I’m sure you’ve felt the same way too. You’re all excited to make some changes to your eating habits, but all the diets out there sound a little overwhelming. If so, then keep reading because, in this article, I’m covering 21 small diet changes to lose weight and keep it off for good.
In the early days of losing weight, I was ready to start eating better. I knew making changes to my diet was the best way to lose weight.
But… I also knew that I wasn’t a fan of crazy, hard eating plans. I would try them for a few weeks (or days) and then inevitably give up when it became too hard to stick to them.
What did work for me, however, was making small gradual changes to my diet. Focusing on the little tweaks that were simple to do, but had a big impact on my weight loss overall.
I’m going to share with you 21 small (but effective) diets changes that I have used to help you start eating better and losing weight.
Let’s get to it!
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21 Small Diet Changes to Lose Weight for Good
Keep a Food Journal
A lot of the time we think we’re eating better than we actually are. We don’t notice the few bites here, the half a PB&J we finished off that our toddler abandoned, or the candy we picked up in the checkout line when the kids were acting crazy.
Keeping a food journal will let you see your eating habits, good and bad, and give you a good idea of what you need to work on.
Limit Packaged and Processed Foods
Another simple diet change to make is to limit how much packaged and processed foods you eat. According to Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta, Ph.D. from News Medical Life Sciences:
…the majority of processed foods are detrimental for health as they contain a high amount of saturated fats, sugar, salt, and an unmatched amount of calories.
We’re all well aware that too much fat, sugar, and calories make it a lot harder to lose weight. So instead of grabbing the boxed macaroni and cheese or the can of soup, take a few extra minutes and try making it yourself.
It takes a little extra time, but you’ll be glad you made the effort the next time you step on the scale.
Prepare Your Own Lunch
Next on the list of small diet changes to lose weight is to pack your own lunch. Your odds of making a healthy eating choice for lunch go up considerably when you eat from home instead of hitting the drive-through or a restaurant.
I mean I know plenty of places offer salads on the menu, but when you pull up at McDonald’s and you can literally smell the french fries, what choice do you honestly think you’re going to make??
Make things easier on yourself by removing the temptation and bringing a packed lunch.
Enjoy the Occasional Dessert
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when trying to lose weight is that they cut all the desserts and treats out of their diet. Which quickly leads to them feeling miserable, deprived, and raiding the kid’s candy bucket at 10:30 pm after everyone has gone to bed.
Rather than completely cutting out your favorite treats and snacks, practice eating them in moderation. When you know that this isn’t your last opportunity to eat some cookies, you’ll find it a lot easier to stop at 2 instead of eating the whole bag.
One of the best small diet changes to lose weight that you can make is to drink more water. According to Healthline, drinking more water can help you lose weight “…because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.”
That means you’ll feel full longer and burn more calories throughout the day. Even just adding an extra glass before each meal can help reduce how much you eat throughout the day.
Check out this post for tips on how to drink more water.
Lighten Up Your Coffee Order
Another simple but easy diet change to make is to lighten up your coffee order. The sugar and creamer that most people add to their coffees have a shocking amount of sugar in them.
The sugar content in a Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks is almost as much as 5 chocolate chip cookies. Five!
Most of us recognize eating 5 chocolate chip cookies isn’t helping us lose weight, but we don’t think twice about our coffee order.
See if you can reduce how much sugar and creamers you add to your coffee each morning. Or try ordering a smaller size the next time you hit Starbucks.
Choose Leaner Meats
Next on our list of small diet changes to lose weight is to eat leaner meats. (I can already hear all my fried chicken lovers crying in the background.)
According to MedicineNet, lean meats are a better choice because you get all the nutritional benefits of meat, but with way less saturated fat.
Some leaner meats to can pick up at the store would be chicken or turkey. You can still eat red meat and pork chops, just be sure to trim the extra fat off.
Choose Your Carbs Wisely
Another small diet change that I have found to be very effective is to be a little picky about what carbs you eat. I am by no means an advocate of low carbs, but I also know that not all carbs are created equal.
Eating simple carbs like flour and sugar make it a lot harder to lose weight. According to Healthline, not only are they considered “empty” calories because they have no nutritional value, but they also “lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.”
This has been linked to overeating and weight gain. Which makes them a terrible idea when you’re trying to lose weight.
Instead, opt for more complex carbs. A simple swap in your diet can help you feel full longer and start seeing some progress with your weight loss.
Here are some “good carbs” to start adding in:
- 100% whole-wheat bread
- sweet potatoes
- brown rice
Eat the Healthiest Part of Your Meal First
Another easy change you can make to your diet that will help you lose weight permanently is to eat the healthier part of your meal first. Go for the salad or the veggies before you dive into your main course.
That way you fill up on the part of your meal that has the most nutritional benefit first. You only have so much room in your stomach and odds are pretty good you’re going to have some leftovers.
