To lose weight, make your abs pop, or maintain 7% body fat you need to dial in your nutrition. That means eating foods that keep you full, avoiding diet pitfalls, and being strategic with meal timing.
Here are 15 tips that’ll help you make the right choices from morning to night.
1. Don’t skip breakfast
Odds are you’ll grab junk food later, according to research from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Breakfast boosts dopamine, a brain chemical linked to feelings of reward, and helps fight fat and sugar cravings.
2. Drink plenty of coffee
Coffee can actually help your liver, according to the National Cancer Institute. Study subjects who drank three-plus cups a day had fewer abnormal liver enzymes than non-java drinkers.
3. Pass on orange juice
Backing off orange juice can keep your blood pressure down, per research published in the journal Appetite. People who drink at least 4 oz of the high-sugar, low-fiber juice daily have higher BP than those who drink OJ only occasionally. Fresh oranges, which are high in fiber and vitamin C, are fine, though.
4. Snack on nuts
Having a handful of almonds mid-morning can keep a lid on lunch and dinner calories, according to research published in the European Journal of Nutrition. About 1-1.5 oz should do it.
5. Meal-prep your lunch
People who brown bag their lunch can lower their BMI, per research published in the International Journal of Obesity. Eating six or more takeout meals a week leads to a higher body mass index and less good cholesterol. Portion sizes may be to blame.
6. Avoid sandwiches
If you do eat or order out, skip the sandwich. Adults who eat sandwiches (anything from turkey subs to bacon burgers) take in 300 more calories and 600mg more sodium a day, per the USDA.
7. Boost your mood with healthy food
Don’t turn your nose up at fruits and vegetables—they could improve your mood, according to research published in the BMJ Open. In a survey of 14,000 English adults, the happiest, most optimistic, most resilient subjects with the highest self-esteem and the most satisfying relationships also reported eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
8. Fill up on fiber
Eat a cup of beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils to fend off unhealthy snacking. One serving (.–1 cup) a day of these slowly digested foods, known as “pulses,” increases feelings of fullness by 31%, according to research published in the journal Obesity.
9. Eat an apple when hunger strikes
It could help fight fat, per research published in Food Chemistry. Dietary fiber promotes the growth of inflammation-fighting gut bacteria. And make it a tart Granny Smith if you can—it has more bacteria-supporting compounds than other apples.
10. Set down the soda
It speeds up cell aging as much as smoking, according to research from the University of California, San Francisco. Sugary soft drinks don’t only promote obesity, they also shorten the length of your telomeres—DNA components related to lifespan. New research found that downing a 20-oz regular soda daily adds 4.6 years to your biological age.
11. Ease up on energy drinks
They’ll make you antsy and interrupt your sleep, per research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. While they have just a modest 3–7% effect on sports performance, energy drinks increase insomnia and nervousness among athletes.
12. Opt for fish
Eating baked or broiled fish can boost your brain, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Those who eat a once-a-week serving have more gray matter in the brain’s memory and cognition areas.
13. Don’t fend off the blues with “comfort food”
Mac ’n’ cheese won’t comfort you any better than chicken and broccoli, a University of Minnesota study found. Students were shown sad film clips then fed either comfort foods or food they liked but didn’t consider “comforting.” Afterward, all subjects—no matter what they’d eaten—felt better once a few minutes had passed.
14. Unwind with red wine
It may help fight bone loss, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Resveratrol, that buzzed-about compound in red wine, grapes, cocoa, and peanuts, may stimulate bone-forming cells in men.
15. Don’t go crazy with the alcohol
Your workouts might be egging you on. People booze it up more on days they exercise, possibly as a “reward” for a hard gym session, according to Northwestern Medicine research. Something to keep in mind next time you’re patting yourself on the back.