Make Healthy Food Choices and Lose Weight


There is no magic bullet or single food that will make you lose weight quickly. In fact, the safest way to lose weight is to do it slowly — about a pound a week.

How to make healthy food choices to lose weight

  • Go for variety. Buy a new fruit, vegetable, or whole-grain product each time you shop for groceries, to keep from getting bored.
  • Limit sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice, and alcohol.
  • Limit smoked or pickled foods. They tend to have a lot of salt and nitrates.
  • Eat small portions (no more than 6 to 7 ounces a day) of lean meat or poultry without the skin.
  • Eat lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day and 3 ounces or more of whole grains. You will feel full longer and may be less tempted by junk food.
  • Cover your plate with nutrient-dense, fresh foods. Fill two-thirds of your plate with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, and one-third or less with meat and dairy products.
  • Drink water or drinks with little added sugar if you're hungry between meals, eat fruit, unsalted nuts or vegetables. Avoid lemonade, sweetened ice tea, and juices.
  • Keep fresh, nutrient-dense snacks on hand, such as:
    • carrot and celery sticks
    • bite-sized pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, or other vegetables
    • unsalted nuts
    • apple slices
    • raisins
    • orange sections
    • peach slices
    • frozen berries
    • whole-grain pretzels
    • air-popped popcorn
    • flavored decaffeinated coffee
    • fruit tea or herbal tea
    • water flavored with lemon or lime
    • broth or bouillon

How to cut fat out of your daily diet

Instead of: Substitute with:
Cooking oil in baking recipes Applesauce
Sour cream on baked potatoes Fat-free yogurt
Whole milk Skim milk
Ice cream Fat-free frozen yogurt
Butter Fat-free soft margarine

How to make healthy choices when you eat out at restaurants

  • Go in with a plan. Look at menus before you go (you can find some on web sites) and decide where and what to eat. Many chain restaurants offer healthy menu options that follow Weight Watchers or other eating plans.
  • Avoid casseroles. They often have sugary or salty sauces and lots of cheese.
  • Choose steamed, baked, or boiled vegetables, rather than those in sauces or with cheese.
  • Choose beverages without added sugar. A 12-ounce glass of soda pop has about 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Water has zero.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic beverages have no nutrients. And after you have one or two you may be more tempted to order dessert or a plate of nachos.
  • Ask for sauces, dressings, butter, and sour cream on the side so you can control how much you use. Or ask for your dish to be made without sauce or cheese.
  • Order each item separately (a la carte), so you can get everything prepared how you want it, rather than ordering a combination plate with less flexibility.
  • Don't eat mindlessly. Ask the waitperson to remove the bowl of chips/bread/peanuts after you've had a small portion.
  • Order regular sizes instead of jumbo or super sizes.
  • Order meat/seafood that is broiled or baked rather than pan-fried or deep-fried.
  • Order an appetizer portion instead of a meal-size portion. Many restaurants offer the same dishes in both sections of the menu.
  • Wrap it up. Ask for half of your entree to be wrapped up to go when you order. Eat it for lunch the next day.
  • Share an entree with a friend and order an extra side salad with the dressing on the side.

Expert Quote

Because a diet is something that you do every day and every night, day after day, week after week, month after month, the diet you follow is one that you have to be able to enjoy and sustain over time. This is very hard to do if you ask yourself to take on an extreme diet or one that's highly restrictive. It can feel like punishment. It's not fun to eat one way and have all your friends and family eat another. It's important to think in terms not of diet, but of healthy eating habits, not losing sight of the enjoyment of food.

Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D.

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