Counting calories is a torture.
At least, I imagine it is – I have honestly never done it. A few months ago I googled how many calories strawberries had and was shocked to discover they only had 33, I thought more like 150.
But I understand that counting calories can be helpful for people who are complete beginners. When they’re trying to change their diet and are simply lost.
Yet, if you don’t want calorie counting to take over your life, there are much better ways to make sure you’re not overeating and are getting all the nutrients you need in order to lose weight.
One of the key strategies for sustainable weight loss is to eat foods that make you feel full longer.
These foods don’t necessarily have less calories than the unhealthier alternatives (for example whole grains vs. refined grains). The main difference is the way they affect your appetite and satiety.
So for example by eating the same amount of calories you can be full for either 1 hour or 3 hours, depending on what you ate. So even though you ate the same calories before, in the first case you would eat more afterwards than you would in the second case.
In the end it’s not about how many calories you eat at the very moment, it’s about what happens next. It’s about how “effective” those calories are.
That’s the “big secret”.
You want to choose foods that keep you full longer and decrease your need to eat all the time.
Here are 11 easy tips and tricks that will help you lose weight without counting calories.
1. Vegetables first
They’re nutrient-dense and low in calories – the perfect combination to fill you up and give you a ton of essential nutrients and the phytochemicals you need to be healthy and to lose weight.
Vegetables are also our main source of vitamin C – a vitamin which is essential for the body cells to burn fat.
Eating your vegetables first, and increasing their serving size is a great strategy to ensure you get your 8 servings and also to help you eat less calories without the need of counting like a first grader.
2. Sneak them in
Another great way to consume less calories is to sneak vegetables into your meals.
This way your meals have the same size and taste great, but don’t contain that many calories.
Plus you automatically increase the amount of vegetables you consume daily, which brings some extra benefits for your physical and mental health that you’d never suspect.
So if you want to make your children (or husband) eat more vegetables, this is worth trying.
For example if I make pasta with pesto, I would sneak in some vegetables in the pesto and reduce the amount of oil and nuts. This increases the amount of vegetables and saves a ton of calories.
I am not a big fan of cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles, but if you think these options would work for you, don’t hesitate to try.
3. More soups
Soups are another type of food that can help you control your appetite and avoid overeating.
They’re low in calories, but increase satiety and help you eat less. (3)
Plus they’re a great way to add some more vegetables to your diet.
It doesn’t need to be cabbage soup either. Try something tasty. If you want to try some of my recipes go here (I have like 3 of them haha, but they’re really good)
4. Eat a breakfast, this type is best
Breakfast makes me fat. This has been one of my life-long beliefs.
But here’s where I probably make a mistake: You can’t just eat any kind of breakfast.
Because only cereal, more importantly cooked cereal is related to lower BMI.
Cooked cereal to me = oatmeal. It fills you up and keeps you this way for a looong time. Even fruits and vegetables can’t compare to this. (8)
5. Eat more one ingredient whole foods
Whole foods with one ingredient usually have a low glycemic index (exception: potatoes).
Now what’s the glycemic index?
Well it’s a system that ranks foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels.
Turns out that eating a low glycemic index diet helps overweight or obese people lose more weight and fat compared to people on a low-calorie/low-fat diet or a high-glycemic load diet. (9)
A diet high in low-glycemic foods is also recommended to reduce inflammation, which is involved in the development and progression of many chronic diseases. This type of eating is also shown to help reduce acne (10).
Some examples of low GI foods include: lentils, beans, bulgar, oats, most fruits and vegetables.
You can find a list with the GI of over 100 foods here. The article also explains how important the serving size of a particular food is.
6. Drink a glass of water before you eat anything. This is not to fill you up.
Water. We are made out of it.
And if you don’t get enough of it, you might experience some serious issues like headaches, feeling cold, but most importantly for weight loss: cravings.
Yes, you might actually really be thirsty and not hungry. Who knew this is a thing and not just an old lie people just say.
Another reason to drink more water for weight loss is because it can actually help you burn more calories (again I did not think this was true, but it is!). One study demonstrated that drinking water increases metabolic rate (energy expenditure) by 30%. (11)
So it’s a good idea to just drink a glass of water before you eat anything. Then see whether you’re hungry or not. If you’re not – don’t eat, if you are – have something nutritious. That’s a habit that can really help you with weight loss.
7. Have nuts as a snack
People are afraid to eat nuts, because they’re so high in calories and fat.
