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What to Eat for Dinner If You're Trying to Lose Weight, According to a Nutritionist

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Many of my clients tell me they eat pretty healthfully … until dinnertime rolls around. Tired and famished, they put in a takeout order, then wolf down cheese crackers until it arrives. Or they open a bottle of wine, which leads to a night of continuous nibbling in front of the TV. If you find yourself in a similar rut, there is a way to break the pattern: The trick to consistently eating a healthful, balanced dinner—especially one that supports your weight-loss goals—is to think about your evening meal in advance. Here are five easy options.

When you're in no mood to cook …

Call you local Chinese restaurant and order a double portion of steamed vegetables with steamed shrimp, and a side of brown rice. Then, while you’re waiting for it, make your own sauce so you can skirt the sugar- and starch-laden version that typically comes with takeout. In a small bowl, stir together two tablespoons of unsweetened almond butter, a tablespoon of brown rice vinegar, and a teaspoon of honey. Add a half teaspoon each of fresh grated ginger and minced garlic, and one-eighth teaspoon of crushed red pepper. When your dinner arrives, toss the warm veggies and shrimp in the almond mixture to coat well, and serve over a half cup of brown rice.

RELATED: This Healthier Sesame Chicken Tastes Just Like Takeout

If you need to snack first  …

When you've already gone hours without food, it can be tough to wait to eat till dinner is ready. Try portioning out a quarter cup of almonds, and pop them in your mouth one at a time while you make a quick, simple soup.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté a quarter cup of minced yellow onion in two tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth until onions are translucent. Add a half cup of additional broth, a cup of chopped kale, a teaspoon each of garlic and Italian seasoning, a one-eighth teaspoon each of sea salt and crushed red pepper, and a one-sixteenth teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir in one cup of chopped veggies of your choice, like sliced grape tomatoes and cauliflower florets. Bring to a brief boil, covered, and then reduce to a simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add a portion of lean protein, like three ounces of extra-lean ground turkey or a half cup of white beans, and if desired, a teaspoon of fresh dill. Stir to heat through, and serve.

RELATED: 17 Snacks Packed With Protein

If you're into meal prepping …

On Sunday whip up a veggie frittata you can reheat (or enjoy cold) during the week. Whisk a half dozen eggs, and then add a quarter cup of unsweetened almond milk, a half tablespoon of Dijon, a half teaspoon each of minced garlic and Italian seasoning, and an eighth teaspoon each of black pepper and sea salt. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan over low heat, combine a tablespoon of EVOO, a cup of chopped kale or spinach, and a cup of chopped veggies of your choice, such as broccoli florets, onion, and bell pepper. Pour egg mixture into frittata pan. Evenly spoon in veggies, along with a cup of black beans. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 40-45 minutes.

Sign up for our 30-Day No Takeout Challenge with Giada de Laurentiis!

If you prefer to graze throughout the evening …

Try this combo you can eat at your leisure: Rinse three ounces of pre-cooked ready-to-eat frozen shrimp under cold water to thaw, and dip into a tablespoon of dairy-free pesto. Make a quick salad from baby spinach or chopped romaine, dressed with a combo of one tablespoon balsamic mixed with a teaspoon each of fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard, and a half teaspoon of Italian seasoning. For dessert, reach for a cup of loose fruit you can eat one piece at a time with your hands (like grapes or berries) or use a fork to eat a cup of chopped fresh fruit, like kiwi, apple, or pear.

When you need dinner NOW …

Mix three ounces of canned wild salmon with one teaspoon of Dijon mustard and two tablespoons of olive tapenade. Slice a bell pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and stuff with the salmon mixture. Dinner done!

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.


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4 Reasons It’s Harder to Lose Weight in Winter—and What You Need to Do Differently

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There's no question it's easier to make healthy choices in spring and summer: There's an abundance of produce in season. The sun is shining, the days are long—and you feel naturally motivated to head outdoors and get active! But come the cold, harsh months of winter, eating clean and slimming down can seem a whole lot more challenging. Read on for a few common weight-loss hurdles that pop up when the temperature drops, plus experts tips on how to dodge them.