You don’t want to fill up on the less healthy parts of your meal first and then you don’t have room for the parts that will actually help you work toward your weight loss goals.
So make sure you eat the best part of your meal first and fill up on the nutritious parts. It’s an easy tweak that will have you eating better without having to “give up” your favorite foods.
Don’t Eat Out of the Bag
One of the simplest diet changes you can make to help with weight loss is to stop eating out of the bag. You’re more likely to eat more when you eat out of a bag.
I can’t tell you how many times I used to sit down with a box of Cheezits and then look down a “few minutes later” and realize half the box was gone. Eating out of the bag allows us to mindlessly snack away without realizing how much we’re actually eating.
Instead, just pour it into a bowl. If you want more, you can always go back and get some, but at least now it’s a conscious thought and you can check in on whether you’re actually still hungry.
- 8 Secrets to a Successful Diet
- How to Eat Healthy When Your Family Doesn’t: 8 Practical Tips
- How to Stop Mindless Snacking
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Another simple diet change you can make to help with weight loss is to eat more fruits and vegetables. We all know they’re good for us, but we underestimate the benefit of including them in our diet.
Not only are fruits high in vitamins and minerals that our bodies need, but according to the NHS (National Health Service) they can also help with weight loss.
Fruit and vegetables are also usually low in fat and calories (provided you do not fry them or roast them in lots of oil). That’s why eating them can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy.
You don’t have to make it super complicated either, simply add a few berries to your breakfast, have an apple as a snack, or put some baby carrots on your plate for dinner.
Add in Healthy Fats
As well as fruits and vegetables, you can try adding more healthy fats to your diet. According to Healthline:
All fats provide the same amount of energy — 9 calories per gram — while carbs and protein provide 4 calories per gram. Therefore, reducing the amount of fat in your diet can be an effective way to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.
This means that you’re going to get more energy from eating healthy fats which helps stay full longer.
Now, of course, all things in moderation, don’t go crazy. But try adding healthy fats into your diet. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Add a few slices of avocado
- Cook with olive oil instead of butter
- Use oil-based salad dressings
- Snack on some nuts
Next on our list of small diets changes to lose weight is to eat mindfully. Mindful eating is a really great way to start eating better.
Mindful eating is all about making good choices while being aware of what you’re eating.
It means paying attention to the things you eat, and how you feel after you’ve eaten. It also helps you eat in a more conscious way, so you’re not mindlessly grazing through your food.
By being aware of what you’re eating you’re more likely to avoid overeating and stop when your body is satisfied instead of full.
Here are a few things to try:
- Eat without distractions.
- Chew more slowly.
- Eat sitting down.
- Put your fork down in between each bite.
Cut Back on the Alcohol
If you’re looking to lose weight, you’re going to want to reduce the amount of alcohol you’re drinking. In my experience, alcohol throws all my good intentions out the window, including my efforts to eat better and lose weight.
After a few drinks, I’m more likely to eat way more than I intended and make pretty poor eating choices. For example, instead of eating 1 or 2 cookies, I end up eating 5 or 6.
Alcohol is also empty calories. They’re full of sugar and carbs but offer no nutritional benefit.
I’m not saying you have to cut it out completely, but try limiting it to a drink or two and see how your body responds.
Eat More Protein
Another small diet change you can make to lose weight is to eat more protein.
Most of us know protein is a part of a healthy diet, but it can also be a major part of a diet for weight loss. According to Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN, protein helps keep you full longer, builds muscle, and regulates your hunger hormones.
This means that adding more protein to your diet is a great way to keep your metabolism high and go longer between meals, which can help you burn calories and lose weight.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can add beans and legumes to your diet. These are some of the best sources of protein. If you’re not a vegetarian, you can eat more chicken and fish.
Wait for Hunger
Another great way to lose weight is to wait until you’re hungry before you eat. Most of us eat when we’re not hungry.
We tend to eat in response to emotions or other things, not in response to our bodies. This means that we’re actually overeating and killing our weight loss efforts.
Instead, try waiting for physical hunger to eat. Here’s a simple test I use to tell if I’m actually hungry:
“Am I willing to eat something healthy?”
If the answer is no, I only want this bag of chips, I know it’s not physical hunger and I should wait. If the answer is yes, I eat.
Stop at Satisfied
The next small diet change you can make to lose weight is to stop when you’re satisfied.
Stopping at satisfied means you’re no longer hungry, but you’re not eating until you feel stuffed or overly full. It means that you’ve eaten enough, but not too much.
Many of us eat until we either have cleared our plates or feel like we can’t eat anymore. This is actually overeating.
Feeding our body more food than it can burn off in the next few hours. This means our body is going to store the extra as fat.
Want to guess what we’re not doing when our body is storing extra fat? Yep, we’re not losing weight!
