Diet advice is a lot like fashion. Trends come—wedge sneakers, drop-crotch pants, those skirts that are short in the front and long in the back—and a year or two later they seem hopelessly out of date.
HIDE YOUR WEAKNESS
f you see it, you’ll eat it. If you don’t see it, you’ll still eat it—but not so much. That’s what a study at Google’s New York office, dubbed “Project M&M” found. Office managers discovered that placing the chocolate candies in opaque containers as opposed to glass ones, and giving healthier snacks like nuts and figs more prominent shelf space, curbed M&M intake by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks. A similar study published in the Journal of Marketing found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones. Out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth.
USE THE 1 IN 10 RULE
For every 10 grams of carbohydrate listed on the label, look for at least one gram of fiber. Why 10:1? That’s the ratio of carbohydrate to fiber in a genuine, unprocessed whole grain. The recommendation comes from a study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition that evaluated hundreds of grain products; foods that met the 10:1 ratio had less sugar, sodium, and trans fats than those that didn’t.
BOOST FLAVOR TO CUT CALORIES
Ever notice how everything inside a McDonald’s—the burgers, the fries, the shakes—smells exactly the same? That sameness of scent is actually a tactic that can inspire you to consume more calories. (But if you’re really jonesing for a burger fix, we also have suggestions on what to eat at McDonald’s.)
A study in the journal Flavour found that the less distinctive the scent of a particular food, the more you’ll eat of it. Adding herbs and sodium-free spice blends is an easy way to take advantage of the sensory illusion that you’re indulging in something rich—without adding any fat or calories to your plate. Furthermore, a recent behavioral study that taught adults to spruce up meals with herbs instead of salt led to a decrease in sodium consumption by nearly 1000 mg a day (that’s more salt than you’ll find in five bags of Doritos!).
CHILL PASTA TO MELT FAT
You can gain less weight from a serving of pasta simply by putting it in the fridge. The drop in temperature changes the nature of the noodles into something called “resistant starch,” meaning your body has to work harder to digest it. Cold pasta is closer in structure to natural resistant starches like lentils, peas, beans, and oatmeal, which pass through the small intestine intact and are digested in the large intestine, where—well, it gets kinda gross from there on out.
A study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that adding resistant starch to a meal may also promote fat oxidation. Suffice it say, colder noodles = hotter you. But you’ve got to eat it cold: Once you heat the pasta up again, you destroy the resistant starch.
DIM THE LIGHTS TO GET LIGHTER
A study of fast food restaurants published in the journal Psychological Reports found that customers who dined in a relaxed environment with dimmed lights and mellow music ate 175 fewer calories per meal than if they were in a more typical restaurant environment. That may not sound like a dramatic savings, but cutting 175 calories from dinner every night could save you more than 18 pounds in a year!
EAT, DON’T DRINK, YOUR FRUIT
Juicing may be the rage, but like a certain Mr. Simpson, some juice can do more harm than good—including OJ. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 percent. Conversely, those who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits— particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples—reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent.
EAT BEFORE YOU EAT
Eating an appetizer of a broth-based soup or even an apple can reduce total calorie intake over the course of the meal by up to 20 percent, according to a series of “Volumetrics” studies at Penn State. Consider that, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average restaurant meal contains 1,128 calories. A 20 percent savings, just once a day, is enough to help you shed more than 23 pounds in a year.
CHOOSE PAPER, NOT PLASTIC
Here’s a simple way to improve the health of your shopping cart: A series of experiments by Cornell University looked at the effects of payment method on food choice. When shoppers used credit cards, they bought more unhealthful “vice” foods than they did “virtue” foods. Researchers suggest that you’re less likely to impulsively buy junk food if it means parting with a hundred dollar bill than swiping plastic.
WATER DOWN THE CALORIES
You’ve been told to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but why bother? Well, what if staying hydrated could strip pounds off your body? According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, after drinking approximately 17 ounces of water (about 2 tall glasses), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent. The researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year—a weight loss of approximately five pounds!
REMIND YOURSELF TO LOSE WEIGHT
A recent study published online in Health Promotion Practice found that people who received weekly text reminders of their daily “calorie budget” and motivational emails made healthier meal and snack choices. A simple hack to help you slim down: set up reminders on your smartphone, so when 6 a.m. rolls around, it’s: You make 1,200 calories-a-day look so good! And at lunchtime: Salad for the six-pack, baby!