Whether you want to lose a few pounds, gain some muscle or get healthier in general, the best way to do so is through healthy eating and exercise. It may take a little time, but once you make the transition, it’s easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The best way to start is by setting a few goals, according to registered dietitian Sarah Younkin of the American Dietetic Association. Set mini-goals that can be attainable, such as “eat 1 cup of veggies at dinner,” or “walk 20 minutes a day.”
Replace a goal like “lose two pounds a week” with specific mini-goals, says Younkin. This allows you to see your progress in a more realistic way, and it can also be more motivating to check off each goal each week when you get frustrated with your weight loss progress.
Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of whole grains, lean protein and fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, especially soda and sweetened lattes.
Keep a food log on your phone, tablet or notebook to track every meal, snack and drink you consume. Studies show that people who do this consistently are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul.
Switch to a high-fiber diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Fiber bulks up your stomach and intestines, helping you feel full longer without over-consuming calories.
Add a few servings of fresh fruit to your daily meals and snacks. Fruit also boosts your hydration levels, and is lower in calories than sweetened beverages.
Cut down on carbs and refined sugar, which are found in white bread, pasta, pastries, desserts and other processed food. Replacing them with whole grains and fresh produce can help you reduce your calorie intake, says Ansel.
Water is often the missing ingredient in many diets, but it’s essential for health and energy. Our bodies can be confused between thirst and hunger, so drinking a glass of water before we go to a snack can help us control our appetite.
Try to drink at least six to eight cups of water a day, with lower-fat milk and other alternatives also counted as water.
Strength training builds muscle, which burns more calories at rest than fat, according to the American Council on Exercise. It also increases your metabolism, which can lead to fat loss.
Cardio exercises like running, walking, biking and swimming are also helpful for burning calories. Adding a strength training workout to your routine can boost results even more, as it can burn calories at a faster rate than cardio alone.
Be consistent with your exercise plan, too. If you don’t have a lot of free time, Younkin suggests starting with short 10-minute sessions. As you build up your stamina, try working out for longer periods of time.
Remember that weight loss is a lifelong process, and you’ll need to find what works for you. Your body reacts to different types of foods differently, so it’s important to experiment with a variety of strategies before you find a plan that works for you.