Temptation is everywhere

Hot chocolate, creamy soups, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese—'tis the season for comfort foods, which can seem so unfair given you're doing your best to stay hyper-focused on what you "should" be eating. These circumstances can put you in a tough spot, says health and lifestyle coach Sheila Viers. If you're not careful, you may slip into the mindset that all indulgences are "bad," she explains—and once you start labeling your food choices as "good" and "bad," every decision becomes a loaded one.

Any time you stray from your rigid eating plan, you might experience guilt or shame, emotions that can trigger the body's stress response, says Viers. And stress only sets you up for more trouble: When you're not feeling your best, it's even harder to stay on track with your goals, she points out.

Instead of sweating over all the dietary "shoulds," try making food choices that are right for you. "Maybe you plan ahead," Viers suggests, so you are deciding in advance when you want to indulge (like at the Friday night potluck, for example). Or maybe you choose one small indulgence per day (say, a few squares of high-quality dark chocolate) to satisfy your sweet tooth. “The important thing is that the decision feels good to you.”

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

You're fighting the urge to hibernate

Between the snow and ice, and shorter, darker days, winter is enough to tank your motivation to exercise. Who wants to venture out into the freezing weather to go for a run, or to the gym when it's so cozy at home? Luckily, you don't have to leave your living room to get in a killer sweat sesh (promise). There are tons of great workout videos online. "You can put a couple together," says Viers, "or split them up, with 10 minutes before work and 10 minutes in the evening." Keeping up a fitness routine will help with more than weight loss, she adds. “The benefit of working out is that it gets oxygen to the cells,” says Viers. “This keeps your body working optimally, and keeps you energized."

Need some fitspo? We've rounded up our favorite online workouts for yogadance cardio, and HIIT. Only got a few minutes? Check out these super-efficient routines you can do anywhere. 

Sign up for our 30-Day Love Your Strength Challenge With Emily Skye!

You’re loading up on salt

If you're eating less fresh food in the winter months, you're probably eating more packaged and processed foods, which can be sneaky sources of sodium. Think canned veggies and soups, pasta, bread, chips and crackers—they can all cause you to retain water.

Even if you’re keeping your calorie intake in check, water weight can make you feel bloated and sluggish. Viers' advice: Hydrate as much as you can. "It really is the best way to get rid of that water weight," she says. Adding potassium-rich foods to your diet may help, too, because they regulate sodium levels in your body. Great sources include avocados, bananas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and coconut water.

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Raw veggies seem so unappealing

Let’s face it: When you’re feeling cold, your belly isn't exactly rumbling for kale. You’re probably more inclined to opt for a savory lunch over a salad, right? Soups and stews are a great way to get vegetables too, you just have to choose wisely, says Viers. “A soup with a cream base is more likely to contain more calories, for example, so you can opt for broth-based soups." And if you're turned off by salad, try eating your veggies warm: Roasted sweet potatoes, peppers, parsnips, carrots, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are great as a side, thrown into soup, or even tossed over greens for a hunger-crushing meal.

Don't forget about warm fruits either. They can be a delicious and healthy winter treat. You can bake or roast peaches, pears, plums, or even cherries, and eat with a little drizzle of honey or cinnamon, or a dollop of whipped cream.


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The Sneaky Weight-Loss Mistakes All Women Make

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You're familiar with the biggie weight-loss mistakes everyone makes (like skipping breakfastOD'ing on protein, and skimping on veggies). But it turns out there are a few sneakier dietary flubs to avoid, too. Over time, these seemingly small mistakes can really add up, and may even cause you to put on pounds, says dietician Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet. Here's how to steer clear of the lesser-known traps, and set yourself up for slim-down success.

You've been telling yourself you're "on a diet"

When you clean up your eating habits to shed weight, it’s tempting to think of it as a diet. However, that word can send you down the wrong path: Using the term "diet" implies that once you reach a certain goal, or a specific number on the scale, you will stop eating healthy. “A diet in most people’s minds is something that you go on and off,” Gans says, and not something you stick with for the long haul. To lose weight forever, it's better to reframe your new habits as a "lifestyle change," says Gans—and make sure you're following a balanced plan that truly feels sustainable (read: doesn't leave you hangry).

Your lunch salad is weak

Many women make the mistake of replacing one meal with a whole lot of greens, says Gans. That can backfire in more ways than one. “If [a salad] is not thoughtfully put together, this isn’t always enough for everyone," she explains. "Then you end up starved for the rest of the day." And that could lead you to make poor food choices later (say, during 3 p.m. vending machine raid), or binge at your next meal.

