that do the weight-loss work for you.
Include lean protein in every snack and meal: Research suggests that, gram for gram, protein tends to be more satisfying than carbs or fat. Including a little in every meal or snack will help you feel full longer. If you’re having just a salad for lunch, it should have a protein-supplying food on top. Think: grilled chicken or salmon, baked tofu or beans. Stack your snacks with protein, too—have some peanut butter on your apple or a little cottage cheese with your fruit or serve yourself some yummy hummus with your crudités. Or go for a low-fat yogurt or skinny latte: dairy is a magically satisfying combo of carbs and protein.
Recipes: A Month of High-Protein, Low-Cal Lunch Ideas
Enjoy daily snack and treats: No one wants to feel deprived, much less hungry, while trying to lose weight. It’s smart to spread your calories throughout the day to stave off hunger. Including a healthy snack or two will keep you satisfied between meals. For ideas, check out these satisfying 100-calorie snack recipes. If you’re into sweets, it’s also a good idea to budget in a small treat.
Don’t miss: Instant 100-Calorie Chocolate Desserts
More from EatingWell:
- Foods for Flatter Abs
- 7 Ways to Cut 100 Calories
- What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?
- Top 5 Foods for Weight Loss (and 5 That Make You Gain)