Losing weight isn't magic and doesn't require specific miracle foods. If you restrict your calorie intake and fill your diet with nutritious foods, you will lose weight. Exercising to burn more calories will, of course, help, but at the end of the day, that perfect body you covet is made mostly in the kitchen. Simple recipes will keep that time spent in the kitchen to a minimum. Consult your health care professional before making significant changes to your diet.
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Set Your Daily Calorie Limit
Limiting your calorie intake will make weight loss on any diet easier. Once you know your limit, divide it equally between your daily meals to create a per-meal calorie limit. To find a calorie limit that will promote weight loss for you, track the calories you eat and drink for four days and divide the result by four. This is your daily average. According to Harvard Health Publications, eating 250 calories per day less than your average will help you lose 1/2 pound per week; eating 500 less should help you lose about a pound per week.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Ensure each meal is balanced for proper nutrition and meets your calorie goals. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends including equal portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats in every meal, as well as a side of low-fat dairy. To determine how many calories are in a recipe, add the total calories from each ingredient. Because most unprocessed, healthier foods don't have labels, look the ingredients up in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database or a similar online resource.
Breakfast: Spinach Scramble
Scrambles don't take long to make and you can add just about any healthful ingredient you have on hand. Try a simple scramble with a few whole eggs, a couple handfuls of fresh spinach, leftover quinoa and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Eat an apple on the side or, if you're feeling adventurous, add chopped apple to the scramble itself. Other simple and quick recipes include oatmeal with skim milk and raisins or a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread.
Lunch: Arugula Salad
Salads are convenient lunches, particularly if you're brown bagging it instead of eating at home. Try an arugula salad with orange sections, chopped tomatoes, shredded chicken breast and leftover black beans. Instead of using a dressing, you can top salads with balsamic vinegar to cut calories. Have a glass of low-fat milk with your salad or top it with cheese. Other lunch options include a simple three-bean chili with a side salad or a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, made in the slow cooker for ease.
Snack: Trail Mix
You can make trail mix in large batches as snacks for the week or even the whole month. Combine unsalted mixed nuts with unsweetened dried fruit and a few chunks of dark chocolate, and you're good to go. For added flavor, toss your trail mix with spices like cayenne pepper, paprika or nutmeg. You could also cut up raw vegetables and fruit, such as celery and apples, and pair it with almond butter for a simple snack.
Dinner: Steamed Fish
A steamer allows you to cook meats, seafood or soy products at the same time as vegetables for a quick, hands-off dinner. Try steaming a tilapia fillet with chopped broccoli and a halved sweet potato. Serve the dish with a whole=grain roll on the side and, for dessert, chopped grapefruit mixed with yogurt and honey. Another simple recipe includes baking chicken and serving it with a side salad and cup of brown rice.