8 Dinnertime To-Do’s for a Weight Loss Win

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Dinner isn’t the most important meal of the day, but culture dictates that it is. We go to dinner with loved ones. We celebrate special occasions—over dinner—with loved ones. We get back to being people around the dinner table. And that’s a good thing! None of that has to change now that you’re on the South Beach Diet. But the way you’ve been celebrating (with food and drinks) night after night does have to change. So what’s the first step to change your dinnertime habits? You’ve already taken it; you’re here.

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Now take a look at these eight dinnertime to-dos and figure out how to make them work for you:

1. Do Celebrate—in Moderation.

Sharing food

Is it your anniversary? Birthday? Date night? Have a dinnertime plan before you get to the restaurant. If you really want a glass of wine, have a glass of wine. Just recognize that you can’t also share dessert with your hubby. If dessert is more important to you, eat dessert. If you want an appetizer, skip the bread or deep-fried options and try a lighter soup. Studies at Penn State University found that eating soup before a meal helps you eat as many as 100 fewer calories—enough to help you shed 10 pounds in a year—the rest of the day!

Never finish everything on your plate; ask for a to-go box. Restaurants serve twice or even three times the recommended serving size. Regardless of whether you order a meal or snack, every time you eat out, you’re adding an average of 134 calories to your diet, compared to the same meals or snacks you eat at home, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s because restaurant food is higher in calories, fat and saturated fat.

2. Do Dinner Your Way.


Now, what about dinnertime at home? Whatever you do, don’t make dinner the way your mom (or grandma did) with meat and potatoes piled high and a teeny scoop of veggies in the corner. Instead of three sections, imagine your dinner plate has four. To make a balanced meal, fill one quarter with a Protein and another with Healthy Fats and Good Carbs. The two bottom sections should be reserved for Vegetables. Prepare your plate in the kitchen and leave the food there: Don’t put it on the table where you can go back for seconds or thirds.

3. Do Watch Your Portions.


Do you measure how much oil you put into your skillet? Or, do you just turn the bottle over and add a splash or two? If the latter, you’re probably consuming two to three times the recommended value (one tablespoon olive oil equals one serving) which means you’re adding fat and calories to your meal before you even start cooking. Now what about the rest of your ingredients? You’re likely eating more than 1 ounce of cheese or 3 ounces of fresh salmon. Why does that matter? It will take much longer to see the weight loss results you expect—if at all.

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4. Do Monitor the Booze.

wine dinnertime

It’s been a long day. It’s natural to want to pour yourself a big glass of wine or relax on the couch with your favorite beer in hand. But there’s a lot of sugar and extra calories in alcoholic drinks. If you’re in week one, you have to say no to alcohol. However, going into week two you can indulge in moderation. We recommend sticking to two servings per week. If you’re a wine drinker, a single serving is 4 ounces of white or red wine. Choose dry wines and avoid sugar- and carb-heavy sweet wines or wine coolers. If you’re a beer drinker, one serving is 12 ounces and you should opt for a light beer (with lower carbohydrates). Liquor drinkers need to watch the sugar in mixers and limit servings of bourbon, gin, rum, sake, tequila or vodka to 1.5 ounces.

5. Do Veggies Not Starch.

Vegetables noodles dinnertime

Potatoes, white pasta and rice are some of the most popular dinnertime foods, but you don’t need the loads of carbs and you won’t even miss them with some clever substitutions. Make that shepherd’s pie with a mashed cauliflower topping. Serve this almond flour-coated Chicken Parm over zucchini noodles. Pair brown rice or quinoa with a grilled steak and roasted asparagus. Have a burger without the bun and baked sweet potato fries. On the South Beach Diet, you can easily sneak in those veggie servings at dinnertime. Speaking of sneaking, don’t forget that pureed soups and sauces are awesome ways to get the whole family to eat their veggies. Want lunch for the week? Double or triple your recipe and individually portion meals so you can grab a container before work and go.

6. Do Spice Things Up.

spices dinnertime

Did you know that spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants? It’s true. Some of your favorite household spices can enhance the flavor of your food without adding fat or calories and give you a nutritional boost while they’re at it. From “sweetening up” oatmeal and Geek yogurt to spicing up chili, cinnamon is one of the most versatile spices in your pantry. And, studies indicate cinnamon boosts heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to John Hopkins University. Another spice, turmeric, fights inflammation, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s and depression. Turmeric makes a terrific curry or offers even more warmth to chicken soup. What’s the best way to get the most nutrition out of your spices? Microwave, simmer or stew foods. Grilling decreases spice antioxidants.

7. Do Take It Slow.

slow eating dinnertime

Americans eat fast. We chew fast, too—if at all. And, we definitely don’t listen for our bodies to tell us that we’re full (which takes 20 full minutes), says Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. and author of Mindful Eating. Most Americans only spend 11 minutes eating at a fast-food restaurant or 13 minutes at the cafeteria at work. Yet a lot of good things happen when we stop to eat mindfully…like we burn more calories. A February 2014 Journal of Obesity study found that chewing until “no lumps remain” increases the number of calories the body burns during digestion: about 10 extra calories for a 300 calorie meal. Also, obese people tend to chew their food less than lean people do according to a September 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When asked to chew their food 40 times, both lean and obese people studied ate less and gut hormones related to hunger and satiety also improved.

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8. Do Drink Before You Eat.

drinking water dinnertime

In a study from Virginia Tech, participants who drank two, eight-ounce glasses of water before meals lost 36 percent more weight over a 12-week period than those who skipped the pre-meal beverage. If you drink a hot liquid, like tea, 60 minutes before eating, you can feel fuller faster and eat fewer calories—134 fewer, according to a 2008 study from Penn State. And if your tea is spiced with a little cinnamon, it can give you a bonus benefit: In a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cinnamon increased sugar metabolism by a factor of 20 at the next meal.