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Eating Habits That Jumpstart Weight Loss, According to Dietitians

Get a leg up on the competition right off the bat.

You likely recognize the importance of eating habits when it comes to weight management, but where is the best place to start when overhauling your food choices? With so many ways to approach nutrition for weight loss, there is not one single approach that works for everyone. What is most important is you make small manageable changes that add up over time.

If you are stumped on how to improve your eating habits for weight loss, or you're looking for more ideas to keep the momentum going, here are the top six eating habits to jumpstart weight loss.

Eat protein at breakfast

hard boiled eggs

Protein is a macronutrient that can be found in plant and animal food sources. This nutrient is essential in the repair and building of body tissues, including muscle, and is known for creating a feeling of fullness that may help offset snacking and overeating.

While protein should be included at all meals, this nutrient is most often skipped at breakfast when many are choosing pre-packaged grab-and-go options.

To make it easier for you to get protein in the morning, keep the following on hand for quick options: hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butter, pre-made protein shakes, protein bars, and fully cooked chicken and turkey sausage that you can heat and eat.

Water first thing

drinking water

It is not uncommon to wake up dehydrated, and jumping right into caffeinated coffee isn't all that helpful in building back your hydration for the day. Before you drink anything else or eat, try having at least one cup of water. You can add citrus, mint, or cucumber to it for a flavor boost, or warm it up with a big squeeze of lemon on a cold morning.

Starting your day with a glass of water will help you reach your hydration targets for the day, and may offset the amount of higher calorie, sugar-laden drinks you may otherwise have, like sugary coffee drinks, soda, energy drinks, and juice.

Half plate veggie

salmon and veggies

For those with weight loss in mind, aiming for a half plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner is a good way to create satiety and limit overeating on more calorie-dense items. Not only will eating more veggies create a feeling of fullness, but it will also boost your intake of fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients.

One additional step you may take is eating your veggies first before diving into the protein and carb on your plate. Prioritizing veggies will help ensure you get your full half-plate serving, and will create more satiety before you enjoy the other items on your plate.

Cut sugar in half

sparkling water with fruit and mint

From coffee creamer and cereal, to soda and desserts, refined sugar can be found in a wide variety of processed foods. While it may feel like a daunting task to get rid of all the refined sugar in your diet, cutting your intake in half is a wonderful start to lessening your intake of this less-than-ideal ingredient.

For example, cut the sugar in your coffee by half, enjoy one cookie in the evening instead of two, and swap one of your sodas for unsweetened sparkling water. These changes may seem small, but when combined and maintained over a period of time they can help significantly when working towards weight loss.

Plan ahead

meal prep

Planning out your meals for the week may feel like one extra task that needs to be squeezed into an already busy schedule, but this hour spent planning can make the rest of your week run so much smoother. Planning ahead may help reduce the number of times you eat out each week, and could lead to fewer impulsive purchases at the grocery store.

If you are able, you can take this one step further and prep some of your food for the week as well. Try cooking your grains and proteins in bulk, and wash your fruits and veggies for meals and snacks for a simplified meal prep that will help save time during the busy work week.

Combine macros

oatmeal fruit berries walnuts nuts

For most people, I don't consider a meal to be complete unless it contains carb, fat, protein, and produce. That means a bowl of cereal for breakfast won't suffice, and a big steak with no sides won't cut it either. Combining all of these food groups at a meal helps to ensure you consume a broad spectrum of nutrients, pairs protein and fat with carb to help keep your blood sugar stable, and helps to improve satiety.

Instead of just a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast, try adding in some chopped walnuts and berries, and adding a hardboiled egg on the side.


mindful eating

These are only a few ideas for how to jumpstart your weight loss. Any habit you work to improve is progress and should be celebrated. If this list looks like an overwhelming amount of change, just pick one or two components to start with and build from there. Remember, progress is more important than perfection, so cut yourself some slack if it takes some time to build better habits.

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Kelsey Hampton Abdullah, MS, RDN
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey