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Eating well to lose weight

Kai hauora e whīroki haere ai

Changing what and how you eat, along with being more active, can help you lose weight. Often even small changes, such as replacing unhealthy snacks with fruit or having smaller portions can help you lose weight.

If you make small changes that you can live with, you’re more likely to lose weight and keep it off. Try some of the following suggestions.

Start the day with breakfast

berries and porridgeSkipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. You could miss out on important nutrients, and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you're hungry.

A wholegrain, low-sugar cereal with fruit is a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

Eat regular meals

Eat three regular, balanced meals a day. Try to have meals at planned times during the day and only include snacks if you're physically hungry. Being physically hungry means your body is giving you signals that you need to eat. For example, your tummy is rumbling, or you feel tired and lack energy.

Healthy eating, active living has information about which foods you should eat and in what amounts to have a balanced eating plan.

Eat 7+ a day

Vegetables and fruit are low in calories and packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals that can help to keep you healthy. Have at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day. A serving is about a handful.

Try to have vegetables or fruit at all meals. They also make great snacks. For more snack ideas, see Smart snacking for adults.

Watch your portion sizes

Using your own hand can be an easy way to check the size of your portions. Because everyone's hand size is different, portion sizes vary depending on the person. The Heart Foundation has a handy factsheet that shows you how to use your hand size to judge portion size.

Eat mindfully

Overweight young woman eating healthy lunch at homeHow you eat is just as important as what you eat.

Eating quickly on the run or while distracted can lead you to eat more food than you realise or need. Becoming more mindful when you eat can help you gain control over your eating habits. It may also help you lose weight.

For more tips about mindful eating, watch this video.

Reduce sugary drinks

Take cordial, fizzy drink, fruit juice, energy drinks and flavoured milk off your shopping list. These are all high in sugar and provide lots of calories but little nutritional value. The Health Promotion Agency has an easy-to-follow poster that shows how much sugar is in different drinks.

For good health you need at least 8 cups of fluid a day. Water is best, but if you are trying to lose weight, low- or reduced-fat milk (light-blue, green, or yellow-top) and tea and coffee with no sugar are also fine. If you find it difficult to drink tea and coffee without sugar, add a tiny amount of stevia, a natural sweetener.

Have takeaways less than once a week

Most takeaways are high in fat and salt. Only have them on special occasions. See Takeaway tips for ways to make healthier takeaway choices.

Read food labels

Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options when you're shopping.

Cut down on alcohol

woman's hand over glass of wine refusing moreAlcohol is high in calories and can sometimes make you feel hungrier. Cutting back can help you lose weight, and it's good for your general health.

Do not switch alcohol for fruit juice, soft drinks or fizzy drinks. These are all high in sugar and provide lots of calories. Instead try:

Plan ahead

Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list.

Meal planning & recipes has ideas to help you plan and prepare tasty, fast, easy, and low-cost meals.

If you've tried these suggestions and they aren't working for you, consider seeing a dietitian.

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On the next page: Being active to lose weight

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed February 2022.


Page reference: 411950

Review key: HIMWA-28082