Many runners would like to lose a pound or 2. Maybe 5. Maybe more. Why? That's easy: to feel better, look better, improve their health, and run farther and faster.
However, losing weight can be surprisingly difficult. In fact, national health surveys show Americans in general are getting fatter. Sure, regular runners should be ahead of the pack, but many are still losing the weight-gain war.
What you need is a simple plan. Here it is, in just two parts: (1) Make a little more time to run; (2) Concentrate on a handful of dietary changes that, over the course of a year, can produce significant weight-loss results.
Below we've listed 20 great diet changes that you'll find easy to achieve. Many of them will help you cut 100 calories or more from a single serving. Now do the math. Say you eat this particular food or meal three times a week. That's 100 x 3 x 52, or 15,600 calories saved in a year. Which comes to almost 5 pounds, since you'll lose one pound for every 3,500 calories cut from your food intake.
Make another food substitution, and you're up to 10 pounds. Beyond that, the sky's the limit. Here's your meal-by-meal planner. Don't skip breakfast. A good breakfast is the most crucial part of any healthy weight-loss effort, as it revs up your energy level and metabolism for the full day.
Homemade raisin bran
Description: Mix one cup of Total cereal, a packet of raisins, and 1 cup nonfat milk. This simple home recipe with 244 calories fortifies you with 100 percent of the Daily Value for most vitamins and minerals, boosts your protein intake by 12 grams, and gives you a sweet, natural fiber and sugar source.
You'll Save: 50 calories, 6 teaspoons of sugar, and 5 grams of fat compared with ready-to-serve raisin bran doused with a cup of 2-percent milk.
Scrambled whites with greens
Description: This low-fat, scrambled-egg alternative provides 54 grams of high-quality dietary protein in just 255 calories. First, spray your frying pan with fat-free Pam. Then pour the equivalent of four servings of Eggology egg whites (or Second Nature or Egg Beaters egg whites) in a bowl and blend with 1/2 cup spinach and 1/2 cup mushrooms. Heat the pan until the Pam starts to bubble, pour in the eggs, and fry until the eggs are nearly dry.
You'll Save: 40 calories, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, and 13 grams of fat compared with two normal scrambled eggs.
Balanced Diet Shake
Description: For something cool, tasty, and nutrient-filled in the morning, try a shake or smoothie. The Balanced Diet nutritional drink provides 180 calories with lots of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in a naturally flavored French vanilla or chocolate royale. Each serving includes 5 grams of dietary fiber and 10 grams of soy, or 40 percent of the daily minimum now recommended by the American Heart Association.
You'll Save: 60 calories daily and nearly 6 grams of fat compared with many other similar drinks.
Frozen fruit smoothie
Description: You can prepare your own personal antioxidant-filled fruit smoothie like the following one that runner Bruce Shapiro used to lose 30 pounds over the last few years. Combine and blend: one cup frozen, unsweetened blueberries; 1/2 banana; 1/4 cup wheat germ; and water.
You'll Save: 200 calories for each 2- to 3-cup serving, compared with many store-bought and canned smoothie beverages.
Toasted plain Lender's Bagel with natural jam
Description: Sure, a frozen bagel can't match a fresh one, but it's easier to obtain for many people, and a little toasting brings it to near perfection. Just spread with your favorite natural jam.
You'll Save: Anywhere from 160 to 360 calories and more than 10 grams of fat compared with similar bagels bought at Dunkin' Donuts and other outlets where the bagels are spread with cream cheese.
Lunch is the second-most-important meal of the day in your weight-loss plan. It boosts your energy level and regulates your metabolism to keep you on an even keel.
Boca Burger Grilled Vegetable burger
Description: This zesty, soy-based vegetarian alternative to the high-saturated-fat American BBQ staple contains hints of zucchini, red-bell pepper, garlic, onion, and even a couple of cheeses. It tastes great and provides a good dose of protein. Add some lettuce, tomato, ketchup, or your other favorite toppings, and you'll hardly notice the difference from the traditional burger.
You'll Save: Up to 180 calories and 19 grams of fat compared with a typically-grilled 3-ounce beef burger.
Alvarado Street sprouted wheat tortilla
Description: It's easy to make your own delicious wrap and save hundreds of calories. With this tasty, organic, whole-wheat tortilla you'll have no trouble fixing a quick, hearty lunch. Boost your vitamin and mineral intake by loading on a handful of greens, shredded carrots, tomato, and peppers along with grilled chicken, lean meat, turkey, or a bean-based filler.
You'll Save: Anywhere from 50 calories and 5 grams of fat to much more if you customarily buy a commercial wrap drowning in mayo, oily toppings, or greasy chicken.
Subway roast beef sub sandwich
Description: Can't live without meat? You don't have to. Meat is a great source of protein, iron, and several important minerals, and the Subway lean 6-inch roast beef sub contains just 264 calories and 4.5 grams of fat in a meal perfectly balanced with lettuce, tomato, and vegetables.
You'll Save: Nearly 100 calories and 12 grams of fat compared with a tuna salad sub, and more than 20 grams of fat compared with the classic meatball sub.
Health Valley chili
Description: The right soup is always a great part of your weight-loss arsenal. This can of fat-free chili is tasty, easy to prepare, and filled with healthy fiber.
You'll Save: 200 calories and 22 grams of fat compared with other prepared and restaurant chilis.
Tossed salad with croutons instead of salad dressing.
Description: You know that green salads make an important contribution to your day's eating, but you've probably never thought of them as an expression of art and adventure. Here's your chance. Instead of drenching your salads in high-fat dressings, decorate them with croutons, beans, or fruit.
You'll Save: 100 calories and 28 grams of fat when you add 1 ounce of croutons and 1/2 cup of beans, peas, and raisins to your salad in place of 1 ounce of an oil-based dressing. You'll also increase your intake of iron, folic acid, Vitamin C, and fiber.