There are a ton of diets out there, and it can be incredibly overwhelming to sort through and figure out which one will work for you. After all, there are fad diets—the diets that make you lose weight extremely quickly, but then gain it back as soon as you go off it. There are also the diets that claim you should drink only weird detox juice for two weeks and expect to still be able to, you know, function.
Please, for the love of everything healthy, don’t do any of that stuff. I’ve come up with a diet to lose weight for you. Really, it’s not even a diet. It’s five simple, short rules.
A Diet to Lose Weight: Five Tips
1. Drink water
If you’re feeling hungry shortly after you ate, don’t open the fridge just yet. According to registered dietician Amy Margulies, the sensation of being thirsty is often confused for that of being hungry. And if you eat to try to quench thirst, it won’t satisfy you, so you’ll just eat more. That’s a quick way to pack on the calories and sabotage your attempts at being healthy.
You can avoid this diet faux-pas—and that’s why if you’re on a diet to lose weight, the first rule should be to drink plenty of water. Keep a water bottle with you, and try to finish the bottle every hour or two hours and refill it. This way, you’ll know your hunger is genuine, and not just dehydration in disguise.
Related: 5 Big Benefits of Drinking Water
2. Eat plenty of veggies
Yep, it’s no shocker: vegetables are an absolute must if you’re on a diet to lose weight. Even if they don’t seem very filling, many vegetables, such as spinach or brussel sprouts, are high in fiber. Fiber can help you feel fuller for longer, as it moves through the body more slowly.
Vegetables are also packed with various nutrients that your body needs to function. Plus, vegetables are often quite low in calories and are very flavorful on their own, so you practically can’t overeat them!
3. Prepare your meals at home
The third rule to your diet: prepare your meals at home. There are several reasons behind this, some less obvious than others.
Firstly, eating out often leads to temptation. If all of your friends order cheeseburgers, you’ll be more tempted to order a cheeseburger yourself. Even if you do manage to overcome your temptations and get a healthy meal, you’ll likely end up snagging a fry or two from your friends. Add that up with a few bites of their cheeseburgers, and you’ll be packing on some serious calories.
Let’s not worry about the friends for a second, though. Let’s say you go all by yourself, and you order a salmon fillet with cooked veggies. Sounds healthy, right? Well, consider this: according to Brian Wansink, PhD, our portions have risen drastically in the past few decades, and one of the reasons is that the size of our plates has increased by approximately 36%.
Restaurants often try to fill these big plates as much as possible so that you will feel like you’re getting the bang for your buck—and you’ll be more tempted to overeat. It’s healthy to eat salmon and veggies, but it’s not so healthy to eat two or three portions of each in one sitting.
Lastly, the problem with eating out is that you can’t see how it’s prepared. Who knows how much oil those veggies were cooked with? Who knows if that salmon is slathered with butter? Healthy foods lose their edge if you soak them in fatty oils and cover them in sodium. Prepare your food yourself, and you don’t have to wonder.
4. Get your protein in
One of the best ways to feel full is to include lots of lean protein in your diet. Meat and other protein-filled foods are not only okay for your diet, but actually encouraged. According to one study, protein can keep you satiated longer and help you lose weight to a greater extent than many other sources. Just make sure your source of protein is nutritious, like hard-boiled eggs.
Related: 6 Surprising Protein Facts
5. Cut out processed food
For your diet to lose weight, avoid processed foods. This includes junk foods, like cake, cookies, potato chips, macaroni and cheese, the works. If you read the nutrition label and you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s a safe bet what you’re eating is more of a processed “food product” than actual real food.
Make your diet full of natural ingredients that are grown from the earth, like plants, nuts, seeds, and lean protein. This is what our ancestors ate…and have you ever seen an overweight caveman in those history books?
If you’re trying to figure out a diet to lose weight, please, please don’t think it’s okay to eat only two cubes of cheese once a day. Stick to the five rules: drink plenty of water, eat plenty of vegetables, avoid going out to eat, eat lots of protein, and say “no” to processed foods. Combine this with an active lifestyle, and watch the pounds melt off—and stay off.
Photo by Alan Cleaver