Simple Diet and Fitness Tips

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
people on treadmills

Making a few simple diet and exercise changes can drastically modify the way you look and feel -- and may even add years to your life. You don't have to be a fitness buff or drastically cut calories to tighten and tone up. Knowing a few simple tips is all you need to get started on your path to a healthier lifestyle.

Weight Loss Tips

proteins

When weight loss is your goal, follow these dietary tips to get the results you deserve.

1. Boost protein

Increase dietary protein to help you feel full longer, fight cravings, cut calories, shed pounds, and maintain a healthy weight. Aim for about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal -- or 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, suggests a 2015 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

2. Limit Carbs

Scale back on carbs, especially from refined grains and added sugar, to shed pounds successfully. Aim for the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 130 grams of carbs daily, but try not to exceed this amount. Shoot for about 25 to 30 grams of good carbs at each meal (three meals daily), and fill in the remaining carb allotment with two to three snacks.

3. Drink Water Before Meals

Drink water before meals to help fill you up and cut calories at meal time. Aim to drink 2 cups of water 30 minutes before each meal suggests one 2013 study.

4. Focus on Cardio

Bump up your cardiovascular exercise when you want to drop weight. Burning 400 to 600 calories daily (five days weekly) using cardiovascular exercise is effective for weight loss --even in the absence of dieting -- according to one 2013 study.

5. Chew Gum

Chewing sugarless gum between meals not only helps boost saliva production (which can lower your risk for cavities), but appears to aid in weight loss and appetite control. One study published in 2011 says chewing gum promotes fullness, enhances weight loss, and helps suppress appetite, hunger, and snack cravings.

6. Don't Eat While Watching TV

Eating while watching TV means you're likely to eat more calories, according to one 2014 study. Researchers who conducted this study say people who watch TV frequently are more likely to eat more during TV viewings.

7. Track Calories

Tracking your calorie intake using an app or online calorie calculator is an excellent way ensure you're not exceeding weight loss calorie requirements. Eating 1,200 calories daily is often an effective weight loss tool, especially for women.

8. Sleep Well

Getting a good night sleep is a good way to avoid packing on excess pounds. According to MedlinePlus, when you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to overeat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

9. Consider a Fiber Supplement

Fiber aids in healthy weight management because it fills you up without contributing extra calories, but many Americans fall short of meeting daily fiber needs. A 2012 study says fiber supplementation may play an important role in long-term obesity management but always chat with your doctor before taking any type of supplement.

10. Use a Health Coach

If you're having a hard time staying on track with weight loss goals, consider using a health coach to keep you accountable and stay on track. This weight loss strategy is effective for people who are obese, according to one 2013 study.

Lower Disease Risks

green tea

Several foods aid in disease prevention, so include such foods in your meal plan to add years to your life.

1. Consume Green Tea

Low-calorie green tea helps prevent unwanted weight gain and obesity and lowers your risk for diabetes and heart disease, according to one 2013 study.

2. Opt for Fish or Fish Oil

You may know that omega- 3 fatty acids in fatty fish and fish oil help lower your risk for heart disease, but did you know omega-3s also reduce the incidence of Alzheimers's dementia? The American Heart Association suggests eating fish (such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, and lake trout) at least two times weekly.

3. Eat Nuts

Add nuts to your diet to boost protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats, which can lower your disease risks. One 2012 study says eating nuts helps reduce your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

4. Pick Legumes

Protein- and fiber-rich legumes, such as lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, also appear to lower disease risks. One 2013 review says phytochemicals found in legumes may protect you against diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

5. Choose Whole Grains

Foregoing refined grains and choosing whole grains -- rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber -- may help you live longer, according to one 2015 study. Researchers who conducted this study say eating whole grains is associated with fewer deaths from heart disease in U.S. men and women.

6. Limit Red Meat

Red meat is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and protein, but it can also be high in sodium and saturated fat. One 2012 study found eating red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with an increase in heart disease and diabetes. So, if you're going to eat red meat, steer clear of processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon.

7. Limit Alcohol

Excess alcohol consumption also puts you at risk for chronic diseases and unwanted weight gain. Therefore, drink alcohol in moderation, which equates to one drink daily for women and two drinks per day (or less) for men, according to Mayo Clinic.

8. Eat Three Meals and Two Snacks Daily

Eating small frequent meals is associated with lower body weight and helps prevent weight regain after weight loss. One 2011 study suggests eating three meals and two snacks daily to aid in healthy weight management and reduce disease risks.

9. Consume Berries

You might already know berries are beneficial for a healthy heart, but did you know phytochemicals in berries may help protect your brain against neurodegenerative diseases? Aim to eat berries several days each week.

10. Choose Dairy Foods

Adding dairy foods (or dairy-free milks and yogurts) to your meal plan gives you a daily dose of calcium and vitamin D, which are musts for healthy bones. One 2016 study says getting three servings of dairy foods daily appears to maximize bone health.

11. Eat Dark Chocolate

When you feel a sweet craving coming on, reach for dark chocolate instead of other sweet treats. One 2015 study finds dark chocolate appears to be beneficial for inflammation, blood pressure, and lipids, which can lower your heart disease risks.

