1. Stay hydrated
Hydration is the first rule of good nutrition. You can technically last weeks without food but just days without water. It’s also one of the easiest, yet more effective tips, given that research has found increasing your daily water intake may help with weight loss.
Start your day with a large glass of water, before any food, tea or coffee, and then continue to take sips throughout the day. Keep your water in sight, too – remember out of sight is out of mind!
2. Have breakfast
Having breakfast has been shown to not only help you make better food choices later in the day, but also supports your metabolism and blood sugar balance. Both of these may help with weight loss. Choose wisely though – opt for non-refined carbs and be sure to include some protein, such as an egg.
Take a look at our low-carb breakfast recipes.
3. Hold the coffee until after breakfast
Drinking coffee on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, may cause a spike in cortisol (the hormone that manages stress), and blood sugar (glucose), both of these affect your energy and metabolism. That said, a cup of black coffee after breakfast helps to slow down glucose production which may mean you produce fewer fat cells.
4. Every time you eat, have protein
When you eat protein (like eggs, meat, dairy, nuts and legumes), it takes the body longer to turn it into glucose than simple carbs (such as white flour, bread and pasta) – that’s because simple carbs are already a form of sugar. Therefore, having protein every time you eat provides the body with steadier blood sugar control, greater satiety and reduced sugar cravings. This means you’re more likely to eat less throughout the day, which will help with your weight loss goals.
These high-protein recipes are perfect for increasing protein in your meals.
5. Chew food well
Chewing is the very first step in the digestive process, but all too often we eat too quickly, especially when we’re distracted or eating ‘on the hoof’. When you don’t chew your food properly, you put extra strain on your digestive system causing symptoms such as bloating, it also means you’re more likely to overeat as you don’t give the brain time to register when you’re full.
Aim to eat in a relaxed manner, away from distractions and take your time to really savour your food.
6. Add more healthy fats to your diet
While fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, adding healthy fats to your diet may reduce sugar cravings and give a greater sense of satisfaction, thereby supporting healthy weight loss. Beneficial fats include those found in nuts, seeds, oily fish, olive oil and avocado.
These recipes contain healthy fats, as well as fibre and protein.
7. Always use a knife and fork
Using cutlery to eat, rather than your hands, means you’ll naturally eat slower. You’re also more likely to eat less as you have to pay more attention to the process of cutting and chewing your food.
Always put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls to slow things down; this allows you to notice when you may be full. It’s better than cutting the next mouthful when you haven’t finished the one before.
8. Never eat at your desk or in front of the TV
You may be blessed with the ability to multi-task but believe it or not, your brain cannot concentrate on sending emails or watching the latest boxset at the same time as concentrating on what you’re eating. When you eat distracted, you’re more likely to overeat or feel hungry again soon afterwards, as your brain has not had the chance to recognise the important signs of fullness.
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9. Don’t skip meals
We are all prone to thinking that if we eat less, we’ll lose weight, but skipping meals can lead to overeating at your next meal. This is because your blood sugar levels drop too low, leaving you ‘hangry’, so by the time you do have your next meal you’re so ravenous you’re more likely to overeat.
10. Go for a walk after meals
Walking at a brisk speed for 30 minutes, as soon as possible after lunch or dinner, leads to greater weight loss for some people, than walking for 30 minutes an hour after a meal has been consumed.
11. Fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast
Giving your body a break from food is important when it comes to your health and losing weight. Aim to have a minimum 12 hours natural fast between dinner and breakfast. So, if you have dinner at 8pm, try not to eat breakfast until 8am the next day.
12. Choose wholefoods
While life can get busy, opting for wholefoods over those that are processed or ready-made can help with weight loss. Processed and pre-packaged foods often contain less fibre and nutrients while having more calories, salt and sugar, all of which may cause you to eat more throughout the day.
13. Cut down on artificial sweeteners
Don’t be fooled by products that claim to have ‘no added sugar’, these products often contain artificial sweeteners instead. Research has found that sweeteners will not only keep your tastebuds sweet, thus increasing sugar cravings, they can also make you feel hungry and lead to you eating more food overall.
