Anyone who’s struggled with weight loss or diet changes knows they can seem like insurmountable obstacles on the journey to better health. While a recent Gallup poll revealed that 55% of Americans want to lose weight, the problem is that most weight loss methods require sacrifices and lifestyle changes that are unsustainable in the long term. If you can relate, we’ve got some good news to share: Achieving your weight loss goals doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. To get you started, we spoke with a registered dietitian and weight loss expert who shares her top daily habits for cutting calories to lose weight.
Barriers to weight loss lurk around every corner. These include lack of access to healthy foods, insufficient time, poor eating habits, and sedentary lifestyles—not to mention hectic work, family, and social lives that keep our schedules busier than ever and jam-packed with neverending obligations. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend countless hours doing fat-burning workouts at the gym or meticulously count calories and obsess over every bite of food to lose weight. Instead, the best thing you can do is establish a solid foundation of healthy, sustainable daily habits that will set you up for success.
Like any other worthwhile endeavor, having a long-term growth mindset over focusing on short-term gains is key to success. Remember that the effort you put in now will pay dividends down the road. So read on to find out which habits you should add to your daily routine to get one step closer to reaching your weight loss goals—without the stress.
In order to cut calories to lose weight, this first daily habit is a big one. You may not realize it, but many popular beverages like lattes, sodas, and wine are sources of empty calories that hinder weight loss. Therefore, drinking more water throughout the day and sipping on fewer sugar-sweetened beverages can be a surefire way to slash your calorie intake.
Mandy Enright, RD, the FOOD + MOVEMENT dietitian and author of “30-Minute Weight Loss Cookbook,” tells Eat This, Not That!, “Hydration is a key component to boosting your metabolism and promoting weight loss. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces per day. If you’re unsure whether you’re drinking enough water, use a tracking system such as a hydration app or refillable water bottle to monitor your intake.”
Cutting calories to lose weight doesn’t just mean swapping junk food for healthy options. Nor is weight loss only about exercising for 30 to 60 minutes just to be sedentary the rest of the day. Regular movement throughout the day is critical in your body’s energy demands and boosting your metabolism. For example, you could take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park further away at the grocery store.
Another excellent way to promote weight loss is through strength training. “Incorporating strength training activities that build muscle makes your body more metabolically active and utilize energy more efficiently, even when you’re at rest,” explains Enright. “Make a point to do strength training daily, such as pushups, squats, or plank holds to help build and maintain muscle mass.” Plus, consistent daily movement helps boost your mood and enables you to manage stress better—two underrated factors that can impact your weight.
“Cooking more meals at home can automatically decrease your caloric intake since you have more control over ingredients and portion sizes,” explains Enright. “Home cooking can also help increase fruit and veggie intake, which is associated with a healthier weight and better overall health.”
If you don’t enjoy cooking at home (or don’t know how to), Enright recommends starting small by setting the small but attainable goal of eating at least three home-cooked meals per week. Also, planning healthy meals and grocery shopping in advance allows you to keep only healthy foods in the house and eliminate the temptation to cave and indulge in junk food or takeout.
“Can we please stop waiting until noon to have our first meal of the day?” Enright pleads. “There’s no reason to starve yourself until a particular time of day. Eating breakfast earlier gives your body energy to utilize more efficiently throughout the day. It also helps prevent overeating and making poor food choices.”
Research shows that those who eat their first meal earlier in the day tend to have healthier weights and consume fewer daily calories than those who delay eating until later. Plus, eating a large breakfast discourages having a large meal late in the day when you’re less active and your body has fewer energy demands. “Aim to eat every three to four hours throughout the day to keep hunger and portion sizes in check,” advises Enright.
Monitoring portion sizes and eating mostly whole foods are essential for healthy weight management and reducing calories. In particular, fruits and veggies provide the best bang for your caloric buck.
“Make fruits and veggies the star of your plate. They’re low in calories, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients,” says Enright. Plan to include at least one fruit or veggie at each meal and snack. Because these foods are high in fiber and good nutrition, they’ll help fill you up and keep your hunger at bay without all the extra calories.