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Your diet holds the key to a slim physique, and by eating the right foods in sensible portions you’ll almost certainly lose body fat. To shed the weight and keep it off, focus on making dietary choices that you can maintain for life. This doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods for good — just fit the small, occasional treat into an overall healthy meal plan with this plan.

Step 1

Eat fewer calories than your body burns for energy each day. For every 3,500-calorie deficit you create, you’ll lose approximately 1 pound of body fat. Calorie usage varies among individuals, but for moderately active people, Harvard Medical School recommends multiplying your weight times the number 15 to estimate daily expenditure. So at 155 pounds, you probably burn about 2,325 calories a day, and will drop 1 pound a week eating 1,825 calories per day.

Step 2

Substitute refined carbs for whole grains. This simple switch may reduce visceral fat deep in your belly by as much as 10 percent, according to a study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2010. Skip breads, pastas and tortillas made with white flour, and choose products made with whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa and spelt instead.

Step 3

Trade saturated and trans fats for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are less likely to lead to weight gain, according to a study published in “Obesity” in 2007. Saturated fats mainly come from animal products such as butter, cheese and meat, while trans fats are found in meats, processed snack foods and baked goods, sometimes under the label “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Instead of these, choose nuts, avocados, olives and canola oil for healthy unsaturated fats.

Step 4

Fill half of your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories but high in dietary fiber. Fiber slows digestion to keep you feeling full, thereby reducing food cravings that might spur overeating.

Step 5

Avoid diet sodas. They may seem like a smart alternative to sugary beverages, but diet soft drinks are linked to weight gain, according to a review published in June 2010 in the “Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.” Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which may induce sugar cravings and prompt you to seek out unhealthy foods. Sip on plain or sparkling water instead, and add a spritz of lemon or lime if you need more flavor.

Tips & Warnings
  • Eat main meals off of a small salad plate to help control portion sizes.
  • Regular strength training and cardiovascular workouts will help you lose body fat faster and keep the weight off for good — and may even help ward off heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
  • To avoid poor nutrition, don’t eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day if you’re female, or 1,500 calories per day if you’re male.
  • See your doctor before starting a new weight-loss plan.

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