14. Ask yourself why you’re eating
If you’re tired, stressed or upset, it’s easy to turn to food to make yourself feel better, even though you may not actually be hungry. This can often happen in the evening after a long day.
So, if you find yourself wanting to eat, even though you’ve already had dinner, stop and ask yourself why? There might be a non-food alternative, such as a bath, an early night or chat with a friend that may help you feel better.
15. Practice daily meditation
Meditation has a number of weight loss benefits. Practising daily may help reduce stress and anxiety, allowing you to cope better and not turn to food as a treat or comfort. Meditation may also help with feelings of low self-esteem as well as making you more aware of those unhelpful habits or behaviours in a calm way.
16. Fill up on fibre
Fibre, quite simply, helps fill you up. When you have more fibre in your diet from foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans and lentils, they offer greater satiety. Feeling fuller for longer will help you eat less throughout the day.
Try one of our high-fibre recipes to increase your daily intake.
17. Use smaller bowls and plates
One of the biggest challenges with weight loss is portion size. Using smaller bowls and plates will help you naturally reduce your portion size, as long as you don’t go back for seconds and thirds.
Remember, the bigger the plate the bigger the meal!
18. Reduce or stop alcohol
Alcohol contains empty calories, which means that you can easily undo all of your good work. In addition, alcohol changes the way in which your body burns fat as your body becomes more focused on breaking down and detoxifying the alcohol instead. This can make it harder and take you longer to lose weight.
Read our guide to understand the calories in your favourite tipple.
19. Keep a food diary
At the start of your weight loss programme, it can help to keep a food diary. Emma White, nutritionist at Nutracheck, explains that: “Monitoring what you’re eating and drinking helps you see the balance of your diet and spot where some changes can be made. You may notice certain foods where you can reduce portion sizes for easy wins, or spot where additional healthy foods can be added.”
20. Move more
The good news is, when it comes to weight loss, you don’t have to start training for a marathon or hit the gym. Just moving more in your everyday life will help with your weight loss, increase motivation and make you feel good.
Any movement or exercise triggers a release of endorphins that allow you to feel happier, as well as helping you burn a few more calories. Activities may include walking, housework and gardening.
21. Build muscle
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means that muscle burns more calories. You can build muscle using your own body weight, such as by doing push-ups, or lifting weights.
Aim to include two to three weight training or resistance training workouts in your week.
22. Don’t binge on the boxset
Being sedentary for too long, like bingeing the latest boxset, has been directly related to weight gain, especially if you like to have snacks while you watch.
Try not to watch episodes back-to-back, or perhaps go for a walk in between.
23. Manage your stress
Stress has a physical effect on the body as well as a mental impact on how you feel. When you’re stressed, the body releases cortisol, a hormone which has a direct impact on blood glucose levels. This can contribute to weight gain.
What works to manage stress levels will be unique to you, read our expert guide for some tried and tested methods.
Going shopping when you’re hungry will mean you’re more likely to end up in the ‘carbohydrate aisle’. Grabbing something quick and easy or to eat on your way home will lead to extra calories and weight gain.
25. Ditch the scales
Weighing yourself more than once a month is an unhelpful behaviour which can alter your food choices in the day. If you step on the scales and the number isn’t what you want to see, despite your best intentions, this may lead you to skipping meals or even comfort eating – neither of which tune into your hunger cues.
Your weight may also fluctuate by several pounds during the day (and at different points in your menstrual cycle), this means weighing yourself too often is not an accurate way to assess whether you’re losing weight.
26. Take body measurements and photographs
Noticing how your body is changing is a much healthier and better tool for monitoring weight loss. When you start a weight loss programme, measure different parts of your body such as chest, hips, and thighs, as well as take full-length photographs of your body from all sides. Then, every 4-6 weeks, repeat the process so you can compare like for like. You will more accurately assess your progress and the physical changes that aren’t always reflected on the scales, such as an increase in heavier muscle.
27. There’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” foods
The minute you label a food, such as cakes and biscuits, as “bad” you’re more likely to crave them more. Eventually, willpower will give in, and you’re more likely to overeat your “bad foods”.
