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Durban - There is no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet, says dietitian Danielle Roberts – but if a quick fix is what you’re after, she recommends some sensible ways to help shed extra kilos and see the results in a matter of weeks.

Drink water: it lowers the amount of fat stored in your body: Your kidneys get lazy when you do not drink enough water and, as a result, give most of their unfinished work to the liver. The liver helps your body burn stored fat for energy and if it has two jobs to perform, it decreases its fat burning potential and causes you to store more fat. Drink 25-30ml per kilogram of your body weight of water.

Eat more raw fruit and vegetables: Your body has to burn a lot of calories to break down raw fruit and vegetables. Diets dominant in fruit and vegetables help you lose weight faster and maintain weight loss longer.

Do not underestimate the power of fibre: Getting more fibre in your diet can help you control weight. You will have a greater feeling of fullness and higher energy levels throughout the day if you eat meals that are mostly made up of fibre, protein and water (for example, grilled chicken with vegetables or salad). Fibre slows down the digestion of foods, keeping your energy levels stable and preventing you from getting hungry. Good sources of fibre are vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and some cereals. Fibre takes so long to be digested by your body that a person eating the recommended 20-35g of fibre a day will burn an extra 150 calories a day.

Eat more protein: Make 25-30 percent of your dietary intake protein and you will increase your metabolism, because your body has to burn a lot of energy to digest the protein. Protein speeds up your weight loss by helping you maintain (or build) lean muscle, which also raises your metabolism. The main reason people lose weight fast on high-protein diets is because protein foods suppress appetite by keeping you fuller for longer.

Drink milk: One of the most exciting conclusions in dairy research is that diets including dairy may double the rate of weight loss, especially around the stomach, as compared to diets low in diary consumption. Have two to three servings of dairy a day, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese – preferably in low-fat forms.

Do not skip breakfast: People who skip breakfast are four times more likely to be fat than people who eat breakfast. Eating breakfast in the morning kickstarts your metabolism.

Go Mediterranean: The main reason Mediterranean countries have some of the leanest people is that they eat a healthy, balanced diet. Their diets include complex carbs such as rice and other grains, pasta, potatoes, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetable and nut oils, herbs and spices. They eat fish, poultry and eggs in moderate amounts, and red meat only occasionally.

Sleep just right: Leptin is a blood protein that suppresses your appetite, and ghrelin is a hormone that makes you want to eat. When you have too little sleep, the levels of leptin in your body are decreased, and ghrelin is increased. Basically, not getting more than six hours of sleep increases your appetite, causing you to gain weight.

Eat about 1 500-2 000 calories a day: Most men and women can lose 500g to 1kg a week without feeling hungry if they eat 1 500-2 000 calories a day by choosing mainly weight-loss foods. If you cannot exercise, eat 1 200 to 1 500 calories a day, and if you are active eat 1 700 to 2 000 calories a day. Eating too few calories can scare your body into holding on to fat and decreasing metabolism in an effort to “survive”.

Follow a higher-protein diet: If you exercise three to four times a week, you need to eat more complex carbs as well as lean protein and healthy fats so that you can have extra energy to work out longer, burn more calories and lose more weight. However, if you want to lose weight without exercising, then a higher-protein, lower-carb diet (30 to 40-percent carbs) will help you lose weight faster. Eat higher carbs on your workout days to prevent loss of lean muscle mass and higher protein on your non-workout days.

Do not drink juice: It is better to eat raw fruit instead of fruit juice because fruits contain more fibre, and the juice will always contain more sugar than the actual fruit. In fact, a glass of juice has 30g (six teaspoons) of natural fruit sugar – and just like fizzy drinks, you can lose an extra half a kilogram a week by replacing juice with water.

Eat more often: It is better to eat four to six smaller, more frequent meals a day to lose weight rather than eating three larger meals. You are more likely to overeat if you wait too long between meals than if you graze every two to three hours. Studies show that people who eat more frequently are less likely to be fat. It is important to consult a dietitian to understand portion sizes, what healthy snacks to choose and timing of meals to make the most of your new healthy diet. - The Mercury

* Danielle Roberts @ Physical Impact Wellness Centre. 031 301 8810.