Successful, lasting weight loss requires incorporating healthy eating habits into a daily routine. This doesn't mean dieting; it means lifestyle changes. Reliance on fad or crash diets is unhealthy and is not a long-term solution to weight problems, cautions the American Heart Association, or AHA. These diets usually exclude important food groups and/or over-emphasize others, take the focus off exercise and are plain boring, which ultimately causes pounds to pile on again, notes the AHA.
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Eat Healthy Foods
The most important part of healthy eating habits is choosing the right foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products are essential, according to the AHA. Lean meat, legumes, seeds and nuts and unsaturated fats are also important. These foods provide maximum nutritional value and energy with minimal caloric intake, which is the key to staying healthy while losing and maintaining weight long-term.
Cut Out Certain Drinks
Beverages such as soda, juice and sports drinks add a significant amount of calories, notes the Nemours Foundation, and they're easy to overlook during weight-loss efforts. While a glass of 100-percent fruit juice is certainly healthy, one glass a day suffices. Eliminating or strictly limiting other drinks that are little or nothing more than empty calories is beneficial. Start by replacing one such drink a day with a glass of water and work up to replacing more to make the transition easier.
Eat Whole Grains
Replace refined grains such as white rice, white bread and pasta with whole grain counterparts such as whole wheat breads and pastas and brown rice. As the Harvard School of Public Health, or HSPH, explains, these provide essential nutrients and energy, prevent insulin spikes, better control hunger and may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Replace Most Red Meat
Cut out most of the red meat in your diet, as it is high in saturated fat, notes the HSPH. Opt instead for fish and poultry, which are protein-rich and significantly lower in saturated fat. Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are believed to have a number of health benefits, particularly for the heart, points out HSPH.
Replace Junk Food
Junk food provides calories, fat and other unhealthy compounds without nutritional value. Replace junk food with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, fresh veggies with low-fat or fat-free dip, seeds or nuts. Whole wheat crackers with reduced-fat cheese also make for a good snack. As with drink replacement, start gradually by replacing one junk food snack a day for a week, then replace a second, and so on.
Listen to Hunger Cues
Some people eat when they aren't hungry. Eat slowly so your body can register that it has been fed, and pay attention to feelings of fullness, suggests the Nemours Foundation. Cut out distractions such as watching television or surfing the Internet while eating, advises dietitian Joanne Larsen, so that you notice when you're ready to stop eating. Avoid eating just because you're bored, stressed or upset.
Similarly, pay attention to cues that you are hungry and don't wait until you're ravenous to eat. Eating when extremely hungry makes it easy to munch too quickly and overeat.
Eat Less More Often
Eat every four to six hours, starting with breakfast soon after waking up, recommends Larsen. This prevents you from becoming too hungry and overeating and makes it easier to choose healthy foods at meal time, according to the Nemours Foundation.