Boost Nutrition

fast food vs. nutritious food

Make calories count by choosing nutrient-dense foods and supplements.

1. Limit Eating Out

Limit eating out and prepare meals at home as much as possible to avoid weight gain and boost the nutritional content of your meals. One 2015 study in The British Journal of Nutrition notes eating out, especially at fast food restaurants, is associated with eating more calories, weight gain, lower fruit and veggie intakes, and higher saturated fat consumption.

2. Use a Meal Plan

Using an individualized meal plan is an excellent way to ensure you're meeting daily nutritional needs from all food groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Super Tracker helps create customized meal plans based on your age, height, weight, and physical activity level so you know how much of each food group to eat.

3. Take a Multivitamin

While eating a well-balanced diet is an excellent way to get the nutrition you need, many Americans fail to meet daily requirements from food alone. Therefore, ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement to avoid nutrient deficiencies, especially if you're pregnant or nursing.

4. Focus on Veggies

Vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but many Americans are eating too few veggies. Adults need two to three cups of vegetables daily, suggests the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Choose a variety of vegetables to meet your daily needs.

5. Consider Liquid Diet Supplements

If you or your child are having a difficult time meeting nutritional or calorie requirements, are underweight, or are recovering from an illness or surgery, consider liquid diet supplements. Such supplements are packed with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and are a convenient way to add extra nutrients and calories to your meal plan.

6. Make Smoothies

Making your own nutritional shake or smoothie is an excellent way to boost the nutritional value of your diet. Pick fresh or frozen fruit, cow's milk or a plant-based milk, protein powder, honey, and nut butter of your choice or try a delicious protein smoothie recipe.

7. Cut Sugary Drinks

Cut sugary drinks out of your diet to avoid unwanted weight gain and poor nutrition. While many sugary drinks, like soda, Kool-Aid, juice drink blends, and lemonade, provide calories and fill you up, they provide few essential nutrients.

8. Consider Juicing

Having trouble getting in your daily dose of fruits and veggies? Consider juicing recipes as a refreshing, delicious way to boost your fiber, vitamin, and mineral intake.

Tighten and Tone Up

outdoor crossfit

Making a few fitness changes will tighten and tone you up in no time.

1. Alter Your Fitness Routine

Changing up your fitness routine regularly helps prevent boredom and often yields better results. Tighten and tone up quickly by doing a different workout each day of the week. For example, try a spinning class on Monday, swim on Tuesday, go for a walk on Wednesday, take off Thursday, try an aerobics or cross-fit class Friday, and use an elliptical machine or go running on Saturday.

2. Choose Continuous Aerobic Exercise

To help shed body fat, include continuous aerobic exercise in your weekly routine. One 2014 study showed doing cardiovascular exercise continuously for 35 to 50 minutes at least three days per week effectively burned excess body fat.

3. Train With Weights

Adding weight training to your cardiovascular workout program will maximize your results. Aim to complete three to four sets of 10 to 20 repetitions for each main muscle group. Lift fewer repetitions using heavier weights when you want to increase muscle mass, and more reps using lighter weight to tighten and tone.

4. Work all Muscle Groups

To improve your physique, train each major muscle group on a weekly basis (but not every day). These groups include quadriceps, hamstrings, butt, calves, upper back, lower back, shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps, and abdominal muscles.

5. Use an Exercise Chart

Using exercise charts will help you stick with your plan and keep you accountable. Several blank exercise charts are available to meet your needs, whether it be a generalized exercise chart or more specific weight-training chart.

6. Find Online Gym Workout Plans

If you're struggling to figure out what to do when you get to the gym, consider using online gym workout plans to help get you started. Even if you're a pro at the gym, using online workout plans is an excellent way to change things up to prevent boredom and get you the results you deserve.

7. Make Abs a Priority

Strengthening your core helps boost athletic performance and tighten and tone your midsection. For best results aim to complete abdominal and core workouts most days of the week.

8. Set Goals

Set exercise goals each day to boost your chance of completing workouts. Write goals on your exercise chart and make them realistic. Once you're achieving goals regularly, slowly increase the duration or intensity of your workouts.

9. Learn At-Home Workouts

Knowing at-home workouts you can complete without equipment is a must, especially when you're traveling. You can even exercise in hotel rooms while on vacation. This way, you don't have to skip workouts when you're unable to hit the gym.

10. Exercise on a Budget

Finding cheap ways to exercise means you're more likely to continue an exercise program long term. Use chairs or stools as equipment, cans or bottles as weights, or hit the stairs in your home or at work.

11. Try Group Exercise

Some people simply aren't motivated to exercise alone. If this is the case for you, work out with friends or try group exercise classes to keep you inspired. When you're short on time, consider online group fitness classes.

Next Steps

While adopting all of these nutrition and fitness tips may seem a bit overwhelming, try a one or two from each category as a starting point. Within a week or two, you should start noticing positive changes in the way you look and feel.

Simple Diet and Fitness Tips