Top 5 Nutrition Tips to Jump Start Your Weight Loss Journey
Jillian Genovese MS, RD
Founder of A Full Plate Nutrition, Inc.
Weight loss doesn’t have to mean restrictive diets with a set of strict rules and guidelines. You also don’t have to cut out entire food groups, like carbs, to achieve success. If weight loss is your goal, keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting the expectation that you have to make drastic changes overnight and perfectly adhere to the rules. In fact, fast and drastic changes are exactly what I’d advise against. Why? Simply put- that is not sustainable! Sustainability is the key to long-term success. So, always consider what you can realistically handle. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, your best bet is to make small, gradual adjustments. Over time, continue to up the ante by adding new changes once you get used to the old ones. Everyone’s timeline is different, but this is how you create new healthy habits and cultivate behavior change that lasts.
Start now and start small with these five simple and easy tips:
1. Fill at least half your plate with non-starchy veggies.
Non-starchy veggies are going to be your foods like cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, tomato, cucumber, cabbage, leafy greens, etc. Though these foods are technically classified as a type of carbohydrate, their content is lower in carbohydrates because they contain little to no starch. Consider these a “low carb” option.
Non-starchy veggies get a gold star when it comes to providing vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they are also a top pick for weight loss because they are very low in calories. This makes them great for adding volume and bulk to your plate while keeping the calorie count in a more optimal range for weight loss. I often have clients say to me, “I feel like I am eating more food!” This is the beauty of non-starchy veggies. Though your plate may visibly look bigger, by filling at least half your plate with these nutrient-dense foods you can easily reduce the total number of calories in your meal while still feeling full and satisfied.
2. Watch your portions on things like nuts, seeds, nut butters, and oils.
If you’ve made efforts to choose healthier food items but are still not seeing any movement on the scale, you may want to take a closer look at your consumption of nuts, seeds, nut butters, and oils. Though these items are highly nutritious and chock-full of nutrition, they are also very high in calories. For example, just 1 tablespoon of oil contains roughly 130 calories. This can quickly add up during the day if you are cooking your breakfast in oil, dousing your salads in dressings, and using a heavy hand when coating your veggies and proteins before cooking. To keep portions in check, I always suggest making the move to using avocado oil spray for cooking and to use it sparingly. You only need to lightly coat veggies before roasting. If sauteing, use a quick spray to lightly coat your pan. If you need a little more moisture, use filtered water or broth- you’ll be surprised at how effective this healthy kitchen hack can be.
I also commonly see people choosing nuts as a snack. Nuts and seeds are a great choice but in moderate amounts. Two big handfuls of almonds can easily be 300 calories. For most people, a good snack is around 100-150 calories. Instead of mindlessly snacking on a bag (or tub) of almonds, try portioning out 8-9 almonds and pairing them with a serving of fruit like 2 clementines, a small apple, a ½ cup of grapes, or 1 cup of berries. Pairing nuts with fruit also makes the snack more satisfying and refreshing. If you feel you need larger snacks to get you through the day, what you might actually need are more satisfying and balanced meals which will help reduce the need to snack. This is something that is highly individualized and can be explored further when working with a dietitian.
3. Include protein at every meal and snack. Aim for 20-25g per meal and 5-10g per snack.
Protein is king when it comes to weight loss for a few reasons: (1) it’s the ability to stabilize blood sugars which is crucial for controlling cravings and appetite, (2) it increases feelings of satiety, (3) it helps build and maintain muscle mass, and (4) our bodies can burn up to 30% of the calories in protein just by digesting it.
For women, a good rule of thumb is to aim for 20-30g of protein per meal which equates to roughly 3-4oz of poultry, beef, or fish. Men may need closer to 5-6oz. Studies show this is the optimal amount of protein our bodies can absorb and utilize in one sitting. Hitting this target will help control appetite and cravings while providing an amount of adequate protein to fulfill your body’s needs.
4. Go easy on the sauces, dressings, marinades.
Sauces, dressings, and marinades are often high in fat, calories, and contain hidden sources of sugar, MSG, and other unnecessary additives. Of course, there are some exceptions, but this is especially true when dining out or using store-bought options when cooking at home. When scanning options are the grocery store, your best defense is to choose options that have as close to 0g of added sugar as possible and contain minimal food additives. Some good go-to store-bought brands are Primal Kitchen, Tessemae’s, and Chosen Foods.
If cooking at home, flavor your food with fresh herbs, spices, and lemon. If dining out, ask for dressing and sauces on the side. This way, you can control the portion yourself or decide not to use it at all. If opting to skip the sauce, ask for lemon wedges and add a little extra flavor to your food with a fresh squeeze.
5. Stock your kitchen like a wellness warrior and make the freezer your best friend.
A smart and strategically stocked kitchen is one of the most effective ways to encourage success in your weight loss journey. Achieving your goals will likely require adopting new eating patterns, behaviors, methods of cooking, and food choices. Stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients will make the process much easier and more enjoyable.
Consider the following kitchen stock-it ideas:
- Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds for snacks and to use as toppings to yogurt, oatmeal, and salads
- Individual containers of yogurt (recommended: Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free Yogurt and Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt)
- Sea-salted and roasted chickpeas to use in place of croutons (recommended brand: Bienna)
- No-sugar added tomato sauce (recommended brand: Cucina Antica Tomato Basil)
- Sustainably caught tuna and pink salmon
- Food For Life Ezekiel Bread (found in the frozen section)
- 88 Acres Nut and Seed Bars
- Whole grains like quinoa and brown rice
- Chickpea pasta (recommended brand: Banza)
- Pre-cooked grain mixes. The Whole Foods 365 Brand has some great options. A personal favorite is the 7 Grain & Lentil Blend.
It’s also a good idea to stock your freezer which is great for preserving fresh foods. I always recommend making extra when preparing meals and to freeze leftovers in pre-portioned, individual containers for times when you are tired or short on time. Stocking up on frozen foods like veggie mixes and cauliflower rice from Cascadian Farms is a smart idea to help make hitting that target of “filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies” much easier and do-able.
Ditch the Diet Mentality
Keep in mind, these are all general health guidelines and practices that you should aim to integrate into your life for the long term. You want to avoid the traditional diet mentality of making extreme changes for a short period of time until you reach your target weight, only to slip right back to where you started. Short-term diets yield short-term results. The ultimate goal is to establish new healthy habits, behaviors, and mindsets while learning the nutrition fundamentals and concepts behind the changes. This way, your weight loss efforts can be easily maintained, and the process becomes a whole lot more enjoyable.
If you have a history of trying diet after diet and struggle to maintain or lose weight, it might be time to consider working with a registered dietitian. Working one-on-one with a professional, as opposed to adhering to an online diet program or book, is much more effective because your unique lifestyle and individual needs are considered to create a customized plan that works specifically for you.
If you are interested in working with Jillian, please email firstname.lastname@example.org