The process of losing weight is challenging and usually requires making some lifestyle changes. Making those changes can be tough, but it does not have to be so life changing. Here are 5 simple health tips you can incorporate into your life to start achieving weight loss.
1. Focus on Serving Size
Focusing on serving size makes the top 5 simple health tips for weight loss list because of the growing serving size in America and the additional calories that come along with it.
What is a serving size?
A serving is the amount of food or beverage served on your plate or in your cup. You have probably seen the serving size listed on the back of a Nutrition Facts Food Label before.
Serving size is also often referred to as a portion size, however, the portion size can vary based on the person putting the food on the plate or the drink in the cup. For example, when you go out to a restaurant for dinner, the chef is in full control of your portion size, but the serving size remains the same. Essentially, the portion size is how much you eat at that moment.
The American Portion Size
Over the past 40 years, the size of the American portion has increased by double or even triple the amount we used to be served (2,3). These larger serving sizes we see at restaurants has translated to what we think we should be eating in our homes.
When we start to increase our portion size, we are also increasing our calorie intake. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, we are consuming 1,595 calories more each day compared to the serving sizes of twenty years ago (3). If we continued to eat the same portions now versus twenty years ago, we would consume more than 500,000 extra calories over a full year (3).
Reading the Nutrition Facts Food Label
The first step to understanding how much we should be serving ourselves is understanding how to read the Nutrition Facts Food label.
First, you want to look at the serving size of the product and realize that everything on the label is for one serving of the product, not for the entire box, bag or carton.
Then, you can start to look at calories and various nutrients that you want to pay attention to based on your health and goals.
Some nutrients you want to eat more of include:
- Vitamin D
Some nutrients to limit include:
- Added sugars
- Saturated fat
Standard Serving Sizes
You might be surprised to find out what the standard serving sizes are for some of the foods you eat every day.
2. Make a Balanced Plate at Meals and Snacks
Creating a balanced plate at meal and snack times makes the list of top 5 simple health tips for weight loss because of two reasons. First, our bodies require all three macronutrients to function properly and, second, to ensure we are eating a variety of foods to get all the nutrients our bodies need every day.
There are three macronutrients we need to keep our bodies functioning: carbohydrates, protein and lipids (AKA fats). These macronutrients provide us the fuel we need to keep our organs functioning and to keep us moving throughout the day.
Each macronutrient provides something different to our bodies that the other does not, meaning that we should never be removing a macronutrient from our diet, especially when we want to lose weight.
Non-Starchy Vegetables and Fruit
The largest part of your plate belongs to non-starchy vegetables and fruit. You should aim for at least half of your plate being filled with non-starchy vegetables and fruit. Go with your preference of fresh, frozen or canned to get this side of the plate filled.
Non-starchy vegetables and fruit are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. All are fabulous for our bodies and when trying to lose weight, fiber is going to be your best friend. Fiber helps keep us full longer (and keep your bowel movements regular) without adding tons of calories.
There are a lot of options when it comes to non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, cucumbers, green beans, mushrooms and more! The same goes for fruit: bananas, berries, kiwi, mango, peaches and the list goes on.
Twenty-five percent of your plate should be dedicated to lean protein sources. Protein helps to keep you full longer because protein takes longer to leave your stomach and helps to control your hunger hormones.
Sources of lean protein include lean meats, poultry without skin, tuna, eggs, nuts and seeds, plus beans and peas. We consume more protein than we think, so depending on your goals you may not have to include a protein powder.
Just like lean protein, twenty-five percent of your plate goes towards starch, starchy vegetables or legumes. This portion of the plate is another place where you can utilize fiber! As mentioned in the non-starchy vegetables and fruit section, fiber is fantastic for keeping us full longer without adding too many calories.
Starch sources include pasta, rice and whole grains. Focus on making at least half of your grains whole grains for extra fiber, protein and other nutrients.
Starchy vegetables include potatoes, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash and more. Many people view these vegetables as “bad”, but they should not have gotten that reputation. These vegetables also provide a lot of nutrition that our bodies need!
Legumes are the final food option for this portion of the plate. Common sources of legumes include chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans), beans, soybeans, and lentils.
Don't Forget the Healthy Fats
There are four types of fats (or lipids): monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats. The goal is to focus on increasing unsaturated fats, limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats.
An easy way to determine what is an unsaturated fat versus a saturated fat is to see if they are liquid or solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature while saturated fats are solid.
Healthy fat sources include olive oil, walnuts, avocados, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, soy milk and more. Including more healthy fats into your diet will help keep you full longer and benefit your heart and overall health. Be careful though! Fats are calorie dense, so be sure to monitor your portion.
