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Top 12 Best Diet Habits for Weight Loss According to Nutritionists

By Emily Hirsch, MS, RD

Medically Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD

Published on February 22, 2021

The easiest way to lose weight doesn’t involve a crash diet or a pill. Weight loss involves adopting healthy habits that will help you lose weight and keep it off for good.

Written by
Emily Hirsch, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Women's Health Specialist and GI Health
Emily Hirsch is a registered dietitian with over fifteen years of experience in the health and wellness space. She received her undergraduate degree in dietetics from the University of Rhode Island and her Masters of Science with distinction in nutrition education from California State University, Chico.
Medically Reviewed by
Anthony Dugarte, MD
Medical Reviewer
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S. is a health and wellness writer and medical content reviewer. In addition to dedicating the last 7 years to medical research, Dr. Dugarte also has more than a decade of experience in strength and conditioning, nutrition, and rehabilitative exercise, as well as authoring and reviewing health and wellness-related content.

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Top 12 Best Diet Habits for Weight Loss According to Nutritionists
Photo credit: iStock.com/AlexRodavlas

We are all creatures of habit. To lose weight sustainably, we must create new habits.

By creating new habits, you make your weight loss efforts sustainable.

Here are a few of the most effective, evidence-based habits to help you lose weight.

1. Eat Plenty of Protein

All of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) play an important role in keeping your body healthy. However, protein is the most filling of all the macronutrients.

Ensuring that all of your meals and snacks contain protein is one of the most important habits to adopt for successful and sustainable weight loss.

Increasing your protein intake can help you shed pounds by reducing your hunger and appetite.

One study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories helped participants eat 441 fewer calories each day without further food restrictions. (1)

Moreover, a recent review of the literature found that higher-protein diets can help decrease appetite, improve body weight management, and enhance heart health. (2)

Related: 9 Nutritious Protein-Rich Foods That Offer More

2. Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Increasing the number of fruits and vegetables you eat can help prompt weight loss with results that are more likely to be sustainable.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories but are also filling. The water and fiber found in produce increase the volume of the food without increasing the calories.

Therefore, you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories, making fruits and veggies ideal for snacks and meals.

A 2011 study found that participants who increased their fruit and vegetable intake by just one serving a day lost more weight over a six-month period than those that did not. (3)

In addition to helping with weight loss, studies have shown that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is also linked to a lower risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. (4)

Related: 13 Easy and Tasty Ways to Eat More Vegetables

3. Drink Water Before Meals

Hydration is vital, but did you know that drinking water is one of the best ways to help you lose weight?

Water can help you feel fuller for longer and even reduce those pesky hunger pangs.

A recent study showed that drinking water before meals could reduce calorie intake and may be an effective weight management tool. (5)

Related: 8 Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water

4. Practice Mindfulness When Eating

When eating becomes a mindless experience, you tend to eat more quickly and take in more calories.

Practicing mindfulness when eating is about redirecting your attention to what you are eating and how you feel, creating a more intentional experience.

Additionally, science supports mindful eating as a habit for weight loss. One study showed that a 6-month mindful eating seminar resulted in an average weight loss of 26 pounds without any weight regain in the following 3 months. (6)

Try to avoid watching TV, scrolling through your phone, working, or driving while eating.

Focusing on your food is an important habit to create and will help with your weight loss efforts.

5. Aim for at Least Seven Hours of Sleep Every Night

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep each night. (7)

Sleep helps keep the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin in balance. A lack of sleep can throw these two important hormones out of whack, resulting in increased appetite.

Clinical studies have found that not sleeping enough leads to elevated ghrelin levels, the “hunger hormone,” which can lead to weight gain. (8)

Related: 10 Evidence-Based Tips for Sleeping Better at Night

6. Find Non-Food Rewards for Your Success

As you move through your weight loss journey, you may find it tempting to reward your progress with food.

Oftentimes, food rewards can undermine your hard work and become an obstacle to reaching your weight loss goals.

However, having rewards along the way can help keep you motivated and are a fun way to celebrate milestones.

Non-food rewards can be just about anything that brings you joy. Some examples are buying a new outfit, getting a new haircut, purchasing tickets to an event, having a night out, or taking a bubble bath.

