Nutrition

5 Quick Fixes To Drastically Improve Your Diet

flexible dieting option

Summer is just around the corner and everyone is racing to get ready for beach season. Undoubtedly, most people are going to overcomplicate their diet, assuming that losing weight is more complex than brain surgery.

Despite what many people will have you believe, improving your diet doesn't have to be torturous, complicated, expensive, or restrictive.

Spend some time making changes that won't leave you feeling deprived and you'll be rewarded with a better body, improved health, and a greater appreciation for your favorite foods.

Without further ado, here are 5 tips that you can implement today, without a major diet overhaul.

1. Ditch the sugary drinks

You drink because you're thirsty, and nothing will satisfy your thirst better than water. Black coffee and unsweetened tea are also great substitutes for that afternoon pick-me-up or simply to give you something to sip on throughout the day in lieu of sweet drinks.

Zero-calorie diet drinks are a slippery slope – it's best to just say no and skip them altogether. They don't have any immediate negative consequences on your body composition, but may lead to cravings for other sweets, derailing your diet indirectly.  And who knows what a lifetime of ingesting artificial sweeteners will do?

My best advice to get enough water is to drink a 16 oz glass about 20 minutes before every meal. The rest of the time, opt for black coffee or green tea.

Why it works

You can eliminate TONS of useless calories from your diet by following this simple step alone.

Consuming juice, soda, sports drinks, and “coffee” drinks befitting a 12-year old girl's palate will do absolutely nothing to stave off hunger, but they're packed full of ab-concealing calories. Not to mention they displace real food, the most important aspect of any diet.

2. Stop snacking

People tend to snack out of boredom, habit, and availability.

The best way to eliminate snacking is to eat more substantial meals (more on that in #3).

You'll do yourself a huge favor by eliminating bad habits like going through the drive-thru for breakfast or hitting up the vending machine every afternoon (a couple favorite activities of old me).

Next, purge all snack items from your work, home, and car. On your next trip to the grocery store, only buy real food. If you don't keep snacks in the house or within arm's reach, it becomes inconvenient to eat them and they'll be pushed out of your diet.

To avoid mindless snacking, try to keep your mind busy during the day. This could mean focusing on your work, reading a book during downtime, or hitting the gym in the evening. Whatever you have to do to make the most of your day.

Why it works

I don't know anyone who snacks on chicken breast, greens, or bell peppers, so chances are, any snack you'd consider isn't the type of food that should be making its way to your mouth.

Additionally, since snacking isn't a full meal, we tend to gloss over them when adding up everything we ate for the day, whether it's just ball parking or actually doing the math. Studies show that overweight individuals drastically underestimate their calorie intake while underweight people overestimate how much they eat.

A handful of chips here, a candy bar there, and maybe a bowl of ice cream for an afternoon snack may not seem like much while you're eating them, but those sneaky calories are what lead to weight gain and/or prevent weight loss.

Overeating by just 500 calories per day (which is extremely easy with typical snack foods) will put roughly a pound of body fat onto your frame every week – Stop Snacking!

3. Get a minimum of 30g of protein per meal

diet tips eat larger meals

If the food in front of you doesn't contain at least 30g of protein, it isn't a meal. It's a snack (see #2 above). You should be aiming for about 6 oz of lean meat, a cup of cottage cheese, or 4 or 5 eggs to make up your protein portion of a meal.

30 grams is roughly the amount of protein you need to consume to trigger protein synthesis (building them muscles). Since muscle mass is the major determining factor of metabolic rate, this is vitally important to support weight loss.

Why it works

Setting this rule for yourself helps you avoid snacks and unproductive calories.

Things like hotdogs, pizza, popcorn, and nachos naturally get pushed out of your diet because the protein content is so low, in relation to fat and carbs, that you would need to eat a massive serving to hit the minimum requirement.

No more passing off mac n' cheese, pancakes, or a bologna sandwich as a meal.

4. Eat one serving of veggies with every meal

This is an easy one. If the meal itself doesn't contain a vegetable, just have one on the side. The easiest way I've found is to eat your veggies while you're preparing the meal. Eat half a cucumber, a bell pepper, or a couple celery stalks and you're all set.

If you're prepping meals ahead of time, just buy bags of frozen broccoli, green beans, and mixed veggies. You can add a cup or two to your Tupperware and they'll get steamed when you microwave the meal. Easy as can be.

