For most people, a weight loss goal of 1–2 pounds per week is considered safe. Cutting carbs, eating more protein, lifting weights, and getting more sleep are all actions that can promote sustainable weight loss.
Weight loss is not the answer to every health problem, but if your doctor recommends it, there are tips to help you lose weight safely. A steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is recommended for the most effective long-term weight management.
That said, many eating plans designed to help you lose weight leave you feeling hungry or unsatisfied, or they cut out major food groups and are not sustainable. These are major reasons why you might find it hard to stick to a healthier eating plan.
Everyone has unique needs and different eating styles and tips may work better for you than someone else.
You may find you are able to lose weight by following a low carb diet or a diet that has a focus on whole foods, but there are some general principles that apply when you’re trying to lose weight.
Here are some science-backed tips to help you lose weight that include healthy eating, choosing carbs carefully, and that aim to:
- reduce your appetite and hunger levels while keeping you satisfied
- produce consistent weight loss over time
- help improve your metabolic health at the same time
If you want to lose weight quickly, some of these tips may help, but quick weight loss is rarely sustainable. Focusing on long-term health and habits that you can stick with over time will help improve your health and are more likely to result in lasting weight loss.
One way to help lose weight quickly is to cut back on sugars and starches, or carbohydrates. This could be with a low carb eating plan or by reducing refined carbs and replacing them with whole grains.
When you do that, your hunger levels go down, and you generally end up eating fewer calories (
With a low carb eating plan, you’ll utilize burning stored fat for energy instead of carbs.
If you choose to eat more complex carbs like whole grains along with a calorie deficit, you’ll benefit from higher fiber and digest them more slowly. This makes them more filling to keep you satisfied.
A 2020 study confirmed that a very low carbohydrate diet was beneficial for losing weight in older populations (
Research also suggests that a low carb diet may reduce appetite, which can lead to naturally eating fewer calories without thinking about it or feeling hungry (
Note that the long-term effects of a low carb diet are still being researched. It can also be difficult to adhere to a low carb diet, which may lead to yo-yo dieting and less success in maintaining a healthy weight.
There are potential downsides to a low carb diet that may lead you to a different method. Reduced calorie diets can also lead to weight loss and be easier to maintain for longer periods of time.
If you opt for a diet focusing instead on whole grains over refined carbs, a 2019 study correlated high whole grain intake with lower body mass index (BMI) (
To determine the best way for you to lose weight, consult your doctor for recommendations.
Reducing refined carbohydrates may help curb your appetite, lower your insulin levels, and help you lose weight.
But the long-term effects of a low carb diet are not yet known. A reduced calorie diet could be more sustainable.
Aim to include a variety of foods at each meal. To balance your plate and help you lose weight your meals should include:
- a protein source
- fat source
- a small portion of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains
To see how you can assemble your meals, check out:
- this low carb meal plan
- this lower calorie meal plan
- these lists of 101 healthy low carb recipes and low calorie foods
Eating a recommended amount of protein is essential to help preserve your health and muscle mass while losing weight (
Evidence suggests that eating adequate protein may improve cardiometabolic risk factors, appetite, and body weight (
Generally, an average male needs about 56-91 grams per day, and the average female needs 46-75 grams per day, but many factors influence protein needs. Here are guidelines to help you figure out how much protein to eat without eating too much (
- 0.8g/kg of body weight
- 1-1.2g/kg of body weight for people 65 and older
- 1.4-2g/kg of body weight for athletes
Diets with adequate protein may also help you reduce cravings and snacking by helping you feel full and satisfied (11).
Healthy protein sources include:
- meat: beef, chicken, pork, and lamb
- fish and seafood: salmon, trout, sardines, and shrimp
- plant-based proteins: beans, legumes, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu
Don’t be afraid to load your plate with leafy green vegetables. They’re packed with nutrients, and you can eat very large amounts without greatly increasing calories and carbs.
All vegetables are nutrient-rich and healthy foods to add to your diet, but some vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and corn, are higher in carbs.
These vegetables are considered complex carbs because they contain fiber, but you may want to be mindful of serving size when adding these vegetables to your plate.
Vegetables to include more of:
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
Don’t be afraid of eating fats.
Your body still requires healthy fats no matter what eating plan you choose. Olive oil and avocado oil are great choices for including in your eating plan. Nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are delicious and healthy additions, as well.
Other fats such as butter and coconut oil should be used only in moderation due to their higher saturated fat content (
Try to assemble each meal with a protein source, healthy fat source, complex carb, and vegetables.
Leafy green vegetables are a great way to bulk up a meal with low calories and lots of nutrients.
Exercise, while not required to lose weight, can help you lose weight more quickly. Lifting weights has particularly good benefits.
By lifting weights, you’ll burn calories and help prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which is a common side effect of losing weight (
Try strength training three to four times a week. If you’re new to lifting weights, a trainer may be able to help you get started. Make sure your doctor is also aware of any new exercise plans.
If lifting weights is not an option for you, doing some cardio workouts such as walking, jogging, running, cycling, or swimming is very beneficial for weight loss and general health.
Both cardio and weightlifting may help with weight loss and offer lots of other health benefits.
Resistance training, such as weightlifting, is a great option for losing weight. If that’s not possible, cardio workouts are also effective.
Choose what’s sustainable for you.
If you opt for a low carb eating plan, it’s not necessary to count calories as long as you keep your carb intake low and eat mostly protein, fat, and low carb vegetables.
If you find yourself not losing weight, you may want to keep track of your calories to see if that’s a contributing factor.
If you’re sticking to a calorie deficit to lose weight, you can use a free online calculator like this one to estimate your calorie needs.
You can also download free, easy-to-use calorie counters from websites and app stores. Here’s a list of 5 calorie counters to try.
Note that eating too few calories can be dangerous and less effective for losing weight. Aim to reduce your calories by a sustainable and healthy amount based on your doctor’s recommendation.
A note on calorie counting
Counting calories may be a helpful tool for some, but it may not be the best choice for everyone.
If you are preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt surrounding your food choices, or routinely engage in restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.
Talk with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, if you’re struggling.
You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.
Counting calories isn’t usually needed to lose weight on a low carb eating plan. But if you’re not losing weight or on a reduced calorie eating plan, calorie counting may help.
Here are 9 more tips to help you lose weight:
- Eat a high protein breakfast. Eating a high protein breakfast could help reduce cravings and calorie intake throughout the day (
- Limit sugary drinks and fruit juice. Empty calories from sugar aren’t useful to your body and can hinder weight loss (
- Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day and aim for half your body weight in ounces (
- Choose weight-loss-friendly foods. Some foods are better for weight loss than others. Here is a list of healthy weight-loss-friendly foods.
- Eat more fiber. Studies show that eating fiber may promote weight loss. Find fiber in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and these other high-fiber foods. (
21, 22, 23).
- Drink coffee or tea. Caffeine consumption may help boost your metabolism. No need to go overboard on caffeine though and be mindful of adding sugar to these drinks (
- Base your diet on whole foods. They tend to be nutrient rich, more filling, and less likely to cause overeating than processed foods.
- Eat slowly. Eating quickly can lead to weight gain over time, while eating slowly makes you feel more full and boosts weight-reducing hormones (
- Get good quality sleep. Sleep is important for many reasons, and poor sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for weight gain (
27, 28, 29).
While these 9 tips are a good starting point, they’re not the only things that impact weight loss. Try to reduce stress, and move your body. Read more about natural tips for losing weight here.
Eating whole foods, higher protein, fiber, and less sugar can help you lose more weight. Don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep, too.
These sample meal plan ideas are low carb, which limits carbs to 20–50 carbs per day. Each meal should have protein, healthy fats, and veggies. These meal ideas are just suggestions, as everyone has different needs and food preferences.
If you’d prefer to lose weight while still eating complex carbs, add in some healthy whole grains to your meals such as:
- whole wheat flour, bread, or pasta
- brown rice
- poached egg with sliced avocado and a side of berries
- spinach, mushroom, and feta crustless quiche
- green smoothie with spinach, avocado, and nut milk and a side of cottage cheese
- unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
- smoked salmon with avocado and a side of asparagus
- lettuce wrap with grilled chicken, black beans, red pepper, and salsa
- kale and spinach salad with grilled tofu, chickpeas, and guacamole
- BLT wrap with celery sticks and peanut butter
- enchilada salad with chicken, peppers, mango, avocado, and spices
- ground turkey bake with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and cheese
- antipasto salad with white beans, asparagus, cucumbers, olive oil, and Parmesan
- roasted cauliflower with tempeh, Brussels sprouts, and pine nuts
- salmon baked with ginger, sesame oil, and roasted zucchini
- cauliflower hummus and veggies
- healthy homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- kale chips
- cottage cheese with cinnamon and flaxseeds
- spicy roasted chickpeas
- roasted pumpkin seeds
- tuna pouches
- steamed edamame
- strawberries and brie
You may lose weight more quickly in the first week of a diet plan and then lose weight at a slower but more consistent rate after that. The first week you typically lose a mix of both body fat and water weight.
If this is the first time you are making changes to your diet and exercise habits, weight loss may happen more quickly.
Unless your doctor suggests otherwise, losing 1–2 pounds per week is usually a safe amount. If you’re trying to lose weight faster than that, speak to your doctor about a safe level of calorie reduction.
Aside from weight loss, a low carb diet can improve your health in a few ways, though the long-term effects are not yet known:
- blood sugar levels tend to significantly decrease on low carb diets (30)
- triglycerides tend to go down (31)
- LDL (bad) cholesterol goes down (
- blood pressure improves significantly (
Other diet types that reduce calories and increase whole foods are also associated with improved metabolic markers and slower aging (34,
You can reach your weight loss goals by incorporating a low carb or low calorie diet into your life, but the speed of weight loss depends on the individual.
General weight loss can sometimes improve certain markers of health, such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
If you need help finding a primary care doctor, then check out our FindCare tool here.
By reducing carbs or replacing refined carbs with complex carbs, you’ll likely experience reduced hunger levels. Feeling hungry is often why it’s difficult to maintain a weight loss plan, so it’s important to find a way of eating that leaves you feeling satisfied.
By incorporating a sustainable low carb or lower calorie eating plan, you can eat healthy food until you’re full and still lose weight.
Losing weight quickly may be your goal, but it’s important to think about the long run. While you may lose water weight quickly, fat loss takes longer, and developing sustainable weight loss may take longer than you’d like.