And if you’re on the calorie counting train, you’ve probably been avoiding nuts like the plague.
Nuts are also related to lower risk of being overweight. How?
How can something that has double the calories of a hamburger be in any way better for my weight?
Well, the reason for this is that the calories in nuts are not as easily bio-accessible as the calories in a burger. This means that yeah, you might be eating 600kcal if you eat a bag of almonds, but your body will not absorb all these calories.
On top almonds and peanuts are shown to decrease appetite and the desire to eat more after that. So eat nuts as a snack. (14)
When you do this, you won’t feel like you’re starving, and in fact you’ll feel pretty full. This will protect your from making bad choices for your meals afterwards and prevent overeating.
A handful of nuts a day is more than enough.
8. Don’t be afraid of the growling
It feels like the worst thing ever. You’re in a quiet room, like for example the library (or at a seminar), when your stomach starts growling as if you’re keeping an angry cat in there.
Do not be afraid of that feeling.
While you shouldn’t let yourself starve for a long time, this feeling is your signal: “Hey, it’s time to go and eat something”.
Not before that.
People are so afraid to say this. It’s like if you tell someone to let themselves feel hungry for even a minute you’re pushing them into an eating disorder.
But if you start eating to prevent hunger, you’re setting yourself up for overeating.
I know it, because I’ve done it.
If you don’t like the growling, make sure you eat small portions every 2-3 hours.
And small means small – for example in between meals, 5-10 nuts or a fruit like banana. It does not mean a big sandwich.
9. Take care of your gut by eating high-fiber foods
Foods that are high in fiber like oats and lentils can alter your gut flora. This happens very quickly according to one study – it takes around 3-4 days.
Now you’re thinking: “What do I care about the “gut flora”, you idiot, I wanna lose weight.” Well, I am a little offended, but I will answer because I’m a saint.
Turns out gut flora, obesity and weight loss are connected.
While it’s not quite clear how, we know that an “unhealthy” gut can lead to chronic inflammation (15).
Chronic inflammation on the other hand in many cases leads to weight gain and obesity. If you’d like to reduce chronic inflammation, read this guide on what and how to eat to do it.
Also the gut flora of healthy lean people is very different than that of obese individuals, the likely reason is the way they eat.
One interesting study that showed how when gut bacteria from lean individuals were transplanted in obese volunteers, those obese volunteers lost weight. (I read about it in this book, Ch. 3 & 7)
Comes close to a miracle, right?
Of course this is just one study and I guess it impressed a lot of people, because all of a sudden everyone is selling probiotics and talking about their gut as if it’s a pet.
However, if you don’t know whether or not you need probiotics, just start eating right gradually(add more high-fiber foods like lentils and oats + some probiotic foods like sauerkraut, yogurt or kimchi). Over time your gut flora will change, and it will probably not take that long.
10. Actually chew your calories
The form of your food and calories also matters for weight loss.
When you eat foods in their natural state, whole and unprocessed, your satiety level increases.
When scientists compared the effect of whole apples to apple juice and sauce in one study, they found out that eating fruit whole suppresses appetite more, while juices or sauces did not suppress appetite or increase satiety. (16)
I for example would hardly ever eat a whole bag of peanuts. But a jar of peanut butter? Not really a problem for me.
As I mentioned in tip #2 and #3 the exception to this rule are hidden vegetables and soups. These decrease the calorie density of the meal, while keeping you full.
11. Watch what you drink
Not talking about the well-known calorie monsters aka sodas, alcohol and sugar-loaded drinks. Talking about healthy foods that can actually sabotage weight loss for you.
Smoothie here, cappuccino there, even if you don’t drink any cokes or fruit juices – you’re probably getting some sneaky calories from just your drinks.
As I said: form matters as well. And grabbing a drink on the go is not as satiating as sitting down for an actual meal (17).
Plus, while I do think healthy smoothies are great and they really are, adding something like peanut butter, dates, honey, whole fat milk or agave syrup to a smoothie will never help you lose weight.
In fact it might actually make you gain weight.
Make sure the smoothies you drink contain mainly fruits and vegetables and drink your coffee black or with just a little milk/ preferably non-dairy milk.
Now I know. These are a lot of things you need to consider.
But don’t be overwhelmed thinking about them.
Just start with the 1st tip if you can’t do everything at once.
Hope these tips help you and if you’re looking for some quick workouts to support your diet, take a look at this list with my favorite 10-minute Youtube workouts.