NOTE: If you don't have the willpower to eat a few vegetables, give your a mother a call and have her come over to cut the crust off your PB&J.

Why it works

Besides the myriad of benefits provided by the micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, eating vegetables will help fill you up, decreasing overall calories consumed.

5. Cheat on your diet, big time 

weight loss diet cheat meal

I knew you'd like this one!

Don't bother with low calorie garbage. Eating those little 100-calorie snack packs everyday is going to lead to craving more snacks. It's like trying to give up smoking by switching to light cigarettes.

Have a little discipline in the day-to-day and then, once or twice per week, have that large milkshake, bacon double cheeseburger, or meat lovers pizza and be satisfied. You'll feel much better about yourself if you program a few indulgences into your diet.

No more self-loathing after you eat 32 wings at your Memorial Day cookout.

The last time I had ice cream, my favorite dessert, I ate four Blizzards from Dairy Queen. That was well over 2,000 calories in a single sitting. But guess what? I haven't had ice cream in over four months because I had my fill. That's much better than getting a small frozen yogurt every day and still wanting more.

Why it works

If you have a small cheat every day, how great is that slice of birthday cake on the weekend really going to taste? It'll most likely be pretty underwhelming.

On the other hand, if you spend the week eating mostly healthy meals made of real food, that slice (or 3) of birthday cake is going to feel like a delicious punch to the face.

A 2,000 calorie mega cheat is still a smarter move, diet wise, than having an extra 500 calories per day totaling 3,500 per week.

What to do now?

I haven't given you any forgotten ancient secrets, magical mystery pills, or cutting edge information. What I've done is give you 5 actionable steps that'll help you correct bad habits that are keeping you from having a better beach body, all while keeping your sanity and social life in tact.

What more could you ask for?

Try adding one of these new diet habits every week to have a better body by summer!

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Damian @ Dareandconquer
    May 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Snacking from boredom…I am guilty for that.

    Great tips nate, simple but effective. They are a good way to start.

    But the convinience of ordering a hamburger instead of going to the kitchen and make a simple salat(cucumber-lettuce) will always win except you want it bad enough.

    I would like to add another simple tip that actually helps a lot. Use myfitnesspal to count your calories. Eat 300-500 below maintenance and BOOM! Fat loss! It’s not nuclear science.

    regards,
    Damian

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 14, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      You’re right, it’s all about priorities. You’ll never get anywhere by giving in to every craving, but if you’re disciplined most of the time and train hard, that occasional hamburger will actually help you in the long run.

  • Reply
    Jacob
    May 14, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Sounds like you follow some of the principles of the slow carb diet.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 14, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      Good observation! I’ve followed diets like that one in the past and some of the habits have stuck around. I don’t like to keep any particular diet for very long as they’re usually too restrictive and I’m not sure if I can live without my cereal and ice cream.

  • Reply
    Kyle Ingham
    May 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Great post, sir!

    As far as the protein goes, does this mean I should try to have 4-5 eggs for breakfast instead of my usual 2? (my go-to is 2 eggs and a piece of whole wheat toast).

    Thanks!
    K

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 14, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks Kyle! If your goal is to gain muscle and or lose body fat I would bump up your protein intake a little. If you aren’t comfortable eating that many egg yolks per day, some people aren’t, I would just add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of egg whites to your current routine.

  • Reply
    Samuel
    May 14, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    It’s never complicated at all.

    Some people make it seem. Heck, you almost don’t even need to workout if you got your nutrition just right!

    – Samuel Pustea

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      You’re right, it’s only the fine tuning that’s complicated. Going from fat to abs isn’t that complicated, but losing that last few percent body fat is the tricky part. You can absolutely make your weight do anything you want without working out. Working out just determines how much of your weight will be muscle.

      • Reply
        joe
        May 17, 2015 at 12:49 pm

        I’ve been there done that. Your absolutely correct about the last few percentage points. My 50 lbs weight loss was a breeze once I got smart about it.

        The last 10 lbs to shredded are what crashed my hormone and health because I went about it with the same aggressiveness as the first 50 lbs. Anyone wanting to get on TRT in their 20’s just needs to try undereating and overtraining for a month. It feels like death.

        • Reply
          Nate
          May 17, 2015 at 11:25 pm

          Congrats on the 50 lb weight loss!

