The most common (and effective) weight-loss strategy is to eat less and work out more. Unfortunately for those who can’t cook, the tips for eating less tend to focus on cooking healthier meals, avoiding prepared foods, making recipe swaps, and so on. If the only appliance you use is your microwave, then that advice may not be realistic for you. Luckily, there are plenty of other smart choices you can make that’ll help kickstart your weight loss. Kim Larson, R.D., shares some her faves.
Put Fruit on Your Counter
The easiest change you can make to your diet, with the biggest effect, is to build your meal around fruits and vegetables, says Larson. If that seems complicated (or hard) to you, it doesn’t have to be: Fruit can be eaten raw, anywhere, and anytime—and it’s easy to pack ahead. “Just buy fruit and have it on hand,” says Larson. “Having it visible in your kitchen makes you more likely to grab it.
Choose the Right Carbs
No, you don’t have to dump all carbs to lose weight. But you can pick better ones. “Focus on whole-grain carbs,” says Larson. Fortunately, this has never been easier in restaurants and sandwich shops. Pick brown rice instead of white with Asian dishes, or ask for a whole-wheat roll for your sammy. If all else fails, consider making your sandwich open-faced—you’ll still get the starchy satisfaction without the calories.
It’s around the 3 p.m. mark at work, and you have a hankering for…something. Before you head to the vending machine, first figure out if what you’re craving is a break, not a snack. But if you are feeling hungry, choose a better little bite. Here are some high-protein snack products, and of course there’s the aforementioned fruit option.
Ask for a Half-Portion
Going out to eat can be an excuse to go all out and eat every bite of pasta on your plate (even though it’s the size of your head). Prevent temptation before your plate even arrives, and ask your waiter to box half of the meal. “We know from studies that if the food is placed in front of us, we eat it all,” says Larson—so remove that option. Alternatively, you could also split an entree with a friend or just have an appetizer and salad. You’ll still enjoy the experience, and you won’t feel sick afterward.
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Bad Eating
Making healthy choices elsewhere in your life can help your eating habits. You’re more likely to choose unhealthy foods when you’re exhausted, hungover, or wildly stressed out. Some of those temptations are biological, and some are psychological, so learn how to deal with your emotional eating.
Add a Healthy Side Dish
If you can’t cook, you’re probably eating out a lot or ordering in. But a steady diet of sugary sweet and/or heavily battered Chinese food isn’t going to help you lose weight. Customize your order by including your own sides. “I love things like adding a side of cottage cheese or a salad or a soup,” says Larson. “If you eat a salad and soup ahead of time, you’ll consume fewer calories during the meal.”
Make Tiny Swaps
As in, so tiny you won’t even notice you’re cutting calories. Choose thin-crust pizza instead of the typical thick. Splash some vinegar on your salad instead of a creamy, store-bought dressing. Don’t add the slice of cheese to your sandwich—or if you do, make it a sharp, flavorful kind so you don’t need as much. There are so many ideas, and you could be eliminating hundreds of calories with almost no effort.
Learn What a Proper Portion Actually Looks Like
So you know that the restaurant gives you way too much pasta. But how much is a normal amount, anyway? Not exactly. Check out this guide to proper portions, and set aside the food you don’t need at each meal (for later enjoyment!).