Focus instead on eating well 80 per cent of the time and don’t worry about the occasional piece of cake. This builds a much healthier relationship with food and you’re more likely to create lasting behavioural changes as result.
Read more about the 80:20 way of eating.
28. Have a glass of water 30 minutes before meals
A 2010 study found that over a 12-week period, individuals who followed a calorie restricted diet and drank a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal lost 44 per cent more weight than those who only followed the calorie restricted diet.
29. Take the stairs
It can be quite convenient to use the lift or elevator when you’re out and about or at work, but try climbing the stairs more. This will help you burn more calories during the day and improve your muscle strength, too, which is good news for your metabolism as well as your fitness. It’ll also up your step count.
30. Get inspired
Whether it’s watching a film that inspires you, creating a vision board using cuttings from magazines or social media platforms like Pinterest, when we feel inspired by others, we’re more likely to take action ourselves.
31. No naked carbs
This means never eat carbohydrates on their own. Always eat them with healthy fats or protein to ensure that you feel fuller for longer and more in control of your blood sugar. The danger with naked carbs is you could end up craving more sugar or eating more throughout the day.
32. Focus on nutrient density rather than calories
While calorie counting may help some people with weight loss, it’s not a perfect science. Calories do not take into account the nutrient density or values of a food. For example, 100 calories of vegetables will fill you up for longer and provide more vitamins and fibre than 100 calories of biscuits which could leave you hungry very soon after eating.
Read more about how many calories you should eat a day.
33. Say no to the bread basket
If you eat out, say no to the bread basket. It’s very easy to begin grazing on carb-heavy bread while you wait for your meal to arrive, plus you’ll likely eat all of your meal too – which of course adds to your overall calories.
34. Ditch the fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks are high in sugar which means more calories. Swap for sparkling water that you flavour with fresh fruit, such as lemon or lime, or opt for good old-fashioned tap water.
Even diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners that may disrupt your hunger signals and make you prone to eat more.
35. Have a protein-based snack in the afternoon
Most of us need a snack in the afternoon as the gap between lunch and dinner may be 6-7 hours. This is a long time for your body to go without food, especially if you’re active or at work. Even if your work is at a desk your brain uses a lot of energy when you’re concentrating. Going hungry will cause blood sugar levels to drop, which may make us feel more stressed, causing cortisol levels to spike, and potentially lead to weight gain.
Having a protein-based snack mid-afternoon keeps blood sugar levels stable and provides the fuel your body needs to get you through the afternoon without gaining extra weight.
Check out these protein-based snack ideas.
36. Shop for one
It can seem like a better bargain to buy family or sharing packs, but this only leads to more temptation or overeating. Where possible, buy foods that come in single servings or portions unless, of course, you do have a large family to feed.
37. Get a good night’s sleep
Poor sleep disrupts both cortisol and blood glucose levels. When you wake tired in the morning, you’re more likely to want ‘sugar’ or carbs to give you energy, as well as comfort. Or you may find that you hit the caffeine first to ‘get you going’ – all of which can contribute to weight gain.
Read more about why you may feel tired all the time.
38. Take a vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D is known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’, but you can become deficient especially if you spend a lot of time indoors, wear lots of SPF or have darker skin. A vitamin D deficiency may also increase your risk of obesity. Research suggests that those who supplement with vitamin D may have a lower waist to hip circumference, suggesting they are a healthier weight.
UK Government guidelines suggest we all consider taking a daily supplement of 10mcg between late September and early April.
39. Avoid added sugar
Most of us consume too much sugar in our diet and sugar is empty calories which means it offers no nutritional value. Significantly reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet may help with weight loss.
The types of sugar we are advised to cut back on are called ‘free’ sugars and include: honey, agave syrup, caster sugar, brown sugar and fruit juice. There’s no need to avoid the natural sugars found in fruit, as these come with extra benefits of vitamins, minerals and all-important fibre.
40. Add omega-3 to your diet
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which the body cannot make itself. This means we need to get our omega-3 from food, or supplements. Omega-3 is mainly found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies, but there are also some plant-based sources, including chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
Adding omega-3 to your diet appears to improve metabolism, which in turn helps reduce weight gain.