Practice slowing down at meals and paying attention to when you’re body is satisfied and has had enough.
Use a Smaller Plate
Another super easy change you can make that will help you lose weight is to use a smaller plate. It sounds simple, but it works!
Most of us are wired to go fill up our plates when we’re hungry. Without even thinking, we often put more food than we need on our plate and then feel compelled to eat it.
Or just like I mentioned with eating out of the bag before, the larger the quantity of food placed in front of us, the more we’re going to eat. Whether we mean to or not.
Using a smaller plate allows us to serve ourselves less food without feeling deprived.
And here’s the thing, if you’re worried you won’t “get enough to eat” remember: you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry.
But using a smaller plate allows you to slow down and decide if you really need more or not. That extra step can make all the difference in helping reduce your portion sizes and avoid overeating without all the mental drama.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Another small (but effective!) diet change to lose weight is to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast helps start you off on the right foot.
Not only will you be giving yourself a nutritional boost that will give you more energy, keep your metabolism going, and help you avoid that mid-morning snack.
But you’re also starting yourself off better mentally. There’s a big difference between starting your day off feeling strong and on top of your eating choices versus feeling guilty and behind.
The days I start my morning off with a bowl of oatmeal, I feel like I’m on top of my diet, making healthy choices for myself, and motivated to keep going with my next meal.
When I eat a donut first thing in the morning, I feel guilty, judgemental of myself, and like I’ve already messed up my diet for the day.
You can probably guess which type of day is going to end with better eating choices overall.
For a healthy breakfast, the Mayo Clinic suggests you include whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables.
Don’t Skip Meals
Next on our list of small diet changes to lose weight is to make sure you’re not skipping meals. A lot of people do this thinking it will help them lose weight.
But I want you to think about this: when was the last time you made good eating choices when you were hangry?
I don’t know about you, but when I get too hungry, I usually get grouchy, a little shaky, and I’m looking for the first thing that I can fit in my mouth. Most of us also tend to eat way too fast when we’re super hungry.
Which makes it a lot harder to do a lot of the things I’ve listed in this article, such as eating mindfully or stopping at satisfied.
Not to mention, according to an article from the University of Michigan Health, “Getting too hungry can lead to overeating.”
It’s important to wait until you feel physically hungry to eat, but don’t skip meals thinking you’re helping your weight loss. You’re actually making it harder.
Order the Smaller Size
Finally, the last diet change to lose weight is to opt for the smaller size when ordering at a restaurant. This one is super simple but can go a long way toward keeping your portion sizes under control and preventing overeating.
We’ve talked about the importance of using smaller plates before, but this is a great way to do that in a restaurant too. When given the chance, order the smaller size.
If you’re hitting the drive-through and they ask if you want the bigger size for just 50 cents more, don’t get distracted by the supposed discount.
Paying 50 cents more for extra food when you’re trying to lose weight isn’t helping your goal. No matter what a good “deal” it is.
You can do this with regular meals too. After realizing that I was getting a little too full ordering the full-size meal at my favorite restaurant, I started ordering the appetizer version.
I’m still getting what I want, but I’m less likely to overeat because the portion size is already controlled before they bring it to me.
And like I mentioned before, if you’re still hungry afterward you can always get more food. But you’ve made sure you’re actually responding to your hunger and not mindlessly eating because the food is right in front of you.
Conclusion to 21 Small Diet Changes to Lose Weight for Good
Now that I’ve shared my top 21 small diet changes to lose weight, which ones are you ready to try? I encourage you to try some of these simple but powerful suggestions today and see how they work for your life.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan. The important thing is finding a system that works for you and sticking with it until you reach your goals.
If any of these ideas seem like something worth trying out, then go ahead and give them a shot. You may be surprised at just how much more successful your weight loss journey becomes when you make these small changes!
What do you think about this list of small diet changes to lose weight? Let me know in the comments below or email me at Candice@littlestepsbighappy.com. Follow me on Pinterest for more weight loss tips and advice.
Looking for more healthy eating tips?
Healthy Eating Habits:
- Emotional Overeating: how to recognize it and how to stop it
- How to Eat Healthy When Your Family Doesn’t: 8 Practical Tips
- How to Break Unhealthy Eating Habits in 6 Steps
- How to Stop Mindless Snacking
- Tips on How to Stop Late Night Eating
- 15 Quick and Easy Tips for Drinking More Water
- Overeating vs. Satisfied: How to Tell if You’re Eating Too Much
- How to Stick to Your Diet on Vacation
- Does Counting Calories Work? – The Surprising Truth!
- 3 Ways You Practice Diet Sabotage & How to Stop!
- 8 Secrets to a Successful Diet
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I’m a busy mom of 3 turned Health and Fitness Coach and Self Defense Instructor. I help inspire other moms to reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals. You can usually find me chasing my kiddos around, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sneaking away to read romance novels. About Me