5 Dinnertime Diet Mistakes to Avoid

Green bean and feta salad over grey background viewed from above
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It's the end of a tough day and you're ready to unwind and have a healthy diet-friendly dinner. But instead, you fall into bad habits and make huge diet mistakes. Could common dinnertime downfalls be costing you hundreds of calories? Check this list to keep your evening meal more healthy.

Diet Mistake #1: Adding Extra Fat and Calories to Healthy Foods

What's the point 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. Your healthy salad becomes a diet nightmare when you cover it with creamy dressing.

Stop using regular salad dressing, cheese, margarine, and mayo and you'll save hundreds of calories. You might even find that you 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.

Diet Mistake #2: Cleaning Your Plate

Mom made you a 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 stop. And don't feel bad about leaving food on your plate. Simply pack it up and save it for later.

Tip: Before serving yourself a second helping of food, drink a tall glass of water.

Thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger.

Diet Mistake #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 healthy diet-friendly 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 to help curb hunger. (The more fiber you eat, the more filling that starter salad will be.) If soup is 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.

Diet Mistake #4: Avoiding Healthy Fat

Have you ever eaten a 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 or healthy oils, will inevitably leave you feeling overly hungry later.  And that's a recipe for late-night binges. Remember, fat is not the enemy.  But you choose your fats wisely and incorporate them as part of a portion-controlled, nutritious diet.

Tip: So which are the smart fats to choose? 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

Diet Mistake #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 high protein veggies.  You can even choose a healthy diet-friendly steak on your diet.

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

Remember, we all make diet mistakes at some point in the weight loss process. But if you can stay smart and level headed at dinner time, you set yourself up for a satisfying and diet-friendly meal.

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