If you are looking to lose weight, you know that it can be really challenging. And that’s mostly because making changes is never easy—especially when it involves one of life’s greatest pleasures: food.
When it comes to weight loss there is no one-size-fits plan, but some strategies tend to be more successful than others in helping clients achieve their goals. So I asked 16 of my dietitian colleagues for their top weight-loss tips. Here’s what they said:
1. Stop focusing on what you shouldn’t do.
“Throw out the old diet and weight loss mentality, and focus on all the wonderful foods you can eat, activities you can do, and how they will benefit you.”
— Abigail Joy Dougherty, RDN, LDN
2. And write your meals down or record them in an app.
“Research shows that people who track their food intake and activity levels lose more weight and keep it off. I get that keeping track of everything you eat and drink can be a daunting task, especially if you have busy days, so I tell my clients to focus on the moments when temptation is at its highest. If you can write down what you are about to eat and how you feel during these moments, you may gain insight into your eating habits and be surprised to find yourself reconsidering your decisions.”
— Maxine Yeung, RD, CPT, and owner of The Wellness Whisk
3. Try using the hunger scale before and after your meals.
“When you measure hunger and fullness levels think of using a scale of 0-10, with 10 being when you feel absolutely stuffed. Start your meal at a hunger level of about 3 or 4, and stop at a fullness level of 6 or 7.”
— Emma Fogt MBA, MS, RDN, FAND
4. Treat breakfast as the most important meal of the day.
“In my practice, I urge my clients to focus on a protein-rich breakfast, aiming for 25-30 grams of protein in the meal. Research supports the idea that a protein-rich breakfast can help to improve satiety and curb hunger, leading to an overall decreased caloric intake throughout the day. My favorite breakfast recommendation is a quinoa breakfast bowl or baked egg quiche paired with half an avocado.”
— Emily Cope, MS, RDN, and owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition
5. And while you’re at it, make breakfast your biggest meal of the day.
“Eat a big breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner. The bulk of calories and (healthy) carbs should be consumed by the afternoon. Eating a big, carb heavy breakfast is satisfying and prevents afternoon and evening snacking.”
— Diane Lindsay Adler, MS, RDN for Children and Women’s Physicians of Westchester
6. Avoid eating in front of screens.
“This habit interferes with your ability to sense fullness andsatiety, which, in turn, often leads to overeating.”
— Janice Baker, MBA, RD, CDE, CNSC, BC-ADM
7. Don’t forget to eat a LOT of fruits and vegetables.
“Plan to eat nine fruits and veggies every day (so for example, four fruits and five veggies). Every meal and snack should include a fruit and/or veggie. The increased fiber intake keeps you feeling full longer.”
— Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles, MS, RDN, CSSD
8. And hydrate before your meals.
“Drinking water before a meal has the same effect as eating a water-rich plate of salad—it fills you up, helping you to eat less.”
— Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition
9. But don’t forget to indulge a little.
“If you want to lose the weight and then keep it off, allow for two indulgences per week in your routine. Now, when I say indulgence, I mean an ice cream cone, a slice of cake, a slice of pizza, or a burger. The key to making these work for you is to keep those indulgences within one meal, not an entire day. If you can do this and stick to two per week while keeping the rest of your week healthy and balanced, you’ve got a good handle on losing weight healthfully.”
— Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, owner of Lauren Minchen Nutrition and Golda Bar
10. And eat often—aim for every three to five hours.
“Infrequent meals can cause your blood sugar to tank, leading to excessive hunger. This can increase the likelihood that you’ll eat too much and, perhaps, not make the best choice. Eating every three to five hours will keep you fueled and your blood glucose stable.”
— Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN, and CEO of The Trim Traveler
11. Add greens to (almost) everything.
“Green vegetables are low in calories and fat, but also high in fiber which helps keep you full. However many people take these plants for granted because they can have a bitter taste. But try adding them to a smoothie, salad, or any meal!”
— Kathy Brown, RDN, LDN, and registered yoga instructor
12. And try eating snacks that have a shell.
“Several recent studies indicate individuals who choose foods that remain in the shell (such as nuts) may consume less calories during snack-time. Splitting each individual nut helps to provide pacing between bites, and the perceived extra volume of the entire food may also play a role in saving a few calories.”
— Kristen Smith, RDN, LD, and founder of 360 Family Nutrition
13. Find a buddy to keep you motivated.
“Grab a friend or family member who will hold you accountable to your goals and commitments. Plan to check in at the end of every day (texting, phone calls, emails…whatever is most convenient for you) with three key points: what went well that day, what temptations or weaknesses you faced (if applicable), and what you want to try to improve tomorrow.”
— Jillian O’Neil, RD
14. And try serving foods on smaller dishware.
“It’s so simple, yet something [my clients] never think of on their own. Visual cues like a smaller plate can trick our minds into thinking we are eating more while actually eating smaller portions.”
— Lindsey Pine MS, RDN, CSSD, CLT and owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition
15. It’s really important to be patient and realistic.
“Weight loss takes time. Unfortunately, with all the reality weight loss shows, we forget that those weight loss stories aren’t ‘reality.’ Look beyond the scales and think of other changes going on. Are your clothes fitting better? Are you able to walk a little further? Are you off any medications?”
— Erin McNamara, RDN, LD
16. And finally … treat yourself with compassion.
“Before eating, ask yourself what you really need and whether food is going to provide that. If food is just what you need because you’re starving or upset or because it smells great, figure out ahead of time how much you’ll need to satisfy that need without going overboard.”
— Jamie M. Marchetti, MS, RDN, LD