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Counting calories for successful weight loss

It’s a point nutrition experts find worth repeating: If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than your body needs—and make your calories count. Add in exercise to help achieve that calorie deficit, and you’ll start improving your health even before the numbers on the scale begin to change.

Diet-book authors may continue to debate the issue of what to eat, but most health professionals agree that a balanced diet emphasizing wholesome, nutrient-rich foods is your best bet. Popular high-protein diets that limit carbohydrates may work in the short term. However, researchers have yet to determine if the low-carb, high-saturated fat formula will impact your health in the long run.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods, including plenty of vegetables and fruits, along with foods low in fat and salt. Vegetables and fruits are fiber-rich and satisfying and contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight disease and keep your immune system strong. Add in complex carbohydrates, such as yams and whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal for nutrients and fiber, and lean proteins like fish and skinless poultry. Avoid trans fats in processed foods, limit saturated fats to no more than 10 percent of your fat intake and emphasize moderate amounts of healthier monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil and nuts.

Here are some tips to help keep calories in check:

Watch portion sizes. What you pour into your cereal bowl may be more than twice the actual serving size. Know what a teaspoon of olive oil looks like, and count out nuts.

Get calorie savvy. Many people vastly underestimate the number of calories they consume. Read nutrition labels and consult calorie guides.

Eat mindfully. Take time to enjoy your food. Grabbing food on the run or eating in front of the TV or computer screen can pack on extra pounds.

Set a realistic goal. Plan to lose weight gradually to avoid rebound weight gain.