6 Easy Diet Tips from Around the World

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Eating healthy is a challenge. In a recent study, 52% of Americans stated that they felt it was easier doing taxes than figuring out the best diet tips to reach and stay at a healthy weight. Part of the problem is the culture we live in. We are bombarded with messages such as bigger and faster are better. Other countries make nutrition messages much simpler to understand – and they are healthier because of it.

Losing weight should not involve starvation diet plans, skipping meals, or hours each day in the gym. While you may not lose 30 pounds in 30 days, just making a few healthful lifestyle changes can be all you need to get more fit. Here are some tips from around the world on how to eat healthfully, yet still enjoy your favorite foods:

1. Eat at Home More Often Than You Eat Out (Poland)
Did you know that 20% of all American meals are eaten in the car? At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day, spending 10% of their disposable income on the fare each year.

Overall, Americans spend an average of 37% of their food budget on eating out, compared with only 5% among Poles. Restaurants in the States are notorious for serving oversize, calorie- and fat-laden portions. By eating our meals at home, we not only have much more control over the ingredients we put in our mouths, but we also save money and get to spend quality time with our families.

2. Don’t Skip Breakfast (Germany)
A study by Missouri University researchers found that when you skip breakfast, brain activity in certain portions of the brain increase, causing you to be more likely to overeat later in the day. Those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight because of this.

Eating a healthful, well-balanced breakfast—such as a hard-boiled egg, whole-grain toast, and fruit—jump-starts our metabolism and satisfies our brains’ reward centers, making us less likely to succumb to the desire to indulge in high-calorie food later.

3. Make Lunch, Not Dinner, the Biggest Meal of the Day (Europe and Mexico)
There is a saying – “Eat Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper.” The goal is to eat bigger meals during the time of the day when you are most active.

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The typical meal pattern in the US is to skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and then splurge on a huge dinner. But having a big meal shortly before bedtime doesn’t do our metabolism any favors. On the contrary, any extra calories we ingest at that hour get stored as fat. Rather than consuming the bulk of your calories in the evening, start the day with a light, sensible breakfast and treat yourself to a hearty lunch, followed by a light dinner, as people do in most Latin and European countries. That way, you’ll maximize your body’s fat-burning potential and wake up hungry, ready to supercharge your system with a morning meal.

4. Eat Slowly and Enjoy Yourself (France, Italy)
A mere 28% of American families eat together each night, compared with 92% of French families. Taking time to relish one another’s company over a nutritious meal is good for both the soul and the body. Not only will you bond with your loved ones, but you’ll also experience fullness earlier and therefore consume fewer calories. Plus, families who eat together are more likely to choose healthier foods. A London study found that having a family dinner increases the likelihood of kids eating their fruits and veggies.

Make dinnertime a family affair to look forward to—not just something you squeeze in between work and TV time—and you’ll see the results reflected in your scale.

5. Stop Eating Before You’re Full (Japan)
The Okinawans have perfected a calorie-control system that they call hara hachi bu: it means eating until you’re only 80 percent full. The logic behind this tactic is that habitually eating until you’re extremely full will cause your stomach to stretch and therefore require greater quantities of food to achieve satisfaction. By learning to leave the table at the moment when the first feelings of fullness begin, you’ll keep your total daily caloric consumption to a minimum. The Japanese are reaping the rewards of this practice: their average body mass index is only 21.5, as opposed to American adults’ 28.

How do you know when you are full? Use The Hunger Scale to find the perfect spot between hungry and stuffed.

6. Stretch Your Legs and Arms (The Netherlands)
Americans are more apt to be sedentary in their daily lives. We jump in our cars to go less than a mile down the street, we sit on the couch after dinner and watch TV, and we work all day behind our desks without enjoying the occasional walk break. Other countries are more likely to be more active.

In the Netherlands, for example, there are more bicycles than people, and 54 percent of Dutch cyclists use them for daily activities. An average-size adult pedaling at a moderate pace can burn around 550 calories per hour. At this rate, doing nothing else, you could potentially lose one pound per week.

Take frequent stretch breaks during the day, walk after dinner or play outdoor games with the family, and visit a park on the weekend. Do more gardening (if you enjoy it) or join a yoga class. Find ways each day to sneak in some activity and you will soon see yourself much more fit and healthy.

References:
Care2 - 13 Healthy Diet Habits From Around the World
Do Something - 11 Facts About American Eating Habits

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