The Best Way to Lose Weight is Through Small, Sustainable Habits

Experts agree that the best way to lose weight is through small, sustainable habits. Avoid fad diets that promise big results quickly; they’re more likely to backfire by causing you to lose muscle and water in addition to fat.

Start by logging everything you eat in a food journal or app to identify patterns that might need improvement. Also, try tracking other metrics like physical activity [PDF-51KB], sleep and emotions.

1. Eat more vegetables

Eating a lot of veggies supports weight loss because they are low in calories and full of water and fiber. The combination of these nutrients takes up space in the stomach, making you feel full and satisfied.

Try mixing spinach, scallions and avocado with eggs for a breakfast wrap. Or, make a southwestern salad with turkey sausage, beans and lettuce.

Your taste buds will adjust to liking these foods over time. You may even find you enjoy cauliflower rice or carrot cauliflower soup.

2. Eat less processed foods

It’s difficult to completely eliminate processed foods from your diet, but limiting them and replacing them with healthy options is a good way to manage your weight. Keep your fridge and cabinets stocked with easy alternatives like sliced fruits, portion-sized bags of nuts or homemade kale chips.

Processed foods often contain loads of sugar, which can lead to a rollercoaster ride of energy and disrupt hormones, such as leptin, that regulate appetite and metabolism. Instead, focus on whole foods and make your own meals as much as possible.

3. Eat more protein

Protein helps reduce hunger and cravings which can be a big obstacle when trying to lose weight. According to a 2021 study published in Advances in Nutrition, consuming protein for weight loss may work best when you are also eating less calories and exercising.

Protein has a higher thermogenic effect than carbohydrates and fat which means your body burns more calories to process it. Try adding a little more to your diet by having more protein at breakfast or using nut butters on whole grain toast or in a smoothie.

4. Eat more healthy fats

Fat seems to get the most bad press but you don’t have to avoid it altogether. Just make sure to choose good healthy fats, like olive oil, rapeseed oil and avocados as well as lean meats and skinless poultry, low-fat dairy and nuts.

Try to replace the ‘bad’ fats with good ones, keeping portion sizes small (an ounce of nuts or a teaspoon of oil). This will help you feel full and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

5. Eat less sugar

Added sugar provides empty calories with little satisfaction, and limiting it can help you reach your weight loss goals. But going cold turkey isn’t realistic for most people, so start with a goal of reducing sugar gradually.

Begin by removing processed foods from your diet, which often contain hidden sugars. Next, focus on cutting sugary beverages like sodas and juices. Finally, swap desserts for nutrient-dense fruits, whole grains and lean protein.

6. Eat more whole grains

Whole grains get a bad rap but they’re not as “bad” as refined carbohydrates (unless you over consume them). They’re high in fiber, vitamins and overall nutrients.

Try quinoa, millet and wheat berries (or buckwheat) for their fibre, low glycemic index and health-boosting minerals. Also consider trying wheat bran and rye.

Registered dietitian Jackie Ballou Erdos, MS, CDN, a fan of steel-cut oats, recommends eating them to help keep your blood sugar steady and make you feel full. Look for enriched or fortified grains.

7. Eat less alcohol

Alcohol has a lot of empty calories and if you’re not careful, can easily add up to your daily calorie limit. Plus, cocktails can be full of sugar (a typical margarita mixes up to 35 grams of sugar).

Taking a few days off from drinking can help you cultivate healthier drink habits. Tracking your drinks and food in a journal [PDF-127KB] can also help you make more mindful choices.

8. Get more sleep

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Getting less than that can wreak havoc on your hormones, sending you into Cookie Monster mode when you spot treats in the break room and hampering your ability to stick to a healthy diet.

Get more sleep by going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding caffeine and other stimulants in the afternoon. Also, be sure to exercise regularly, since it improves sleep quality.