Weight Loss Eating Habits That Experts Say Actually Work – Eat This, Not That

While we all want a quick fix for weight loss, the reality is that weight loss is much more effective when it’s the result of forming healthy habits. Sustainable practices that you can use anywhere, anytime (and continue to use over days and years) are the real secret weapon to slimming down.

Wondering where to start with small changes that add up? We asked registered dietitians what habits actually work, not only for losing weight, but also for keeping it off long term. Here are their top eight tips. And once you’ve digested them, check out the best foods for weight loss, according to dietitians.

protein drink

The daily value for protein is set at 50 grams, but this is a baseline for maintaining basic health, not a perfect goal for weight loss. In fact, the Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.36 grams per day (54 grams for a 150-pound person or 72 grams for a 200-pound person), and many dietitians advise going well at beyond these numbers to lose weight.

While it’s possible to overdo it with protein, it doesn’t happen as often as you might think.

“While it’s often said that Americans consume too much protein on average, I rarely see this in practice,” says Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES.

Proteins are known to be satiating, even more so than carbohydrates or fats. So, to lose weight, don’t be afraid to increase this micronutrient in your daily diet.

“Make protein-rich foods a substantial part of your meals and you’ll definitely see results,” says Puello.

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We all know that too much sugar is bad news for your health. Not only does a high-sugar diet cause cavities and increase your risk of heart disease, it’s also a major warning sign for weight gain.

According to a 2019 study, the American population consumes more than 300% of the daily recommended amount of added sugar, which likely promotes the development of obesity.

“Note the amount of added sugar in your sweet treats,” says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD. “Added sugar is found in many foods, from breads and sauces to desserts and cereals. It adds extra calories without satisfying you, so you can easily overeat. Check your food labels to help you losing weight.”

portioned plate

Here’s a handy tip—literally! When trying to figure out the right serving size for certain foods, use your hand as a guide. As a general rule, a serving of vegetables should be as big as your fist, a serving of protein as big as your palm, a serving of fat as big as the tip of your thumb.

“That way you’re always in control of how much food you eat, even on the go or in restaurants,” says Emma Backes, RDN, LD. “Also, your hand is unique to you, so that will be a better indicator of what you specifically need.”

Along with this nifty trick, here are 18 easy ways to control your portion sizes.

healthy plate

On the other side of the sugar satiety spectrum, you’ll find vegetables. Loading up on vegetables is a tip that many dietitians recommend for weight loss.

“Vegetables add fiber, which can help you stay full longer,” says Tabitha Nicholas, MS, RDN, LDN.

In addition to fiber, vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals, and even a little hydration. When weight loss is your goal, try to fill at least half your plate with a rainbow of veggies, like these low-carb options.


Diets that leave you hungry may work in the short term, but eventually even the most stubborn dieters will be overwhelmed with hunger. This is why staying full throughout the day is very important for a successful weight loss journey. Another key to staying satiated? Fiber.

“I like my clients to focus on fiber to keep them full,” says Jen Scheinman, MS, RDN. “I give them a list of fiber-rich foods and ask them to slowly work their way up to 25 grams a day.”

Don’t miss our guide to 20 different ways to eat 28 grams of fiber a day!


For some people, the “six small meals a day” concept can work well for achieving a healthy weight – and there’s a whole world of snacks, bars and shakes to support a mini-meal diet. Still, sitting down to three meals a day has surprising weight loss benefits.

“I recommend eating real meals instead of small snacks throughout the day,” says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD. “Eating real meals not only helps reduce hunger because you eat more food, but also increases the likelihood that you will eat something nutritious and containing protein. Skimping on meals in the name of saving calories can backfire. against you.”

eat mindfully

An important part of your weight loss journey may take place not in your mouth, but in your mind! Evidence shows that being mindful of your eating habits is a useful tool for eating just enough and not too much.

Lacy Ngo, MS, RDN, author of The nutritious meal builder knows firsthand the impact of mindful eating on weight loss.

“I lost 50 pounds when I started eating slowly and really enjoying my meals,” says Ngo. “I put my fork down between bites and noticed all the flavors and textures in that bite. I didn’t pick up my fork again until I had completely finished the bite and taken a sip of water. This guy mindful eating is such a simple and effective strategy that increases mealtime enjoyment and helps with weight loss.”


Believe it or not, one of the keys to weight loss can be loosening your grip on restrictive dieting.

“Being too restrictive can be a recipe for failure,” says Nicholas. “You risk burning out quickly if you don’t make sustainable choices that you can live with for the long haul.” Food is, after all, a major source of pleasure, so go ahead and incorporate (sometimes) the most indulgent foods that bring you joy.

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