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1. Snacking on low-calorie foods.
Remember when white rice cakes seemed like the ultimate snack for satisfying crunchy cravings? "Snacking on a bag of white rice cakes may be low calorie, but you end up eating a lot of them before you feel full or satisfied," says Dara Gurau, a registered dietitian in Toronto. You can make it a better snack by opting for popcorn, brown rice or whole-grain rice cakes, as these are high in fibre and keep you feeling full longer. Even better, says Gurau, "pair these whole grains with some protein, such as all-natural peanut butter or low-fat cheese."
2. Banishing all carbs from your diet.
We've all heard stories about dramatic weight loss due to cutting carbs. But eliminating breads, crackers and other carb-y snacks means eliminating salt, too. And when you cut back on sodium, you lose water. "That magical five to 10 pounds you lose in the first week on a low-carb diet is mostly coming from water," says Stefanie Senior, a registered dietitian at Athletic Edge Sports Medicine in Toronto. And in any case, carbs are our body's preferred source of energy—if you've been ramping up your fitness regimen in an effort to lose weight, you need more carbs to fuel your exercise. "If you want to burn a lot of calories at the gym, have a carb-based snack one to four hours before your activity," says Senior. "Otherwise, you may burn out during your workout or experience low-blood sugar."
3. Eating low-fat foods exclusively.
While this strategy sounds ideal, it's not. First, have a look at the nutrition label. " Many manufacturers end up adding more sugar and salt to make up for the fat, because fat equals flavour," says Gurau. "This causes the calorie content to be the same as in a higher fat product." Also, low-fat foods make you think you can eat more of them. Gurau suggests selecting snacks that are good sources of healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts and seeds, and to opt for lower-fat products (such as 2% dairy) rather than fat-free, as they will taste better and be more satisfying. And, by all means, occasionally indulge in your favourite full-fat foods. On a pizza or salad, for example, Gurau suffests using a great Parmesan or blue cheese. "You only need to use a little, so use the good stuff!" she says.
4. Eating more frequent small meals.
Grazing on six snacks throughout the day rather than three square meals might seem a good way to keep the body fueled, but you need to be careful about how much you're consuming overall. "To lose weight, you need to set a calorie budget," says Senior, who suggests consulting with a registered dietitian to make sure you cut calories at a healthy, safe rate. While some people succeed by breaking big meals into smaller meals or snacks, others find they over-indulge by grazing. "It adds up!" says Senior. "Plan what you're going to have for the day and stick to it."
5. Drinking electrolytes after every workout.
If you're doing 45-minute yoga sessions followed by your favourite coconut water, and you still aren't losing weight, it could be that natural beverage in your hand. "Coconut water, sports drinks and smoothies are high in sugar and calories," says Senior. If you're active for less than an hour, all you need is water. It's only when you're active for an hour or more that you benefit from a drink filled with electrolytes and carbs. Senior recommends getting post-workout replenishment from food rather than from beverages, as food is more filling. "After a workout, sip on water and eat a meal or snack containing a mixture of protein and carbs within 30 minutes," says Senior. A whole-grain pasta dish with turkey meatballs, say, or a tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread will suffice.
If you're looking for a weight loss strategy, check out how a food journal can help you reach your goals.