If you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal (lots of pasta, rice, bread, or French fries, for example), your body releases insulin to help with the influx of all this glucose into your blood. As well as regulating blood sugar levels, insulin does two things: It prevents your fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (because its priority is to burn off the glucose) and it creates more fat cells for storing everything that your body can’t burn off. The result is that you gain weight and your body now requires more fuel to burn, so you eat more. Since insulin only burns carbohydrates, you crave carbs and so begins a vicious cycle of consuming carbs and gaining weight. To lose weight, the reasoning goes, you need to break this cycle by reducing carbs.
Keep stocked in your refrigerator or freezer a box of veggie burgers (look for low-sodium varieties). Veggie burgers are a much better choice for your waistline and heart than ground meat. Veggie patties have only about half the calories of regular red meat patties, and zero heart-hurting saturated fat. Plus, they’re so easy to cook – just one or two minutes in the microwave. While toasting your whole-wheat bun, take from your pantry a jar of roasted red bell peppers and top your veggie patty with a couple of luscious slices. Smear your bun with a little low-sodium Dijon mustard.
Grilling coaxes sweet-savory depth from endive and red onion in this delicious vegetarian side dish. Fresh figs lend a bright, jammy acidity in the summer, but don't hesitate to use dried come winter. Leave the root ends attached when trimming your onions and endive, so they hold together and don't slip through the grill grates. Serve as a salad, or eat alongside grilled chicken, steak, salmon, seared scallops or whole roasted fish.
Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which could have some negative long-term effects on your health. If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
A 2012 study also showed that people on a low-carb diet burned 300 more calories a day – while resting! According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising. A later, even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed the effect, with different groups of people on low-carb diets burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day.
Many diets, including Atkins and the keto diet, fit into this umbrella. A typical low-carb diet limits carbs to less than 60 g daily, but this can vary, according to the Mayo Clinic. (15) In a September 2015 review published in PLoS One, people following low-carb diets saw modest weight loss — although study authors note that long-term effects of the diet require further research. (16)
There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
Prep foods in advance. To make sure you stick to your diet plan, organize your meals in advance. You can do this after dinner in the evening. Lay out the foods you'll eat for breakfast so they are ready to go when you wake up. Then pack your lunch and snacks for the next day. Finally, do any meal prep for the next night's healthy dinner so that it's easy to throw together when you come home from work.
For weight loss, you need to find the right balance of calories so that you lose at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Starvation diets that severely restrict caloric intake may help you lose weight faster, but you're losing water and muscle, not fat. Plus, when you eat too few calories, your body may hold onto fat as a means of protection against the starvation. This change in metabolism makes it even harder for you to lose the unwanted pounds.
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
This eating plan promotes an average loss of one to two pounds per week. You’ll eat portion-controlled, pre-packaged meals and snacks; you can add your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you’ll slowly introduce regular meals with the help of weekly counseling sessions. Jenny Craig does have some scientific evidence to back it, and dieters say they like the personalization and support of weekly meetings with a counselor. On the downside, the program can get expensive, and it uses a lot of processed foods with long ingredient lists. This plan isn’t meant for children under 13 or people with food allergies. For a budget-friendly option, check out the best free meal planners for weight loss.
When it comes to cravings, protein drinks and bars may also help cure your need for sugar, says Juge. He recommends mixing a flavored protein powder in a blender with as much ice as possible, so it'll taste more like a milkshake. Day Five's protein shake includes a cup of berries, which will also help with sugar cravings. Once or twice per week, Juge adds, you can have a low-sugar, high-protein bar. The newest varieties taste more like candy bars, with state-of-the-art sweetening techniques.
Use leftover spaghetti for lo mein the next night. Toss 1 cup of the spaghetti with 12 peanuts and 1 cup of chopped celery, onions and bok choy that's been sauteed in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for 425 calories. Make fish tacos with 3 ounces of grilled halibut stuffed into two 6-inch corn tortillas with lettuce and chopped tomatoes and served with 1/2 cup of a mix of brown rice, black beans and corn for 405 calories.
Notes: Chop the sweet potatoes and halve the Brussels sprouts, and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast at 450°F (230°C) until tender, about 15 minutes. Season the steak with salt and pepper. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 teaspoon olive oil. Cook the steak until done to your liking, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (Consuming raw or undercooked meats may increase your risk of foodborne illness.)