Health & Wellness

Outsmart sneaky diet traps: 9 slimming tricks to try at work, at home and on the go

When it comes to eating healthy and losing weight, odds are you know the basics: Eat fruits and veggies. Keep portion sizes reasonable. Enjoy junk food in moderation.

In practice, though? Whole different story. Unwanted diet temptations are everywhere, making it tough to pare pounds or keep the scale steady. So TODAY nutritionist and registered dietitian Joy Bauer stopped by the show Wednesday to share some simple strategies for staying on track.

Obstacle 1: A night on the town
At the bar, your pals are ordering frozen margaritas. At dinner, you're tempted to devour it all, from the warm rolls to tiramisu. What to do? 

Smart saves:

  • Exercise beforehand. This mind trick will prime you to make healthy food and drink choices throughout the night. “You’re not going to want to erase all of that great work that you’ve done,” Bauer explained.
  • Read the restaurant’s menu online. Scope out a healthful selection in advance and "set it in stone," Bauer said. Coming to the table with a plan will make you less apt to order that beer-braised pork-belly special.
  • Skip bread in favor of dessert. Starting with a combo of empty carbs and butter means filling up fast — and potentially crowding out more nutritious foods in your entree. Nourish yourself first, then enjoy a treat if you still have room, Bauer advised. 
  • Cushion cocktails with water. Stick to one drink if possible, and choose a diet-friendly libation like wine, or vodka with club soda, Bauer said. Want another round? Sip a glass of water first to keep from getting tipsy — and avoid getting the munchies.
No need to table your fun night out; just make a game plan to keep your healthy diet on track.

Obstacle 2: Weekend downtime
For many of us, Saturday and Sunday mean lots of casual socializing — not to mention unstructured hours of noshing as we happily binge-watch on the couch.

Smart saves:

  • Build in wiggle room. "No one should be perfect 24/7," Bauer said. Her advice: Consider your weekend plans and pick two times to loosen your diet rules. For instance, maybe you'd like to celebrate your kid's soccer game with ice cream, or enjoy a nice bowl of cheesy popcorn on family movie night. In a mix of otherwise healthful choices, a treat or two at specified times won't set you back.
  • Try one new healthy thing. Without the scheduling stresses of work and school, weekends are a great time to experiment in the kitchen, Bauer noted. Hit your local farmers market or cruise through the supermarket produce aisle and grab a fruit or veggie you haven't tried before. You may discover a new star for your healthy diet!
  • Stash emergency snacks. Running lots errands or chauffeuring the kids hither and yon? Don't rely on fast-food joints or gas-station mini marts to tide you over 'til meal time. Prep healthy snacks at home and toss 'em in your bag, Bauer suggested. Great portable picks include homemade trail mix (unsweetened dried fruit with toasted nuts), string cheese, and fruits like apples and grapes.
Bauer said weekend "wiggle room" can be part of a weight-loss plan.

Obstacle 3: Office life 
Even if you pack a nutritious brown-bag lunch, the workplace can trip up your diet with everything from random birthday cakes to crazy-busy days. 

Smart saves:

  • Remind yourself to eat. Set an alert on your smartphone or desktop calendar for lunch and snack times (ideally mid-morning and mid-afternoon). "A lot of us get stuck on the computer, and all of a sudden it's 2 o'clock," Bauer said. At that point, you're ravenous — and scooping handfuls of M&Ms from the front-desk candy jar.
  • Tweak your takeout menus. Order lunch often? Use a dark marker to cross out the items on delivery menus you don't want to eat (outta sight, outta mind, chicken parm wedge). Then, highlight the healthy options (hello, white bean-escarole soup!) to make smart choices a cinch.