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Dinnertime Diet Downfalls

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Updated February 15, 2014

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Don't eat something simply because it's there. It's time to turn in your membership card from the Clean Plate Club!

Image: Clipart.com
It's the end of a tough day and you're ready to have a healthy meal and unwind. But instead of unwinding, you could be undoing your dieting efforts! Could dinnertime downfalls be costing you hundreds of calories? Avoid common dinner mistakes with these tips:

Downfall #1: Topping off your meal with extra fat and calories.

What's the use of preparing healthy dishes, like steamed veggies, only to load them up with extra fat and calories in the form of butter or cheese sauce? Sure, you still get the same nutrients from the veggies, but you're not doing your weight-loss efforts any favors. That salad becomes a lot less diet-friendly when you douse it with creamy dressing.

Stop adding on regular salad dressing, cheese, margarine, and mayo and you'll save hundreds of calories. You may find that you actually prefer the flavor of fresh or steamed veggies without the extras.

Tip: Choose imitation bacon bits, fat-free sour cream, Mrs. Dash, spray-on butter, low-cal spray salad dressings, salsa, or pico de gallo to add flavor to foods that you find bland.

Downfall #2: Maintaining your membership in the Clean Plate Club.

Mom made you the charter member of the Clean Plate Club, right? Well, it's time to resign from your post because there's no reason to feel the need to polish off that plate if your tummy is telling you it's time to stop. Pay careful attention to how you're feeling rather than how much food is left uneaten.

There is an important gap between eating and feeling full; it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal, so when you do, it's time to listen. Eat slowly so you'll know when to say when, and don't feel obligated to polish off the rest just because it's on the plate.

Tip: Before going for seconds, down a tall glass of water -- thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger.

Downfall #3: Not eating a diet-friendly appetizer.

You thought you had to swear off starters to lose weight, didn't you? Think again, because beginning your meal with a salad or a bowl of soup is a great way to help you eat less during your meal. This is particularly helpful if you haven't eaten in more than four or five hours. The longer it's been since your last meal, the more likely you are to overeat.

Don't settle for just plain old iceberg lettuce in that salad. Load up with plenty of veggies and dark leafy greens, which pack more fiber. (The more fiber you eat, the more filling that starter salad will be.) If soup's your preference, you're in luck: Many varieties of canned soup weigh in at under 100 calories per serving, and some have even less.

Tip: Pressed for time? Keep soup that's packed in microwave-ready containers on hand so you can eat in a matter of minutes.

Downfall #4: Forgoing fat.

Ever had a meal of something low-fat like spaghetti marinara only to find yourself famished within a couple of hours? Eating a meal that doesn't have some fat, such as cheese or meat, will inevitably leave you feeling overly hungry later on -- a recipe for late-night binges. Remember, fat is not the enemy when you choose your fats wisely and incorporate them as part of a portion-controlled, nutritious diet.

Choose the right fat as often as possible. Monounsaturated fats (found in canola, peanut, and olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (found in sunflower, corn, and soybean oil) have been shown to decrease "bad" cholesterol levels and increase "good" cholesterol. Add some olive oil to your veggies, for example, to work this type of healthy fat into your diet.

Downfall #5: Eating chicken every night.

Chicken is an excellent, low-fat protein source that is very versatile. Still, no matter how many ways you fix it, it gets boring after a few dozen dinners in a row. Getting burned out from eating the same thing over and over can actually set you up for a binge to break the monotony. Switch things up by trying tuna, salmon, turkey breast, or lean roast beef.

Tip: Sometimes chicken isn't the best choice. Chicken legs or thighs are more calorie-dense than white meat chicken.

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