If you're going to have a salad, make sure it includes enough belly-filling substance: The bowl should have one serving of protein (such as lean meat or nuts) and a healthy fat (like avocado). It's also okay to mix up your lunch routine with sandwiches, says Gans. Just be aware of calorie counts—sammies in the 300 to 400 calorie range are safe bets, she says.

Eat clean (and save money!) with our 21-Day Healthy Lunch Challenge

You're eating too much of a good thing

There are a few foods that have become healthy-diet staples: Think nuts and seeds, avocado (which can be added to nearly anything for a “good fat” fix), and peanut or almond butter (which supply a delicious dose of fat and protein to smoothies, sandwiches, and fruit). All of these foods are great nutritional choices, says Gans. The trouble is, people often eat way too much of them.

Even with healthy eats, it's important to pay attention to serving sizes, says Gans. “For instance, one serving of avocado is a quarter of an avocado. Restaurants sometimes use a half or whole on a single salad.” It's easy to overdo it with nuts and nut butters, too: A serving size of nuts is just one ounce (picture 23 almonds); while a serving size of nut butter is two tablespoons.

Got any other go-to foods? Gans recommends measuring out the serving size at least once, "just so you’re aware,” she says.

RELATED: 12 Foods You Need to Stop Buying—and 17 You Should Eat More

You've sworn off the foods you love

Maybe you adore chocolate ice cream, or spaghetti—and to avoid overeating your beloved food, you've decided to give it up entirely. "I hear this a lot," says Gans. “People will tell me, ‘I’m never going to eat pasta!’ Meanwhile, they are overlooking the ways you can create the dish in a healthy way.”

The fact is, almost any food can fit into your new healthy lifestyle, if you do it right. For example, rather than buying a gallon of double fudge, pick up single-portion ice cream cups or fro-yo bars that contain 100 calories or less. “With pasta, you can do a half-cup cooked with a bit of olive oil, steamed veggies, and grilled shrimp,” says Gans—and you've got an easy, balanced meal.

Simply swearing off a favorite food could lead to even more intense cravings. Or you may end up filling the gap with another indulgence that doesn't deliver the same satisfaction.

RELATED: 10 Nutritionists and Health Editors Share What They Actually Eat for Dessert

Your save your calories for alcohol on the weekend

This is a risky mindset, says Gans: If you're restricting yourself to prepare for a night out, you may end up binge drinking (that's four drinks or more for women), which "hurts on multiple levels," she explains. “Not only is binge drinking unhealthy in itself, you’re looking at the calories from the alcohol, plus perhaps the fries and pizza you had while you weren’t thinking about your eating decisions, plus the carb-heavy breakfast you ate the next morning because you were feeling terrible.” Yikes.

While you're trying to slim down, it's key to set a one- or two-drink limit, Gans urges—and again, pay attention to the serving size. “For instance, it’s totally fine to have a glass of wine each night with dinner, but a one-glass serving is five ounces,” she says. “People can drink almost double that, easily.”


North Carolina Couple in Their 70s Loses Nearly 400 lbs Together

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Becky and Donnie Hensley of Weaverville, North Carolina, once weighed about 370 pounds each.

In an interview with WLOS, Becky recalled being barely able to walk, and in need of divine intervention. "I was praying, and the Lord spoke to me, and said, 'Go find Donnie, and ask him to go to Weight Watchers with you.'"

That was seven years ago. Since then, Donnie has lost 165 pounds, while Becky has lost 208 pounds. Now, both in their seventies, the Hensleys are proud to show off the pants they used to wear.

"It hurts me when I see folks that are big like this. Because it's just been such a tremendous journey that God has blessed," Becky told the local news station.

"I can't imagine going back and being that big," added Donnie.

The Hensleys say they helped push each other to change their diets and start going to the gym. Now, at nearly half her former size, Becky is thankful just to be able to walk. Donnie relishes the ability to tie his shoes.

“But the important thing is not what we've lost, it's what we've gained, and how we have learned how to keep it off," Becky told WLOS. "My husband and I have a much better lifestyle now. We have fun with different recipes. Also more fun smooching."

The Hensleys still attend Weight Watchers and now they’re working towards a new goal: maintaining the weight loss.