Eat Your Way Slim in 20 Simple Steps
The real secret to healthy eating? Good habits. Here's how to start right now.
By the Editors of Prevention

From the instructions for some diets, you'd think losing weight was more complicated than quantum physics. The food diaries you need to write; the nutrition labels you need to read and pronounce and translate; the protein, fat, and carbohydrate grams you have to add up. It's time to try an easier way. No math, no more squinting at the fine print and trying to decipher those words with no vowels. Instead, just 20 everyday tactics that will get you started on your weight loss plan and then help you stick to it. Soon enough, your diet will simply become the way you eat.

1. Always eat dessert
Yes, always. "A small amount can signal that the meal is over," says Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. She ends her meals with a piece of quality chocolate and she's a doctor. Other options include mini-cupcakes or fruit.

2. Blot out the fat
You can use a napkin to blot a teaspoon of fat off a pizza slice. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply it by a slice a week, and that's more than a whole cup of fat you won't eat or wear this year.

3. Take the beltway
When junk food beckons, tighten your belt a notch. Not so you can't breathe, but so you have a gentle reminder of the size you'd like to be. "The scale isn't the only measure of weight," says Roberta Anding, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

4. Go public
Enlist the help of coworkers, friends, and family and know they're watching. "The power of embarrassment is greater than will-power," says Stephen Gullo, PhD, author of The Thin Commandments.

5. Get spicy with it
Capsaicin, the substance that puts the hot in hot pepper, temporarily boosts your metabolism. Just make sure you're drinking a yogurt lassi with that searing-hot chicken vindaloo. Dairy blocks capsaicin's sweat-inducing signals better than water.

6. Milk it
Consuming 1,800 mg of calcium a day could block the absorption of about 80 calories, according to a recent University of Tennessee study. Jump-start your calcium intake by filling your coffee mug with fat-free or 1% milk, drinking it down to the level you want in your coffee, then pouring in your caffeine fix. That's 300 mg down, 1,500 to go.

7. Go organic
That's where you're likely to find bread and cereal with fiber counts that put the conventional choices to shame. Thought you were doing well with your 3-g-per-serving Cheerios? Nature's Path Slim blows it away with 10 g. (And it really doesn't taste like a shredded shoebox.)

8. Splurge on precut veggies at the supermarket
Sure, they cost more, but you're more likely to eat them. "Make low-energy snacks as easy as possible," Rolls says. "Keep vegetables as near to hand as you can. Make it so you have no excuse."

9. Practice fine dining
Pick a restaurant where you'll actually want to linger. "When the meals are not hurried, the presentation is beautiful and the portions are reasonable so you can regulate your attitude," Anding says. That means your body not the empty plate will tell you when to stop.

10. Don't skip your 3 pm feeding
"Have a 150 calorie snack [now], and it can save you 400 calories later," Anding says. An ounce of nuts or two sticks of string cheese weigh in at about 170 calories.

11. Increase your a-peel
Speaking of fiber, a lot of it's in the peel, whether it's potatoes, apples, or pears. Even oranges don't eat the whole peel, but keep the pith, that white stringy stuff; it's packed with flavonoids. More nutrients, more fiber, less labor.

12. Drink with your dominant hand
If you're circulating at a party, Rolls suggests keeping your glass in the hand you eat with. If you're drinking with it, you can't eat with it, can you?

13. Plate it
Whatever it is, don't eat it out of the container and don't bring the container to the couch. "Part of satiety is visual," Anding says. "Your brain actually has to see the food on the plate, and when you reach into the jar, or the box, or the bag, you don't see it." If it's worth eating, put it on a plate. Eat what's there, then stop.

14. Keep your hands busy
Find a way other than food to work off your nervous energy. "It's behavior modification," Anding says. "Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, you pick up your knitting. Art works, woodworking works anything that occupies your hands."

15. Take 10
When your mind strays from your desk to the vending machine, it could be hunger or it could be boredom or irritation with your boss. If you're still thinking about snacking 10 minutes later, then you're probably hungry. Think of it as a chance to have one of the nine servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day.

16. Go out for ice cream
Or an eclair. Or even guacamole and chips. Just go out. Don't keep your danger foods in the house. You can't eat half of a carton of ice cream that's not there.

17. Start with salad
It's the holy grail of dieting eat less by eating more. Rolls's research has found that eating a salad as a first course decreased total lunch calories by 12%. Avoid the croutons and creamy dressings, which have the opposite effect.

18. Just scrape by
Always order your bagel or burger with a plastic knife. Use it to scrape off the excess cream cheese and mayo. You could shave off as many as half the calories.

19. Send back the bread
All it takes is a wave of the hand, a smile, and a "No, thank you."

20. Go crazy sometimes
Deprivation won't make you thin or happy. Designate a meal or two a week when you can eat absolutely anything you want.

Perfect foods for walkers
Breakfast cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk
A large bowl of cereal in the morning will set you up for the rest of the day. Most cereals are vitamin and mineral fortified, and they're great with fresh fruit sliced on top. Cereal is fine as a prewalk snack or a postwalk pick-me-up.

Energy bars
They're tasty and come in all flavors. Choose from high-carb, 40-30-30, or protein-plus bars. Tear one open prewalk or postwalk.

Dried apricots
These chewy little morsels are low-fat and high-carbohydrate, and provide a decent amount of vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. Toss chopped apricots over your granola at breakfast, or eat whole ones before your afternoon workout or as a sweet treat after dinner.

Fig bars
Chewy fig bars are a tasty, convenient source of carbohydrates and fiber. The carbs in these cookies are quickly digestible, making them great "on the run" snacks. Have them anytime, even during the middle of a walk when you need to refuel.

Smoothies
If you use fruit and fortified soy milk, smoothies are an easy way to consume a healthful dose of fiber and soy. Smoothies also furnish plenty of vitamins C and A, plus potassium, fiber, and calcium. They work well for breakfast, before a walk, or as refreshing, reenergizing, postwalk snacks.

Frozen fruit pops
This refreshing low-calorie treat is loaded with vitamin C, which fortifies your immune system and boosts iron absorption. They're great anytime, but best immediately after a long, hot walk.

Bananas
They're chock-full of carbohydrates. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, which is vital for managing protein metabolism. (Exercisers need more protein during and after workouts.) Eat them before, during, or after exercise. They taste great blended into a fruit smoothie.

Green soybeans
Soybeans in any form are a high-quality source of protein, iron, B vitamins, and heart-healthy isoflavones (which also boost bone health). Soy protein has been shown to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Nosh on them after your workout or as a low-calorie but filling afternoon snack.

Low-fat fruit yogurt
It's a great source of calcium, protein, and potassium, plus it's low in fat and fairly high in carbohydrates. The live and active cultures in yogurt will also boost your immune system. Enjoy it anytime.

Oatmeal
Studies show that oatmeal helps lower cholesterol. Oatmeal will also fill you with plenty of carbohydrates to boost energy and alertness. It's an excellent prewalk or morning meal.