Move more, eat less. That simple strategy is at the heart of most weight-loss advice aimed at the two-thirds of Americans who are obese or overweight. But you don’t need to spend hours at the gym or go on an extreme diet to drop those extra pounds, experts say.
Even a few minor improvements in your diet, activity level, and lifestyle can yield big benefits over time. To get you started, here are five safe, super-easy ways to burn at least 100 more calories each day, which can help you shed almost a pound every month.
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No. 1: Take a hike. Jogging, biking, swimming and other aerobic activities all burn lots of calories, but can require a great deal of discipline and time. An easier option: Simply resolve to walk more every day, using a pedometer to measure how many steps you take. Take the stairs at work. Go for a morning or evening stroll. Walk — don’t drive — to the local coffee shop, restaurant, or park on your lunch hour.
For every 2,000 steps you take you burn about 100 calories.
Stephanie Haridopolos, M.D., a board-certified family practitioner in Melbourne, Fla., tells Newsmax Health she advises her patients who want to lose weight to take an extra 10,000 steps a day, in addition to the recommended 20-30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. Doing so burns about 500 calories every day — translating to a loss of about a pound a week.
"If you also decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, that’s another 3,500-calorie deficit at the end of a week," says Dr. Haridopolos. "So if you burn 500 per day by exercising, and cut 500 calories a day out of your diet, that's two pounds of weight loss a week."
Walking isn’t the only option. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the following activities will typicallyburn at least 100 calories (for person weighing 160 pounds):
- Playing basketball, swimming, or dancing for 10 minutes.
- Running for seven minutes.
- Riding a bike, gardening, or playing tennis for 15 minutes.
No. 2: Eat what you like, but less of it. One reason fad diets don't work is they often require you to give up the foods you love and substitute items you may not enjoy. A better strategy: Continue eating all your favorite foods, just limit how much you eat by controlling portion sizes. When eating out, ask for a to-go box and wrap up half of your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.
Examples: If you order two beef tacos with cheese or a tuna sandwich (about 300 calories), set one aside one taco or half your sandwich to eat for lunch tomorrow to cut your calorie count by at least 100. Other strategies recommended by nutritional experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Serve home-cooked meals on individual plates, instead of putting serving dishes on the table.
- When snacking, don’t eat directly from a box or bag, but portion out small servings into a bowl.
- Store tempting foods — like cookies and chips — out of sight and to place healthier foods at eye level in the front of your refrigerator or pantry, and move others to the back.
No. 3: Eat more, weigh less. Don't want to eat less? No problem. You can cut the number of calories you take in without trimming your diet by simply substituting healthier foods for higher-calorie items in your diet. According to the CDC, research shows the amount of food we eat — not the number of calories we take in — is what makes us feel full. Cut calories by lowering the amount of sugar-laden, fatty foods you eat and increasing the amount of fiber-rich items, like vegetables or fruit.
Example: According to the USDA, a typical large burrito with beans, rice, and cheese is loaded with more than 800 calories. By comparison, having a tuna salad (300 calories), a chef salad (255), and chicken vegetable soup (130) will trim more than 100 calories from your meal and leave you feeling full longer.
Other recommendations from CDC, USDA experts:
- Choose spinach, broccoli, tomato, carrots, watermelon, berries, and apples over fried foods.
- Pick low- or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese over dry snacks like chips, cookies, and pretzels.
- Select whole grains foods — brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pastas, popcorn — over high-fat, high-sugar alternatives like croissants, doughnuts, candy bars, and pastries.
No. 4: Recipe substitutions. Cutting calories from your favorite foods doesn't always mean cutting flavor. Using herbs, spices, and other healthier substitutions can kick up the taste of home-cooked low-fat meals without compromising on taste. New research by University of Colorado food scientists demonstrated many food recipes can be easily tweaked to lower calories by adding healthier seasonings.
"Eating healthy can taste great, just put a little spice in your life," lead researcher John C. Peters tells Newsmax Health. Peters says the techniques used by the food scientists to cut fat from the meals in their study can be adapted to many recipes prepared at home. He recommends the following five tips:
- Replace cream with whole milk or evaporated low-fat milk in cream sauce recipes for pasta and other dishes. Using low-fat cheese can also cut the fat content of a recipe by half.For example: A one-cup serving of macaroni and cheese — made with two cups of whole milk, 2 cups of full-fat cheese, and two tablespoons of butter — has more than 500 calories. But modifying using non-fat milk, eight ounces of light cream cheese, and one tablespoon of butter (or 2 tablespoons of margarine) reduces the calorie count to 315 for that same serving.
- Use vegetables, herbs, and spices — garlic, shallot, onion, cumin, red, white, and black pepper — to boost a meal’s flavor profile without adding fat.
- Load up on fat-free beef, chicken, or vegetable stock to build simple, flavorful low-cal sauces.
No. 5: Build a food-plus-exercise menu. More restaurants are displaying calorie information on their menus than ever before, in part because chains must post this information by laws, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But Texas Christian University food scientists argue that it would be more useful to consumers if restaurant displays also included the minutes of exercise required to burn off the calories contained in the foods on those menus.
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A new TCU study involving 300 men found that when menus displayed such information — detailing how many minutes of brisk walking would be required to burn off the calories in the foods sold — consumers ordered and ate fewer calories, compared to those ordering from menus with calorie counts only.
"We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," says Meena Shah, a TCU scientist. "Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories."
Build your own calorie-burning menu, using the following information from the USDA "Choose My Plate" program. The first list details how many calories are burned by particular activities in 30 minutes. The second details calories in a handful of foods.
- Aerobics, brisk walking, swimming (220-255 calories).
- Hiking, gardening, yard work, dancing, golf (165 calories).
- Weight training, stretching (90-11 calories).
Calorie counts for various foods:
- Breakfast sandwich (455). Slice of cheese pizza (380).
- Bacon cheeseburger (680).
- Plain cheeseburger (311).
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