Low-Calorie Beverages and Dairy
When you are wanting to lose weight, a successful method to include on your simple health tips list is to get most of your calories from food instead of beverages.
Usually with weight loss, your daily calorie intake is decreased. When you decrease your calorie intake, you are also decreasing nutrient intake. You will need to use your daily calories as a chance to optimize your nutrient intake.
The best beverage to include at meal time is water, however constantly drinking water can be tough for some people. If this sounds like you, try making your water more “fun” by choosing flavored, carbonated water or by infusing your water with various fruits and vegetables (like cucumbers or strawberries) instead.
If those ideas are still not making you reach for water, choose dairy. Dairy has had a bad reputation over the years, but it provides a nutritious punch! If your body can handle dairy, the recommendation is to add three low-fat dairy servings into your daily eating plan.
The Final Product
When you add each section up, your plate can look like the one shown here. Half of the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables while the other half of the plate is split with a starch and lean protein source.
What about snacks?
Snacks almost made the list of 5 simple health tips for weight loss. Snacks can be fantastic for successful weight loss! Pairing together a fiber source with a protein source is key to helping you make it to your next meal by keeping you full longer.
3. Practice Consistent Movement
We do not move our bodies enough. Our lives have become very sedentary by having more desk jobs, having the ability to go to drive throughs and using more technology. Movement is key for weight loss (in addition to your eating habits), so let’s see why consistent movement makes the simple health tips list!
Benefits of Exercise
The benefits of exercise are far and wide – from immediate benefits to preventative, long-term benefits. For adults, the immediate benefit of exercise is a reduction in anxiety (4). Weight management or loss, decreased health risks, increased bone and muscle strength and the possibility of a longer life are many long-term benefits to exercise (4).
How much exercise is needed?
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults achieve 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week (5). That’s 2.5 to 5 hours per week. I know what you’re thinking, “that is a lot of time”. It is also recommended to complete at least two days of strength training each week (5).
Yes, it is a good chunk of your time and our lives are jam-packed with work, social events and other responsibilities. However, if changing your lifestyle and working towards your goals is important to you then you will make time for it.
To achieve weight loss, it is usually recommended to aim more towards 5 hours of exercise each week. It is important to remember, though, that everyone’s body is different so someone may have to do more or less exercise each week to achieve their goal weight.
What exercise should I be doing?
The best type of exercise that you should be doing is an activity that you enjoy. Now, I’m sure you have heard that before but it’s true. If you do not enjoy the activity you are participating in, how likely is it that you will be consistent with it?
If you need some ideas on various types of exercise and how they affect your health, take a look at these three options:
- Walking is one of the easiest, best forms of exercise because it can easily be incorporated into your daily life.
- Cycling, whether indoors or outdoors, has been found to be great for improving insulin sensitivity and cardiometabolic health (6).
- Strength training is a popular exercise method for weight loss. Participating in strength training has been found to increase your resting metabolic rate, by stimulating muscle growth, therefore burning more calories at rest (7).
4. Allow Yourself to Eat Your Favorite Treats
This tip makes the list of simple health tips for weight loss because any food restriction is going to set you up for failure with weight loss. Having a restriction in your eating pattern is not sustainable long-term.
Now, I’m not saying to only eat your favorite treats. What I am saying is to allow yourself to have treats incorporated into your balanced eating plan so you are not feeling deprived. Feeling deprived may lead to a binge of treats in the future.
Monitor the portion size of your favorite treat and enjoy it a couple times a week!
5. Take a Daily Probiotic
Probiotics makes the list of simple health tips because our gut health plays a major role in our overall health.
Our gut is involved in metabolizing nutrients, creating vitamins and even communicating with our immune system (8). The bacteria in our gut can even affect our body’s ability to tell us if we’re full or not (8)!
What is a probiotic?
Probiotics are good (or beneficial) bacteria combined with yeasts that live in our bodies (9). This good bacteria helps keep our bodies functioning the way it needs to. Good bacteria lives in many locations in our bodies: our gut, mouth, skin, vagina, urinary tract and our lungs (9).
Beneficial bacteria plays many roles in our bodies. They help our immune system, aid in digestion of food, limit the amount of bad bacteria in our bodies, create vitamins and more (9)!
Why is gut health important for weight loss?
Altering the gut microbiome has become a treatment method for obesity. It has been noted that when using prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics (combination of pre and probiotics) compared to a placebo treatment, there was a significant decrease in body mass index, fat mass and weight (10).
It’s also been noted that supplementation of a probiotic creates an optimal environment in the gut for weight loss by decreasing inflammation, gut permeability and metabolic disorders (11).
Eat Your Probiotics!
You can actually get your probiotics from foods!
- Cottage cheese
- Sourdough bread