How to lose weight safely - Food and nutrition

Losing weight safely and at a realistic pace is the best way to reach your healthy weight and to maintain that weight in the long term.

To make sure you lose weight safely, always speak to your GP before starting a new diet or fitness regime.

Dieting safely

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories so cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories per day on average, should see you lose 1 pound per week. While it might not seem like much, if you ate an extra 100 calories per day, by the end of the year you could gain 11lbs. Small changes make a huge difference in the long term.

Setting small and realistic goals will help you lose weight safely and will make you more likely to maintain your weight loss.

Eat three regular, balanced meals a day and try to have meals at planned times. Only include snacks if you’re physically hungry.

More about eating a healthy balanced diet

Try some healthy substitutes

Substitute high-calorie food for healthier alternatives if you’re trying to lose weight:

  • Instead of crisps and dips grab crunchy peppers and carrots and dip them in some low-fat hummus.
  • Swap your chocolate bar for a handful of unsalted nuts.
  • Switch your high-calorie coffee – such as a latte or mocha – for a lower calorie Americano.

Looking for healthy snack inspiration?

Portion control

Losing weight is about eating a healthy and balanced diet, but a big part of being successful in your weight loss attempts is learning how to control your portion sizes.

Portion sizes vary depending on a number of factors – such as age, gender and activity levels – but as a rough guide, the following table outlines the portion sizes of some common foods:

Food item

Portion size

Pasta and rice

2 to 3 tablespoons

Bread

1 medium slice

Cooked meat

Size of a deck of cards

Milk

200ml

Hard cheese

Size of a matchbox

Beans or pulses

4 tablespoons

Picking a smaller plate can help to reduce your portion sizes and in turn, the number of calories consumed.

More about portion control.

Turn off technology

Eating in front of the TV can influence our food choices but can also contribute to us eating more than we need. Concentrating on the TV instead of the meal or snack you’re eating can lead to mindless eating where we eat more than we need and will be less likely to notice feeling full.

Planning your meals

Planning ahead is important to help ensure you have the right foods to hand, at the right times. You should:

  • use a meal planner for the week ahead
  • make a shopping list and don’t go shopping when hungry
  • bulk cook meals and freeze portions
  • try using a slow cooker

Avoid buying larger pack sizes and in-store promotions that are often foods high in fat, salt or sugar – such as crisps and fizzy drinks – this can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Keeping active

Keeping active has many benefits to your health and wellbeing and when part of a healthy diet, can be an effective way to lose weight.

It’s recommended that all adults should try to be active every day and should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week – this could include many different activities such as cycling, walking or even heavy housework where your breathing is increased but you are still able to talk.

Alternatively, you could complete 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, which could include activities such as running or a game of football where your breathing is fast and you are finding it difficult to talk during. You could split this up into manageable workouts such as 30 minutes over 5 days of the week.

It’s is also recommended that adults include strength and balance exercises twice a week that keep muscle, bones and joints strong and reduce our risk of frailty and falls in later life. You could try some useful strength and balance exercises.

It’s important to remember that some movement is good, but more is better, It’s never too late to start and there are many different activities, so try to find something you enjoy doing.

More about keeping active.

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