• Downsize your plate. Dinner plates once measured 7 to 9 inches across. Now they're a super-size 11 to 13 inches. The problem? "Studies show that people simply fill their plates with more food to make up the difference," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dee Sandquist. She suggests getting smaller dinnerware or switching to salad plates for everyday use. Then mentally divide the plate into quarters and fill two with fruits and vegetables, one with whole grains, and the last with protein.
• Request a doggie bag.When dining out, remove a fourth of your order and put it into a take-out container, suggests Dr. Irving Kent Loh, medical director of the Ventura Heart Institute. You'll avoid unnecessary calories and have a ready-made lunch for later.
• Fuel for the road. For your next drive, pack finger foods such as celery sticks and peanut butter, or raisins and unsalted nuts ― "anything to keep you from stopping at fast-food restaurants along the way," Loh says. He likes to nibble on high-protein soybeans (edamame).
• Foil the snack machine. At the end of the day, put your loose change and dollar bills into a container. Tomorrow you won't have cash to feed the vending machine, but you will have the beginnings of a nice piggy bank at home. Use it to stock up on better between-meal foods such as low-fat cheese, fat- and sugar-free yogurt, mini rice cakes, fruit, nuts, or light microwave popcorn.
• Get some sleep. Researchers are looking at a possible link between chronic lack of sleep and escalating rates of obesity, citing a study that found subjects who slept fewer than four hours each night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who slept for seven to nine hours a night. Possible culprits include two appetite-regulating hormones that are altered in sleep-deprived subjects.
• Consult your wallet. You're feeling pleasantly full after dinner out at a new restaurant, but are tempted when the server asks if you saved room for dessert. Strengthen your resolve by tapping your inner penny-pincher. That heavy dessert not only packs on the calories, it also fattens your bill.
• Take 10 minutes. If you're not active already, start today by walking for just 10 minutes, suggests the American Heart Association in its new book, The No-Fad Diet (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2005; $25). Do it again tomorrow. Work up to 20-minute walks three or four days a week, and continue to add walking time until you've met your activity goal. Keep a diary, and reward yourself (buy a book or download a song) for sticking with a plan.