By Ryan Halvorson
No-brainer: Unless you’re a stick-thin 15-year-old boy like I was 20 years ago, food is paramount for fat loss.

It’s simple, really. Eat high-quality foods in moderate amounts and lose fat, right? In theory this works. But in practice, it’s some of the worst advice out there because it’s so difficult to do. We’ve got nasty cravings and shit for willpower (It’s not your fault, by the way. Science says so). Pepper in ads of hot models gorging on juicy hamburgers, junk food-laden checkout counters, busy lives and you’re up against some tremendous odds that make it almost impossible to eat well all the time.

So, to make it easier for you I’ve compiled a short list of food hacks that will help you kill your cravings, lighten your caloric load and simplify the food prep process.

1. Switch Your Sweetener. I love me some coffee, but unlike my dad, I can’t drink the stuff straight up. Since college I’ve been sweetening up my go-juice with sugar. Groan, I know. The stuff will kill ya, right? Well, I figured it was the better of available evils. The jury’s still out on what those lab-fab additives will do to your insides so I figured I’d focus on something more natural. It turns out there’s a better choice: Stevia. And it grows outside, not in a test tube. Still relatively new to the market, this no-calorie sweetener is 300 times more potent than sugar so you don’t have to load up on it. Some also say that it helps with appetite suppression. Win, win.
The drawback is that it’s not usually available in restaurants or the local coffee hut so I always keep a few packets on me when my coffee craving hits. Like any other sweet item, it’s best to keep stevia consumption to a minimum.

2. Go Cuckoo for Cacao Powder. If you’re like me, nothing sounds more appealing than some sort of sweet snack after a long day’s work. One of the best foods to suppress those cravings is the super powerful, anti-oxidant rich and healthy raw, organic cacao powder. If you always find yourself circling your coworker’s treat bowl around 2, head to the break room at 1:50. Boil up some water, throw in a couple spoons of the powder and give your cravings the finger. When it comes to hot drinks I’m of the English/Irish variety so I take mine with a bit of stevia, almond milk, and cinnamon.

3. Simplify Veggie Prep. I hate salads. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word and it’s not really the salad that I hate. It’s the prep. While all the chopping, mincing and dicing helps up my caloric expenditure, the amount of food prep required for a meal is always linked with my willingness to complete it. And I’ll own the fact that I will sometimes order a pizza—and wait nearly an hour for it to arrive—before I’ll take 20 minutes to chop vegetables. Judge me. I don’t care. Fortunately I found a solution. Pre-sliced, pre-washed broccoli coleslaw. Simply open the bag, pour onto a plate and add a little balsamic vinaigrette. I’ll even eat it right out of the bag. Screw the dishes! This little find is single-handedly responsible for the significant uptick in the amount of veggies I get into my body.

4. Pair It With a Protein. Of all the macronutrients out there, protein offers the best option for long-term feelings of fullness. So if you want to feel fuller, longer, make sure that each time you eat you include some protein. But don’t be drawn in by certain foods that masquerade as proteins like nuts and beans. Nuts are essentially fats and beans are starches.

5. Cut Starchy Carbs With Cauliflower. I’m Irish and yes, I’m going to concede to the stereotype. I love me my potatoes. Especially when they’re mashed. They’re so creamy and hearty and satisfying. I could literally sit down with a mixing bowl of the stuff and eat them until I fall into a starchy carb coma. But I don’t do that because they make it difficult to drop the lbs. If you love your spuds like I do, try switching them out for cauliflower, which is a non-starch, fat-loss-friendly vegetable. They taste almost the same as mashed potatoes.

Here’s a recipe I found on the Internet. I’m not a chef and don’t make up recipes so I freely steal them from others who have a better grasp on what they’re doing in the kitchen.

Simple tweaks to your food choices can make all the difference. The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice your enjoyment of food while trying to drop fat.

What food tweaks work wonders for you? Post your ideas below, or in the comments section on Facebook.

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