7. Try Making the Majority of Your Meals at Home

Making a habit of cooking most of your meals at home empowers you to control what you are eating, including the number of calories you are consuming.

Eating out or getting take-out means larger portions, higher calories, and increased sodium and fat.

One study found that people who cooked at home consumed approximately 200 fewer calories than people who eat out more often. (9)

Related: How to Meal Prep: A 10-Step Beginner’s Guide

8. Avoid Drinking Your Calories

When you’re trying to slim down, it’s important to take inventory of what you are drinking and how this may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Sugary drinks are loaded with calories that don’t fill you up. One study found that people with a genetic risk of obesity who drank at least one sugary drink a day were four times more likely to become obese than those who drank less than one sugary drink a month. (10)

Steering clear of juices, sodas, and those beloved coffee house drinks will help you lose weight more quickly.

Try staying hydrated with water and attempting to make healthy versions of your favorite coffee drinks at home.

9. Eat Slowly

Try getting into the habit of eating more slowly to help with your weight loss plans.

It takes some time (approximately 20 minutes) for your stomach to relay the message to your brain that you are full.

A lot of calories can be consumed (unnecessarily so) in that 20-minute time period.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that people who eat more slowly tend to weigh less. (11)

Researchers found that people who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese than people who ate quickly. Moreover, people who ate slowly had 42% lower odds of being obese.

Try putting your fork down between bites, chewing your food thoroughly, and using a timer to help slow down your meals and reduce your calorie intake.

Related: Intuitive Eating: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide and How to Start

10. Surround Yourself with Support

Surrounding yourself with family, friends, or a support group will provide much-needed encouragement and increase your weight loss success.

One study found that people looking to lose weight who had a weight-loss partner lost significantly more belly fat than those who were losing weight independently. (12)

11. Control Emotional Eating

If you find yourself eating when you’re stressed, anxious, bored, or lonely, and not necessarily when you’re hungry, you are not alone. People often turn to food as a source of comfort.

Recognizing these emotional triggers can help improve your weight loss efforts and help stop the cycle of emotional eating.

Finding alternative ways to comfort yourself is key. If you’re reaching for food during times when you’re not hungry, try a different activity.

For example, meditation, a hot bath, yoga, walking, listening to a podcast, playing music, or reaching out to a friend.

12. Move Your Body

One of the best habits to embrace to lose weight is to participate in some type of exercise.

Exercise isn’t necessarily running on a treadmill at the gym or joining an intense cross-fit program.

Any form of exercise can boost your metabolism while helping you reach your weight loss goals.

Finding an activity that you love will help keep you moving and shed those unwanted pounds.

Try walking, dancing, hiking, or playing Frisbee with your dog. Any form of movement is better than nothing.

Related: How to Start Exercising: A Beginner’s Guide

The Bottom Line

Building healthy diet habits into your daily routine is the best way to lose weight.

Eventually, these weight loss habits will become a permanent part of your lifestyle, allowing you to keep the weight off and stay healthy for years to come.

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At WellnessVerge, we only use primary references for our articles, including peer reviewed medical journals or well-respected academic institutions.

  1. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16002798/
  2. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926512/
  3. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225890/
  4. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies:
    https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4490.full.pdf
  5. Effect of Pre-meal Water Consumption on Energy Intake and Satiety in Non-obese Young Adults:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6209729/
  6. Effect of Pre-meal Water Consumption on Energy Intake and Satiety in Non-obese Young Adults:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22440077/
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
    https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html#:~:text=More%2520than%2520a%2520third%2520of,Morbidity%2520and%2520Mortality%2520Weekly%2520Report.
  8. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0026049518300635?casa_token=pK3oUNjPs3UAAAAA:myhiawI8aOyaVDlsfyiTz3sGCXMa3v5MmQD2H4dGBq_CkQfgX-IP5TMEKy26_0J6fczmN7LRCg
  9. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?:
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/is-cooking-at-home-associated-with-better-diet-quality-or-weightloss-intention/B2C8C168FFA377DD2880A217DB6AF26F
  10. Do sugary drinks lead to weight gain?:
    https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/calories-in-food/do-sugary-drinks-lead-to-weight-gain/
  11. Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data:
    https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/1/e019589
  12. Involving support partners in obesity treatment:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15796642/