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You probably recognize the importance of eating habits when it comes to weight management, but where do you start to review your food choices? With so many ways to approach nutrition for weight loss, there’s no one approach that works for everyone. What’s most important is that you make small, manageable changes that add up over time.

If you’re not sure how to improve your eating habits to lose weight, or if you’re looking for other ideas to keep the momentum going, here are the top six eating habits to speed up weight loss.

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Protein is a macronutrient found in plant and animal food sources. This nutrient is essential for repairing and building body tissue, including muscle, and is known to create feelings of fullness that can help offset snacking and overeating.

While protein should be included with every meal, this nutrient is most often skipped at breakfast when many choose prepackaged options to go.

To aid your protein intake in the morning, keep the following items on hand for quick options: hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butter, pre-made protein shakes, protein bars, and chicken and turkey sausage that you can warm up and eat.

drink water
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It’s not uncommon to wake up dehydrated, and jumping straight into some caffeinated coffee isn’t very helpful in rebuilding your hydration for the day. Before drinking anything else or eating, try to drink at least one cup of water. You can add citrus, mint, or cucumber to it to boost the flavor, or warm it up with a big squeeze of lemon on a cold morning.

Starting your day with a glass of water will help you reach your hydration goals for the day and can offset the amount of high-calorie, high-sugar beverages you might otherwise consume, such as sugary coffee drinks, sodas, energy drinks and juices.

salmon and vegetables
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For those looking to lose weight, aiming for a half plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner is a good way to build satiety and limit overeating with higher calorie foods. Not only will eating more vegetables make you feel fuller, but it will also increase your fiber, antioxidant, and micronutrient intake.

An extra step you can take is to eat your veggies before you dive into the protein and carbs on your plate. Prioritizing vegetables will help ensure you get your half plate full and create more satiety before enjoying the other items on your plate.

fruit and mint sparkling water
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From coffee creamer and cereal to sodas and desserts, refined sugar is found in a wide variety of processed foods. While it may seem like a daunting task to get rid of all refined sugar from your diet, cutting your intake in half is a great start to reducing your intake of this less than ideal ingredient.

For example, halve the sugar in your coffee, enjoy a cookie in the evening instead of two, and swap one of your sodas for unsweetened sparkling water. These changes may seem small, but when combined and sustained over a period of time, they can significantly aid weight loss.

meal preparation
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Planning your meals for the week may seem like an extra chore that needs to be squeezed into an already busy schedule, but that hour spent planning can make the rest of your week that much smoother. Planning ahead can help reduce the number of times you eat out each week and could lead to fewer impulse purchases at the grocery store.

If you are able, you can go further and prepare some of your food for the week as well. Try cooking your grains and proteins in bulk and washing your fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks for streamlined meal prep that will help you save time during the busy work week.

oatmeal fruit berries nuts nuts
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For most people, I don’t consider a meal complete if it’s free of carbs, fats, proteins, and produce. That means a bowl of cereal for breakfast won’t be enough, and a big steak without a side dish won’t be enough either. Combining all of these food groups in a meal helps ensure you get a wide range of nutrients, combines protein and fat with carbs to help keep your blood sugar levels stable, and helps improve satiety.

Instead of a simple bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, try adding chopped nuts and berries and adding a hard-boiled egg on the side.

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These are just a few ideas to kick-start your weight loss journey. Any habit you work on improving is progress and should be celebrated. If this list looks like an overwhelming amount of changes, just pick one or two components to start with and build from there. Remember that progress is more important than perfection, so don’t get carried away if it takes time to build better habits.

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