Small changes. Big results.

Losing weight remains our most popular health goal. Shauna Hyde, a registered dietician at Stanford, advises us that we can incorporate small changes every day that can make a big difference in our “bottom line.”

You are what you drink

The next time you’re in the grocery store, take a good look at just how much shelf space is devoted to drinkable items. Behold the number of beverages offered, the size of the containers and the liquid rainbow they form when viewed from the end of the aisle. Then ask yourself: “How much space do drinks take up in my diet?”

“Pay attention to what you are drinking,” says Hyde, a dietician at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. “A lot of people drink in too many calories, and drinks don’t make us feel full. So, it is easy to have a few beverages a day and not notice the calories you took in.”

Over the past few decades, America has seen the rate of obesity rise to the point where, currently, about 35% of women and 31% of men in America are obese. The largest contributors, according to Hyde, are sweetened beverages: sodas, sports drinks, coffee-flavored concoctions and all those energy-boosting beverages flying off the shelves.

Conclusion: one of the best ways people can decrease their daily calorie intake — especially if they are trying to lose or maintain weight — is by drinking more plain water.

Ponder your plate

Another small change that yields big results: ponder your serving plate. Once about 10 inches wide, plates have also grown over the decades, according to Hyde. As a result, so have our portions — and consequently, our waistlines. Today’s plates are almost 20% bigger than those of your parents or grandparents, which means many of us may be eating approximately 20% more at every meal.

“Remember,” Hyde says, “a healthy meal starts with a plate that is not too big.” Once you’ve put your plate in perspective, you can plan out your portions. Hyde suggests drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the plate and covering one side with non-starchy vegetables. Then, put starchy or whole grain foods in one-quarter of the plate and lean protein foods in the quarter.

Perfection is overrated

Now, the next step you can take — and it’s a significant one — is to let go of your inner perfectionist. That merciless voice can lead to an all-or-nothing mentality that does more harm than good when it comes to eating better. For instance, if you aren’t eating the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits a day, don’t just give up altogether. Instead, aim for incremental progress: have a sliced, mouth-watering heirloom tomato from the farmers market with lunch. Good decisions often lead to more good decisions, and before long, you could be consuming two or three servings a day.

“People think there is only one correct way to eat,” Hyde says, “and when they can’t live up to that standard, they tend to say ‘forget it’ and give up entirely.”

To get started, Hyde says to first take a few days and write down what you eat and drink. By diligently documenting what — and how much — you consume, you should be able to identify one or two places where positive changes can be made.

By Julie Croteau

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