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As much as we can all wish for a quick fix for weight loss, the reality is that weight loss is much more effective when it is the result of forming healthy habits. Sustainable practices that you can use anywhere, anytime (and continue to use over the days and years) are the real secret to losing weight.

Wondering where to start with the little changes that add up? We asked registered dietitians what habits actually work, not only to lose weight, but also to prevent weight gain in the long term. Here are their top eight tips. And once you’ve digested them, check out the best foods for weight loss, according to dietitians.

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The daily value of protein is set at 50 grams, but this is a benchmark for maintaining basic health, which is not a perfect goal for weight loss. In fact, the Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.36 grams per day (54 grams for a 150-pound person or 72 grams for a 200-pound person), and many dieticians advise you to be well. beyond these numbers to lose weight.

While it’s possible to overdo it with protein, it doesn’t happen as often as you might think.

“Although it’s often said that Americans consume too much protein on average, I rarely see this in practice,” says Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES.

Protein is known to be filling, even more so than carbohydrates or fats. So, to lose weight, don’t be afraid to increase this micronutrient in your daily diet.

“Incorporate high protein foods into a substantial part of your meals and you will definitely see the result,” says Puello.

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We all know that too much sugar is bad news for your health. Not only does a diet high in sugar cause cavities and increase the risk of heart disease, it is also a major red flag for weight gain.

According to a 2019 study, the American population consumes more than 300% of the recommended daily amount of added sugar, which likely promotes the development of obesity.

“Note the amount of added sugar in your sweet treats,” says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD. “Added sugar is found in many foods, from breads and sauces to desserts and cereals. It brings in extra calories without satisfying you, so you can easily overeat. Check your food labels to help you lose weight. “

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Here is a practical tip, literally! When trying to determine the right portions for certain foods, use your hand as a guide. As a general rule of thumb, one serving of vegetables should be as big as your fist, one serving of protein as big as your palm, one serving of fat as big as the tip of your thumb.

“This way you always have control over how much you eat, even on the go or in restaurants,” says Emma Backes, RDN, LD. “Plus, your hand is unique to yourself, so it will be a better indicator of what you specifically need.”

In addition to this nifty trick, here are 18 easy ways to control your portion sizes.

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On the other side of the sugar satiety spectrum, you’ll find vegetables. Filling up on vegetables is one piece of advice that many dieticians recommend for weight loss.

“Vegetables add fiber, which can help keep you full longer,” says Tabitha Nicholas, MS, RDN, LDN.

In addition to fiber, vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals, and even some hydration. When weight loss is your goal, try filling at least half of your plate with a rainbow of veggies, like these low-carb options.

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Diets that leave you hungry may work in the short term, but ultimately even the most iron-hungry dieter will be overwhelmed by hunger. That’s why it’s important to stay full throughout the day as part of a successful weight loss journey. Another key to staying full? Fiber.

“I like my clients to focus on fiber to keep them full,” says Jen Scheinman, MS, RDN. “I give them a list of foods high in fiber and ask them to slowly progress to 25 grams per day.”

Don’t miss our guide to the 20 Different Ways to Eat 28 Grams of Fiber a Day!

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For some people, the concept of “six small meals a day” may work well to achieve a healthy weight – and there is a wide world of snacks, bars, and smoothies to support a mini-meal regimen. Still, sitting down to three square meals a day has surprising weight loss benefits.

“I recommend eating real meals instead of small snacks throughout the day,” says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD. “Eating real meals not only helps fight hunger because you eat more food, but it also increases the likelihood that you will eat something nutritious and containing protein. Skimping on meals in the name of saving calories can backfire. “

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An important part of your weight loss journey can take place not in your mouth, but in your mind! Evidence shows that conscious awareness of your eating habits is a useful tool for eating just enough and not too much.

Lacy Ngo, MS, RDN, author of The nourishing meal builder knows firsthand the impact of mindful eating on weight loss.

“I lost 50 pounds when I started eating slowly and really enjoying my meals,” says Ngo. “I put my fork down between each bite and noticed all the flavors and textures in this bite. I didn’t pick up my fork again until I had completely finished the bite and had a sip of water. simple and effective strategy that increases the pleasure of meals and helps to lose weight. “

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Believe it or not, one of the keys to weight loss can be loosening your grip on restrictive diet.

“Being too restrictive can be a recipe for failure,” says Nicholas. “You’ll probably burn out quickly if you don’t make sustainable choices that you can live with for the long term. Food is, after all, a major source of pleasure, so go ahead and (sometimes) incorporate the more forgiving foods that bring you joy.

For even healthier eating habits, read this below: