12 Little Weight Loss Tricks Only Nutritionists Know
Take some tips from the pros. From their clients and their own experience, registered dietitians know the weight loss tricks that actually work.
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There’s no single trick that works for everyone
If only the diet industry would stop touting that weight loss is simply the result of eating less and exercising more, says New York City-based clinical nutritionist Jennifer Cassetta. “For some people that do eat way more than their bodies need, then yes, this strategy can often lead to weight loss,” she says. “However, that is not always the case.” In other words, there isn’t one perfect solution—and the thing that might work for you may not even be on your radar yet.
To help you reach your goals, we asked top dietitians and nutritionists for the strategies that actually get results. Listen to their great advice. (And make sure you avoid the worst diet tips nutritionists have ever heard.)
Yes, you read that right. The key to improving your health might just be to focus on healthy behaviors like moving more and eating more fruits and veggies. “One of the best ways to lose weight and maintain that weight loss is to make lasting lifestyle habits that you can keep up for the long run,” says registered dietitian Amy Gorin, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area. “This is typically easiest to put into place by initiating many small changes, such as adding exercise to your day, even in small doses, swapping high-calorie desserts for fruit, and being more mindful while you eat.”
In other words, think about what changes you can make that are sustainable habits. Consider what you enjoy in terms of exercise and make a list of healthy foods you actually find tasty. Then try to make those things a more prominent part of your life. (These are the things your doctor wishes you knew about losing weight.)
Eliminating one food or avoiding an ingredient doesn’t work
“I find that when people are trying to lose weight, they become obsessed with avoiding one thing, like carbs or sugar. But staying away from certain food groups or one specific thing won’t help you lose weight,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Tara Collingwood, team dietitian for Orlando Magic and author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies. “Instead, look at your overall diet and caloric balance. Increase your burn a little bit each day with more movement and exercise and skip extra calories you won’t miss, like that bite of your husband’s meal when you dine out or that handful of candy from the jar at work.”
Indulge yourself from time to time
If you don’t loosen the reins once and while you’re bound to overdo it when you finally give in to your cravings. That’s why registered dietitian and personal trainer Kristin Reisinger, schedules a weekly indulgence.
“A large cheat meal can actually help you reach your goals faster. It revs the metabolism, helps the body burn fat, and prevents your body from slowing down or acclimating to calorie restriction.” Just be sure you stick to an overall healthy eating pattern. To maintain a healthy diet, you should wholeheartedly enjoy that indulgent meal and then return to eating a balanced diet ASAP.
Care for yourself, first
So if you can’t diet, what should you do? Registered dietitian Kara Lydon, an intuitive eating counselor and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian, says you must focus on self-care—and you really need to give up on dieting, she stresses. A review of 25 studies on dieting published in 2013 in Frontiers in Psychology found that dieting is actually a predictor of weight gain. Instead, Lydon says, “If you place less focus on the number on the scale and you can spend more time and energy on health-promoting behaviors like engaging in joyful movement and eating foods that are satisfying. Focusing on self-care can help boost self-esteem, which in turn helps people take better care of themselves and sustain improvements in healthy behaviors.”
Portion size matters
“Whether it’s carbs, gluten, or white sugar, people will often tell me what they aren’t eating, and then ask why giving up that particular thing hasn’t helped them lose weight,” Collingwood says. “I try to help my clients realize that giving up certain foods isn’t the answer. Even ‘healthy’ food can cause weight gain if you’re overeating them!” Having an idea of proper portions can help the scale tip in your favor. While it can be challenging recalling appropriate serving sizes for every single thing, it can help to know what an acceptable serving is for higher-calorie foods you often eat. (Almonds, peanut butter, olive oil, and avocado, for example.)
Be more mindful
Just because a particular diet worked for your friend or a certain celebrity, doesn’t mean that the same approach will help you look and feel the same way. “Everyone has different nutrient needs and food preferences, so everyone’s ideal diet will look different,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Caroline Passerrello, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For this reason, Passerrello suggests mindful eating—and follows the approach herself. “Rather than trying to eat a certain number of calories or specific nutrients, I focus on how I feel and eat in response to physiological hunger.” Research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests this approach can help ward off emotional eating and may help people consume fewer calories, which, over time, can lead to weight loss.
Eat protein for breakfast
If you typically grab a granola bar or a piece of fruit for breakfast, you may be setting yourself up to overeat later in the day. “I eat 20 to 30 grams of protein as part of my breakfast,” Collingwood says. “It keeps me satisfied for several hours and helps keep my appetite in check as the day goes on, especially in the evening.” Research confirms that is is an effective tactic. In a 2015 study in Nutrition Journal people who started their day with 30 to 39 grams of protein wound up eating about 175 fewer calories at lunchtime, likely because protein stimulates the secretion of a gut hormone that triggers feelings of fullness.
Consider having a hard-boiled egg (6 grams protein) with a 5.3-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt (15 grams protein). Or enjoy a bowl of oatmeal made with a 3/4 cup of oats (7 grams protein), a 3/4 cup of 2 percent milk (6 grams protein), and 3 tablespoons of hemp protein powder (15 grams protein). For added flavor, add a drizzle of honey to your bowl.
Keep a food diary
Technology gets blamed for keeping us stationary and interfering with activity. But your smartphone could help you lose weight. “Several studies have shown that people who keep food logs are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off,” says registered dietitian Rebecca Ditkoff, founder of Nutrition by RD. She believes it’s especially helpful when you’re first getting a handle on what you eat and what you might need to change.
Ditkoff says you can write things down in an actual journal, or you can use an app like MyFitnessPal or MealLogger (this one allows you to track your food by taking pictures of your meals). After you’ve done this for a few weeks, you’ll likely start to see patterns emerge. Maybe you’ll notice that you’re not eating any fruits or vegetables until the evening, or perhaps your breakfast isn’t very filling and you always wind up grabbing something mid-morning snacks. Once you make these realizations, you can start strategizing ways on your own or with the help of a nutritionist to make choices that will help you slim down and improve your health. (Here are 10 other steps to help you meet your weight loss goals.)
Brush and floss after you eat
Not only will your dentist love you, your belly will too: “Brushing and flossing right after dinner will reduce cravings for late-night eating, and clean teeth help signal that you are finished eating,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Sonya Angelone, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Resign from the clean plate club
From childhood, you’ve been told to clean your plate; it’s time to let go of that habit. Yes, it’s challenging to leave behind a delicious bite of chicken parm or baked ziti—even if you feel full. But doing so could help tip the scales in your favor. “I’m part of the ‘leave a few bites behind on my plate club,'” Collingwood jokes. While this strategy may not seem like significant calorie savings, you could save upwards of 50 to 100 calories a day. In a year, that could yield a much slimmer you. (Beware of these 12 sneaky ways you get tricked into overeating—and how to fight back.)
Consider a genomic test
Different from genetic testing—a genomic test looks at how your genes interact with the environment, and how these interactions affect your health. According to Angelone, this test, which can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $1,500 for a comprehensive profile, can uncover the weight loss strategies that could work best for you. “You can learn a lot, including what affects your cravings, metabolism, and exercise tolerance,” Angelone says. “Your health care provider can use this information to come up with a personalized lifestyle plan that’s specifically tailored to your unique biochemical needs.”
Fill half your plate with veggies
Not only are vegetables low calorie, but they are also excellent sources of fiber and water, two things that can help boost feelings of satiety. For this reason, Collingwood always fills half her plate with veggies. “This helps me stick to the proper serving sizes of the other foods on my plate.”
Next, read up on the 50 ways you can lose weight without a lick of exercise.
- Jennifer Cassetta, a New York City-based clinical nutritionist
- Amy Gorin, MS, RD, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area
- Tara Collingwood, RDN, CSSD, team dietitian for Orlando Magic and author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies
- Kristin Reisinger, RD, CSSD
- Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, intuitive eating counselor and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian
- The American Psychologist: "Medicare's search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer"
- Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "An Expanded Model for Mindful Eating for Health Promotion and Sustainability: Issues and Challenges for Dietetics Practice"
- Nutrition Journal: "A randomized, controlled, crossover trial to assess the acute appetitive and metabolic effects of sausage and egg-based convenience breakfast meals in overweight premenopausal women"
- Rebecca Ditkoff, MPH, RD, founder of Nutrition by RD
- Sonya Angelone, RDN, CLT Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Frontiers in Psychology: “Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain”