Simple, Science-Backed Diet Tips To Lose Weight

According to the CDC, 73% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Many try to lose the extra weight but haven’t found the right strategy for them. Fortunately, scientists have figured out what works. From deciding which fats to eat, to avoiding the TV during dinner, these simple tips can help you shed pounds and enhance your health.

Incorporate More Fruits And Vegetables

Even if you limit portion sizes, you still need to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet. The Nurses’ Health Studies, which spanned over 40 years, examined diet and weight loss. According to the research, people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables tend to weigh less than those who eat the same amount or less but without fresh produce.

A person shops for tomatoes at a farmer's market.
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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Why do fruits and vegetables help? According to the CDC, fresh produce has high water and fiber content with few calories. They help you feel fuller and eat less. For people who struggle with weight loss, this will significantly help.

Stop Drinking Calories

Soda, juice, and energy drinks all contain calories. Nutritionists call these “empty calories,” ones that do not contribute to your health or body functions. In other words, you might be drinking unnecessary calories when you do not need to.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Replace these drinks with healthier options. Substitute soda with flavored sparkling water. Make coffee at home, and skip the sweetened creamers. For a more flavorful drink, add lemon or lime, a small splash of juice, or natural sweeteners like Stevia or honey.

Don’t Avoid Fat; Avoid Unhealthy Fats

Contrary to popular belief, not all fat is unhealthy. Healthy fats– also called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats– can boost weight loss. A study by the American Diabetes Association concluded that eating healthy fats can enhance heart health and lower weight.

A plate holds avocado toast on wheat bread and cherry tomatoes.
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That said, unhealthy fats should be avoided. The main culprit is trans fat. According to researchers from Uppsala University, saturated fat tends to prevent weight gain, while trans fats promote it. Avoid artificial fats and instead eat healthy fats like avocado, cheese, whole eggs, nuts, and fish.

Eat The Vegetables First

If your dinner includes meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and brussels sprouts, what should you dig into first? The brussels sprouts. Eating vegetables and fruits first not only gives you more nutrients, but it can also lower your appetite.

A dinner plate includes salmon with a side salad.
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According to a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when people eat vegetables first, they consume a smaller portion size and eat healthier overall. To do this, though, you need vegetables. Aim to have one vegetable or fruit per meal when you start dieting, and then increase that to one fruit and vegetable per meal.

Always Make A Shopping List

Did you know that people who make shopping lists tend to weigh less? In 2013, a study in Nutrition & Diabetes examined people who make grocery lists before shopping. Not only did they weigh less, but they also saved more money than people who do not make a list beforehand.

A man checks his grocery list while shopping.
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ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Also, do not shop while you’re hungry. In 2013, researchers found that hungry shoppers tend to buy more high-caloric foods. Eat a snack before shopping, and stick to your grocery list to prevent weight gain and save money.

Do Not Eat While Distracted

If you eat in front of the TV, you might want to stop. In 2013, scientists from the University of Birmingham, UK reported that distracted eating leads to weight gain. It prevents the brain from sensing when you are full, which results in overeating.

A woman eats popcorn while watching TV.
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The same goes for scrolling through your phone, working on your laptop, or any other form of distracted eating. If you stay away from a screen, you will be able to tell when you feel full, so you will consume fewer calories and drop weight.

Make Sure You’re Eating Because You’re Hungry, Not Bored

Many people tend to reach for snacks when they feel bored. This can happen so regularly that you don’t even notice it anymore. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix; eating when you are hungry– not thirsty or bored– lowers the amount of weight you gain.

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According to Lori Zanini, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, common indicators of hunger include shakiness, lightheadedness, irritability, and an upset stomach. Hunger also rarely discriminates. If you’re wondering whether you are actually hungry, ask yourself, “Would I eat an apple?” If the answer is no, you might just be bored or thirsty.

Start With Easy, Enjoyable Exercise

Many believe that long, rigorous exercise is required to lose weight. But this is not true. Registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty told NBC News that that you cannot out-exercise your weight. Thirty, ten, or even five minutes of exercise can make a difference.

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You don’t have to over-exert yourself, either. According to a 2019 study, walking for 30 minutes daily can prevent people from gaining weight. Focus on exercises that you enjoy, and add more minutes over time. Starting with one or two-hour workouts can lead to burnout.

Shed Your Fear Of The Scale

For many people, the most difficult struggle of weight loss is tracking your progress with a scale. However, doing so can speed up your journey. In 2017, a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that people who track their weight have a higher success rate of shedding pounds.

A woman stands on a scale to check her weight.
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i yunmai/Unsplash

Although some people believe that checking the scale can lead to disordered eating, this is not the case for most people. Research in Obesity Science & Practice found that weigh-ins have no adverse effect on disordered eating. If you are still nervous about it, speak to a psychologist.

Do Not Avoid Carbs; Eat The Right Ones

Abandoning carbs is not the secret to weight loss. Not only does the body need carbohydrates to create energy, but some carbs can help you lose weight. For instance, eating whole grains can reduce your BMI, according to a 2019 study in Nutrients.

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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The real evil is refined carbs, which are processed grains that have been converted to sugar. White bread, pasta, and rice fall into these categories. Replace these with whole wheat or veggie substitutes, like cauliflower pasta or zucchini noodles. It will lend you more fiber and reduce added sugars.

