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When it comes to New Year's resolutions, many of us vow that shedding those extra pounds we've put on over the festive period is our main goal.
Weight loss plans are one of the most common targets that people set themselves as the New Year rings in. But unfortunately, these resolutions are usually broken within days, if not weeks.
The mistake that many people make is that they starve themselves immediately, and this only serves to make them more irritable and feeling lethargic. Not happy with the sudden change, they usually crumble and end up binge eating. Does this sound familiar?
Don't worry – you're not alone!
Rather than making such a drastic change, you should introduce smaller, easier to manage changes into your daily routine. These will not only make it easier to stick to your goal, but will also mean you are easily able to lose your weight at a healthy rate.
Weight loss plans? Follow our steps for healthy eating to help you achieve your goals.
Steam your veg
Eating more vegetables to kick start your health drive? Great start! But how are you preparing them? If you're not already, consider steaming your veg, rather than boiling it. Boiling vegetables for too long can cause many of the nutrients and vitamins to leach out into the water, meaning they're not as good for you as they could be.
Steaming can help to avoid this problem – but don't overdo it. The vegetables are at their most healthy when still crisp and full of colour. If you don't have a steamer, you can try blanching your veg, which involves quickly cooking them in boiling water. Again, take care not to overdo it, so that you can be sure you're getting the maximum healthy benefits from them.
Many people choose the quick and easy method of frying their meat (and other foods). But when using this method, you often end up adding more calories and unnecessary fat to your meal with cooking oils. Try grilling your meat instead – it's just as tasty, but healthier!
We need carbohydrates to produce energy, but eating bad versions isn't good for you in terms of weight. Options such as white bread and pasta are processed and refined, and are more unhealthy than wholegrain versions. Try to eat more brown bread and pasta, and cook potatoes healthily (think boiled, rather than fried).
Eat oily fish 3 times a week
Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and anchovies offer a range of healthy benefits from the many vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids that they provide. If you're always gorging on filling meat and processed carbs, try replacing some of those meals with oily fish along with some steamed veg and potatoes.
Note: If you're pregnant, breast feeding, or trying to conceive, limit yourself to no more than two portions of oily fish per week.
Take packed lunch
Do you always buy lunch at work? If so, you're not alone. But consider this; the food you buy is likely pre-packaged and therefore contains preservatives, additives and other unhealthy ingredients.
It won't take too much effort to quickly put together a home made sandwich or salad in the morning or even the night before, and it's a much healthier option than eating out every day.
And if that's not reason enough, it'll also save you money. According to statistics from Visa, workers spend on average £3.69 per day on their lunch – a total of more than £850.
Cut down on alcohol
Many of us love to wind down in the evenings or weekends with a few alcoholic drinks. But regularly drinking will only harm your chances of losing weight. Laced with pointless calories, alcoholic drinks can be very bloating, so drinking often is not going to help you reach your target.
Consider cutting down on those glasses of wine, beer and cocktails. You don't have to cut them out completely – just drink less, less often. When you do go out, it might be worth changing your go-to drink to something with fewer calories, such as gin and slimline tonic.
Ditch the takeaways
When you're having a lazy weekend, a takeaway is the perfect convenience food. But if you've got genuine weight loss plans, it's time to ditch the pizzas, Chinese and Indian takeaways. They're laden with calories and unhealthy fats, so cut down massively if you really want to slim down.
It's okay to treat yourself every now and then, but try to make it healthier. Choose a jacket potato instead of chips, or perhaps steamed rice rather than fried. If you're having a curry or another meal that comes with sauce, why not try removing the meat and spooning just a little of the sauce on? That way you'll avoid all the extra calories in the sauce that you don't need.
One of the biggest dieting mistakes people make is to skip breakfast. You might think you're saving calories, but it's the most important meal of the day for a reason. Eating breakfast sets you up for the day by providing you with energy – just make sure you eat a healthy one. Wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, unsalted nuts and eggs are all great options.
Don't be tempted to skip breakfast, as more often than not you'll end up being driven to snack on unhealthy foods later in the day to satisfy yourself.
Speaking of snacks... We all get peckish through the day. One of the best ways to sustain weight loss is to eat a little and often. Don't be tempted to reach for cakes, crisps and biscuits, as these will only harm your weight loss goals.
Instead, eat nutritious snacks such as fruit and unsalted nuts, as these provide energy as well as vital vitamins and minerals.
Make your own meals
Healthy eating is so much easier when you make the food yourself, especially if you're counting calories. Rather than microwave meals and frozen pizzas, take the time to prepare some nutritious home made meals using fresh ingredients.
When it comes to sauces, go for tomato based options, rather than fattening creamy sauces or cheese toppings. A tin of tomatoes and a few herbs is all it takes to quickly whip up a tasty sauce for pasta, chicken or fish meals.
Don't eat unnecessary fat
While we do require 'good fats' in our diet, it's important to avoid unhealthy fats where possible. When cooking meat, trim excess fat from the edges, and drain any foods that release fat during the cooking process before you serve them.
Track your progress
If you need a little help planning meals, the NHS has a useful 'eatwell plate', which shows you how much of each food group you need.
If you're serious about achieving your weight loss goals, you need to know that it's not always easy, but if you show willpower and determination, it's possible.
There are a host of smartphone apps that can help you to monitor your progress, or if you prefer, you can do it the old fashioned way by recording your progress with a pen and paper. You can keep it hidden away if you prefer not to let others see. It's always good to keep track of how you're doing, so that you know what's working and what isn't.
Track your weight loss progress by using some bathroom scales and regularly recording your weight.
If you don't have any, invest in some bathroom scales so that you can weigh yourself weekly and see how you're performing.
It takes hard work and determination to make your weight loss plans become reality, but remember: You can do this!