          I’ve been there on both the bulking and cutting side. Gaining weight too fast just leads to massive fat gain and cutting too quickly does a number on your muscle mass and mood.

          I like to take a much more gradual approach now. It isn’t the sexiest method to pitch to clients but it’s the most effective in the long run.

          • joe
            May 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

            That’s the best advice you won’t ever hear anywhere else. I’ve found my hormones crash whenever my bottom two abs get real defined so I just don’t care to take it that far. Its all vanity at that point. Euthyroid sick syndrome and low T are not worth living with to look pretty.

            If a persons body allows them to do that great. Mine sure won’t. A little more food intake is easier and cheaper than supplemental thyroid hormone and vitamin T

          • Nate
            May 19, 2015 at 2:03 am

            Indeed, having ripped lower abs isn’t worth it if you’re constantly starving and feeling like shit. Some people can maintain that without paying any attention to their diets or even working out, but that’s only a select few. You’re right on track with preserving long-term health and sanity.

  • Reply
    Trouble
    May 17, 2015 at 12:54 am

    For reasons I haven’t bothered to research, whenever I eat a meal that’s High Protein (30+ grams), I feel rabid hunger about an hour or so after (HP/MF/LC). Now if I eat a High Fat/Moderate Protein that doesnt happen (HF/MP/LC). Still trying to figure that one out as everyone says HP is satiating.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 17, 2015 at 1:36 am

      I feel the same rabid hunger if I eat a meal without much fat like 16 oz egg whites with toast and jam. So for me, it doesn’t seem to be the higher protein, but rather, the absence of fat.

      I think the source of protein has a lot to do with satiety. A glass of milk or protein powder does about as much to stave off hunger as water, but the equivalent macro nutrients from chicken, tuna, or low-fat cottage cheese will hit the spot.

      You’re definitely right about fat being more satiating than protein, but the volume of food also has to be right. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t count two shots of olive oil as a meal, despite the high fat content. For that reason, I like to see people eat tons of meat and veggies when trying to reduce calorie intake.

      Thanks for the contribution!

  • Reply
    Brent Kraus
    May 21, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Excellent stuff…I’m going to try and follow the 30g of Protein per meal part.
    love your humor in your writing…great stuff!

  • Reply
    Chris
    May 23, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Agreed on the cheat meal. I read Arnold’s biography: the Education of a Bodybuilder. He said that he used to just eat massive amounts of carbs and train like a monster to earn the nickname “the Austrian Oak.” It wasn’t until he moved to america that he lost to Frank Zane, then Sergio Oliva(my personal favorite) and was forced to cut carbs. It’s worth mentioning that he ate Clen, Tren’d hard, Anavar gave up though.

    Agreed on all your points. I keep greens like brussel sprouts ready to go in the freezer. I can just throw them in the microwave with some butter and they’re good to go.

    As far as snacks, I work 12 hour shift work with 5 breaks a day. All the people that are constantly eating every break are a little “wide in the middle.” I struggled too until I started reading. It’s a great way to keep busy during down time without stuffing your face. Just one or two big meals with lots of protein and fat.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 24, 2015 at 12:34 am

      That’s a fantastic book! I’ve read it about 12 times as it never fails to motivate me. So are you following Intermittent Fasting then?

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Evan
    November 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    What up Nate!

    I like this post; it’s helpful because you a) eliminate snacking and can intermittently fast, which we know is healthy and b) actually enjoy some cheating every once in a while.

    Rule of life and muscle building: eat what you want dammit, you are a man! But make sure most of it is healthy :)

    So what would you say is a good idea to pack on muscle when you’re still eating clean like chicken breasts, egg whites and veggies?

    Keep up the good work as usual.

    – Evan

    • Reply
      Nate
      November 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      Good points, Evan! Packing on muscle while eating clean and fasting can be difficult unless you can pack away absolutely enormous meals. If you’re maxing out your appetite but still not growing, I would advise a day or two per week where you either eat some junk food or eat more frequent meals. It all comes down to a calorie game.

  • Reply
    Brayden
    March 8, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    When you talk about your cheat meals in this article, do you try to still incorporate that into your total daily calories? Or do you purposely go over your calories?

    • Reply
      Nate
      March 9, 2016 at 5:16 am

      I always incorporate cheat meals into my total. When I’m dieting I have a high calorie day once per week which will be about 80 additional grams of carbs.

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