Avoid Crash Diets

Crash diets are diets that promise weight loss quickly, usually over the span of a couple of weeks or months. Many people do these diets, revert back to their old eating habits, and then go on another crash diet. Not only is this unsuccessful, but it also might make you heavier over time.

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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

According to research in the International Journal of Obesity, “yo-yo dieting” results in more weight gain over time. It also raises the risk of long-term diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Instead of crash dieting, aim to change your habits permanently.

Add More Fiber– You’re Probably Not Getting Enough

Did you know that fiber can help you lose weight? According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who eat 30 grams of fiber per day tend to lose more weight. Unfortunately, most Americans only eat 15 grams of fiber daily, while the USDA’s recommendation is 25-38 grams.

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Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

Why does fiber help? In 2013, researchers confirmed that fiber reduces appetite. It also supports healthy digestion, which can speed up your metabolism. You don’t need to get 30 grams, either; adding a bit more fiber to your diet can aid in weight loss.

Treat Yourself Occasionally, Guilt-Free

Dietitians and nutritionists agree that an occasional treat is okay– and preferred– during a diet. However, the keyword is occasional. Taking an entire “splurge day” can quickly get out of control and set you back.

A woman enjoys pizza while eating out with friends.
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Alex Haney/Unsplash

Instead, registered dietitian and nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro recommends a small portion to satisfy cravings. A small scoop of ice cream, a square of dark chocolate, or fruit with whipped cream is okay at night. Registered dietitian Elaine Magee advises people that it’s okay to have one fast food meal per week (if this sounds like too little, start with three, then two, then one).

Pick Up Strength Training, Too

Cardio is not the only exercise that can contribute to weight loss. Strength training, which includes lifting weights, squatting, push-ups, and even yard work, can also help shed pounds. While cardio burns calories, strength training reduces fat and boosts metabolism, according to Men’s Health.

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A study in PLoS ONE concluded that doing one form of exercise is not enough; combining strength and cardio training is the best solution for weight loss. Lunges, planks, push-ups, and even yard work can fulfill your body’s need for strength exercise.

Hydration Matters More Than You Might Think

Believe it or not, drinking water helps the body drop weight. According to a 2008 study in Obesity, hydration makes the body burn more calories. In fact, women who drank 34 ounces per day (one liter) lost an extra 4.4 pounds after 12 months.

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FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

If you need a reminder, aim to drink a glass of water before meals. Researchers have found that drinking water before eating can lower a person’s appetite. In 2010, a study on middle-aged adults found that doing so can increase weight loss by up to 44%!

Eat Slowly And Mindfully

Many people eat quickly, but doing so could be detrimental to their weight. In 2018, Japanese researchers conducted a study on speedy eaters. They discovered that slow eaters tend to be skinnier than fast one; they also had a 42% lower chance of becoming obese.

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Pablo Merchán Montes/Unsplash

According to the University of Chicago Medicine, slow eaters can detect when they feel full. Meanwhile, speedy eaters tend to overeat because it takes a while for the brain to register fullness. Eat slowly, enjoy the food, take sips of water in between bites, and you might drop pounds.

Try Eating Four Or Five Smaller Meals

For many people, the hardest part of dieting is feeling hungry in between meals. If this sounds like you, try eating four or five smaller meals. Some people call this the 3-Hour Diet. Every three hours, you eat either a 400-calorie meal or 100-calorie snack.

Rosario Dawson smiles while eating.
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John Shearer/WireImage

According to registered dietitian Keri Gans, this diet can prevent people from feeling hungry throughout the day. It can also prevent overeating, since you won’t feel pressured to get too full. However, you have to stick to smaller portion sizes for this to work.

Focus On Eating Consistent Meals

Skipping meals might help you shed pounds, but you will not keep them off that way. When people skip meals, they tend to overeat later. Stress can also prompt people to ignore meals or snacks, which results in them eating last-minute fast food or reaching for comfort desserts.

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Registered dietitian Yasi Ansari recommends eating every three to four hours to “[keep] your energy levels stable.” If this sounds like too much food, eat small meals and snacks. Some people lose weight more easily when they have four or five small meals instead of three large ones.

Whenever You Can, Cook Meals At Home

Even if you aren’t the best chef, you will benefit from cooking your own meals. According to a 2014 study from John Hopkins University, people who cook their own meals tend to weight less and eat healthier overall. Researcher Julie A. Wolfson says that home-eaters “consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less.”

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Jason Briscoe/Unsplash

If you eat out a lot, you’ll also be consuming more dangerous chemicals. Scientists from Silent Spring Institute found that most restaurant foods contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which contribute to kidney disease, liver problems, and even cancer. Grocery store food is much healthier.

Spice Up Your Meals

While cooking, add plenty of flavor through spices and herbs. “Food that is loaded with flavor will stimulate your taste buds and be more satisfying, so you won’t eat as much,” says Malena Perdomo, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

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JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images

If you are into spicy (hot) foods, you’re in luck. A study by the American Society for Biochemistry found that spicy foods burn more calories and boost your metabolism. Plus, the better your food tastes, the more likely you’ll be to cook at home.