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Discover India Hicks

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MOTIVATING MONDAY: Small changes, big rewards

Can't lose those last 5 pounds? Can't fit into your shorts from last summer? Can't kick the sweet tooth? Can't. Can't. Can't. Enough. You CAN. It's a choice. A conscious choice. YOU choose what goes in YOUR mouth. YOU choose to drive your car through the drive-thru. YOU choose to order the burger over the fish.

From this point on - there are no more can'ts. You CAN get in those shorts, I promise. And you can do it with baby steps. No crazy diet. No juice cleanse. No starving yourself. Below are some easy tips on how to make small changes in your diet that can result in significant weight loss without having to even break a sweat. Read on...

1. Don’t eat in front of the TV. You’ll eat up to 288 calories more, according to research from the University of Massachusetts. Instead, eat at the table, and trade one hour of TV for a casual walk. Together, that’s 527 calories burned.

2. Get in tune with your tummy. Pay attention to how full you feel, and put down your fork when you’re satisfied. Listen to your body’s cues—instead of looking at whether the plate is clean—and save up to 500 calories a day.

3. Limit dinner guests. Eating with seven or more other guests can make you eat 96% more food, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating. That’s like doubling your dinner! Dine with fewer guests to save 500 or more calories.

4. Limit salad toppings and always ask for it ON THE SIDE. A big salad might seem healthy, but all those goodies on top can make it more calorie-laden than lasagna or fettuccine Alfredo. Cheese crumbles, caramelized nuts, bacon, avocado, dried fruit, croutons and vinaigrettes can add lots of calories. Save 500 or more calories by having just one topping, adding flavorful but lower-cal veggies (roasted bell peppers, grilled onions, or mushrooms) and using half the dressing.

5. Don’t clean your plate. Leave 25% (or 4 bites) of your food on the plate at every meal, says weight-loss expert James O. Hill, Ph.D., author of The Step Diet. If you normally eat 2,000 calories or more each day, you’ll cut 500 calories.

6. Use smaller plates. Swap your 12-inch plate for a 10-inch one. You’ll eat 20-25% less and save up to 500 calories. You won’t feel any less full, either, researchers say.

7. Serve and sit. Family-style meals, with platters and bowls of food on the table, invite people to go back for seconds and thirds. Cut hundreds of calories by filling plates before bringing them to the table; leave serving dishes in the kitchen, too.

8. Make a swap. Use 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt instead of 1 cup heavy cream in a favorite baking recipe. Save 684 calories. Swap out butter for applesauce and save even more!

9. Make yours a mini. Check out menus for small versions of great desserts, so you can dodge calories and end your meal on a sweet note. P.F. Chang’s Great Wall of Chocolate is 1,440 calories. The Mini Great Wall? A chocolatey yet svelte 150 calories. You’ll save 1,290 calories.

10. Ditch that buttered movie popcorn. Yes, the large popcorn at the concession stand weighs in at a whopping 1,005 calories. Smuggle in your own (microwave-popped, 94% fat-free, of course) and save more than 700 calories.

11. Count your chips (and crackers) and put them on an individual plate/bowl. No, you can’t eat your snacks from a large bag or box because it’s waaaay too tempting to eat until the bag is empty. A chip-bender to the bottom of a 9-ounce bag is 1,260 calories sans the dip. So stick to one serving, about 15 chips—that’s 140 calories or pick up some 100-calorie snack packs and save 1,120 calories.

12. Step away from the nuts, especially if they’re in a big bowl. The bigger the serving bowl, the more you’ll eat, Cornell University researchers say. Nuts have heart-healthy fats, but they’re also high in calories: One handful (about 1 ounce) of oil-roasted mixed nuts has 175 calories; three handfuls have 525. Cut out nuts altogether and save more than 500 calories. Can’t resist ’em? Eat pistachios: Two handfuls are just 159 calories, and the shelling will slow down your munching.

13. Skip the whip or at least size it down. Dessert-like coffee creations can contain as many as 670 calories, with large sizes and options like whipped cream, whole milk and syrups. Craving whipped cream? Try it on a shot of espresso for a total of just 30 calories. You save 640 calories!

14. Kick the soda habit. A 12-ounce soft drink has about 150 to 180 calories. If you down two or three a day, you’re getting lots of extra calories. Quench your thirst with water and save as many as 540 calories.

15. Drink sugar-free. A 20-ounce tea with added fruit juices can have 400+ calories. And Southern-style sweet tea isn’t much better than soda: a 16-ounce bottle of syrupy sweet tea has 180 calories; three of those are 540 calories. Choose sugar-free sips and save more than 400 calories.

16. Skinny up cocktails. Syrups, sour mix, sugary fruit juices and creamy additions turn drinks into desserts: an indulgent Mudslide can have more than 800 calories. Order drinks mixed with club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice or a squeeze of citrus; or try distilled liquors on the rocks. You’ll save up to 800 calories.

17. Eat less pasta (or anything WHITE for that matter). One cup of pasta is just 220 calories. But typical dinner portions at restaurants can be as much as 480% larger than that 1 cup, according to New York University research. That’s 1,056 calories. Even if you eat 2 whole cups of noodles, you’ll still save 616 calories.

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