41. Eat soup
Soups are both filling and nutrient dense. They may help with weight loss as they’re lower in calories and often higher in fibre than other meals. Just go easy on the bread alongside them.
Try one of our high-protein soups.
42. Eat a salad before your meal
The combination of low-calorie vegetables and fibre may help you feel fuller and therefore eat less at your main meal. Add a dash of olive oil for greater satiety too, but avoid those pre-made salad dressings which usually contain sugar.
Try our nutrition-packed healthy salad recipes.
43. Have an open sandwich
Sandwiches are super convenient, but they typically come with more bread than filling. These excess carbs may disrupt blood sugar levels and lead to eating more during the day. Why not enjoy an open sandwich instead?
Whether you’re making your own or buying a sandwich from a local supermarket, simply remove the top slice. Eat your open sandwich with a knife and fork to slow down the pace at which you eat and reduce the chance of overeating.
Try this tomato, sardine & rocket open sandwich for lunch.
44. Swap white bread for rye bread
Rye bread is high in fibre and there have been lots of studies into its benefits for weight loss. These include greater satiety and better blood glucose control, these factors help reduce the total number of calories you consume in a day.
45. Eat probiotic-rich foods
Foods rich in live bacteria, often referred to as ‘probiotic’ help support a healthy gut microbiome. While there has been no research as yet to demonstrate that eating probiotics is directly correlated with weight loss, we do know that an imbalance in your gut microbiome affects blood glucose control, mood and metabolism – all of which are relevant to weight gain.
Read more about probiotic foods.
46. Eat more resistant starch
Resistant starch is formed in starchy carbs, like potato, pasta and rice, when they have been cooked and then left to cool. Reheating may also increase the resistant starch even further. Your gut bacteria love resistant starch because they use it as a fuel source which is why it may be referred to as being ‘prebiotic’. Resistant starch in the diet has been found to help with better blood glucose control, greater satiety and a lean body mass.
Read more about resistant starch and how much fibre you should eat per day.
47. Plan ahead
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to weight management is planning ahead, as there’s never enough hours in the day. Leaving your food to chance means you’re more likely to skip meals, grab something carb-based or order a takeaway when you get home after a long day. Taking the time each week, or evening, to plan ahead will help prepare you to make better food choices. This is where a cooking app comes in handy – it can help you plan ahead, provides recipe inspiration and arms you with a multitude of meal plans.
48. Avoid shop-bought smoothies
Smoothies may seem like the healthy choice as they’re packed full of fruit, but while they’re promoted as being high in vitamins, many of them are essentially pure sugar.
Shop-bought smoothies are typically made several days (or even weeks) before you buy them. The process of blending and crushing the fruits or vegetables releases the natural sugars making smoothies a source of ‘free sugars’, just like honey or maple syrup.
If you do enjoy a smoothie, make your own using our favourite smoothie recipes.
49. Skip the condiments
It can be easy to add a dollop of ketchup here and a dash of mayo there, but condiments are high in sugar, salt and fats. It’s often just habit that we add them to our plate, so reducing your condiment load is one way to create healthier eating habits.
Instead use herbs and spices to add more flavour to your food.
50. Don’t overtrain
We naturally think that the more we exercise the better it must be for us, as we burn more calories when we are active. However, too much training, especially cardio-based like running and spinning, can actually increase cortisol levels – a disaster if you’re stressed already. Cortisol creates a surge of energy in your body, as the body prepares for a fight-or-flight response. This stimulation of your fat and carbohydrate metabolism naturally increases your appetite, so you’re more likely to overeat as a result.
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This article was reviewed on 14 November 2023 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a qualified nutritionist registered with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), with over 10 years experience having graduated from the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) in 2009. Nicola is also a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine and has completed her training with the National Centre for Eating Disorders. As well as running her own private clinic, Urban Wellness, Nicola also writes health features and articles on the health benefits of specific foods, or the role that diet can play in our health towards certain conditions including anxiety, stress, hormone health and digestive health.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.