31 Best Weight Loss Secrets, According to Science

When you travel, you probably do some research before you head to the airport or get behind the wheel of your car. If you’re going someplace you haven’t been before, you probably ask friends who’ve been to your destination for the inside scoop on the off-the-beaten-path sites to see or the hidden-gem restaurants where the locals go. Hints and tips like these make your visit easier, less intimidating, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Armed with that knowledge, you feel better prepared and more enthused for the adventure.

Starting a weight-loss program can be a little like taking a trip to a foreign place, too. Naturally, there are unknowns and the small anxieties they trigger. That’s where tips and hints from someone who has been there can help.

Here are some that will help you navigate your weight loss diet. These are nuggets of advice, tricks, tips, and suggestions that we’ve found helpful when looking to lose or maintain weight and establish a healthier pattern of eating. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

Write a healthy grocery shopping list

You need good hiking boots and stronger legs to climb a mountain. You don’t climb a mountain without preparation. You’ll want to break down your big goal of weight loss into mini-goals that take you to the top, like sleeping 7-8 hours a night or cutting off your nighttime snacking at 8 p.m. To set yourself up for success, before you even write down your goals, step one should be gathering supplies, such as a scale, meal prep containers, or a blender for making weight-loss smoothies.

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making smoothie

While having a daily or weekly plan can help you lay out your days so you can reach your goals, you can start with something as easy as reading up on the 7 Must-Buy Foods on a Healthy Grocery List, According to a Dietitian before you go shopping to ensure that you have every ingredient you need to improve health and lose weight.

box of tea bags cup of tea honey

Drinking smoothies as meal replacements doesn’t cover your daily liquid requirements. We’d like to see you consume about 64 ounces of water each day. Remember, some of that water can come from foods, especially vegetables and fruits. Tea and coffee contribute, but beware of the calorie hit you can take if you add lumps of sugar or teaspoons of creamer. Brewed green, white, or black teas are packed with compounds called catechins, belly-fat crusaders that blast belly fat by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells, and speeding up the liver’s fat-burning capacity. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of four to five cups of green tea with 25 minutes of exercise (or 180 minutes a week), lost two more pounds than the non–tea-drinking exercisers. Even tea without sweating offers weight loss benefits by boosting the body’s ability to metabolize fat. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that participants who regularly sipped oolong tea lost a pound a week, without doing anything else to change their diet or exercise habits.

happy woman eating a healthy meal

Eating healthy most of the time and allowing indulgences every once in a while, known as the 80/20 rule, is a lifestyle you can maintain forever. This means that 80% of the time, you eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, and that you cut down on the sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. Then, 20% of the time, you get the green light to enjoy some chocolate, a glass of wine, or some French fries. Knowing you can indulge a little satisfies cravings so you never feel deprived.

clean kitchen

Give your kitchen a clean sweep. In other words, get rid of calorie-dense, high-sugar processed foods. If they are lying around on the counter or in a cabinet that’s easily accessed, you will be tempted to eat them, especially when you are bored. Don’t create additional temptation for yourself. Bag the snacks.

small portion

Skipping meals tends to backfire on you. You become so hungry that you lose all willpower and consume the closest, most calorie-dense food you can find, eat too fast, and overeat. Instead, be mindful of your hunger. Satisfy it with a smoothie or high-fiber snack like cut-up vegetables or a high-protein snack like a hard-boiled egg, cheese stick, or a handful of nuts and seeds.

Balsamic vinegar

Adding a few tablespoons of vinegar on a sandwich or salad can slow the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and reduce feelings of hunger so you eat less. Studies have shown that vinegar taken with a carb-heavy meal can reduce blood sugar spikes by a quarter or more.

high fiber bowl of bran cereal with blueberries and bananas

If you hate counting calories and despise eliminating dessert, try this no-brainer weight-loss trick: Simply eat at least 30 grams of fiber daily. University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers found that this technique fuels weight loss and improves health even more effectively than some more complicated diet approaches did. Researchers say that focusing on eating more of a certain nutrient is often easier than eliminating a food for some people. See chapter 13 for some of the best high-fiber foods.


While your eating habits have a greater influence on weight gain or loss than exercise will, don’t forget the powerful benefits of moving more every day. When you are physically active, your body metabolizes food more efficiently, you build muscle, you sleep better, and you feel happier. All of these can affect your weight loss. So be sure to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. According to a University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center study, a person who weighs 150 pounds could lose about six pounds per year just by climbing up two flights of stairs daily.

Instant oatmeal

Oats are not just a breakfast staple. Gain the heart-healthy, diabetes-busting benefits by making turkey-and-oat meatballs. Add 3⁄4 cup of quick-cooking oats to 11⁄2 pounds of ground lean turkey. Include 1⁄2 cup chopped onion, 1 egg, and 1⁄2 cup tomato sauce. Roll into meatballs and bake in a pan at 400°F. for 20 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce.

Meal prep containers

Pack your lunch to take to work every day and you will avoid the temptation of calorie-dense fast-food restaurant options. A study in the journal Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 92% of meals from large-chain and local restaurants have more calories than is recommended for the average person. Bringing a healthy lunch to work could save you thousands of calories per week. Also try these 7 Healthy Lunch Habits For A Flat Belly.

Mexican pork lettuce wraps

Instead of using a carb-heavy ten-inch wrap for your next homemade sandwich, go green with a crisp Bibb lettuce leaf. By putting your chicken or tuna salad or hummus in a lettuce leaf instead of a wrap or bread, you’ll save at least 150 calories and more than 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Open faced sandwich

Here’s an easy way to instantly cut 70 to 120 calories out of your diet without even noticing: Take the top off your sandwich. Making your sandwich open-face style, with just one slice of whole-grain bread, keeps calories off your plate and allows you to pile on the nutritious toppings.

chia flax seeds on top of green smoothie

We’re big fans of chia seeds because they plump up in liquid, which means they fill you up without loading you down with calories. Plus, they’re full of heart-healthy omega-3s, fiber, protein, and calcium. Use them in smoothies or mix them into cottage cheese or yogurt with a handful of blueberries. These high-fiber foods will serve up 10 grams of fiber in each two-tablespoon serving.

Creamy homemade hummus

Many commercial hummus tubs are jam-packed with waist-widening additives. To avoid the unnecessary ingredients, whip up your own hummus at home and use it as a dip for crunchy veggies such as carrots and celery. The spread’s main ingredient—chickpeas—contains satiating fiber and protein to keep hunger pangs at bay.

small salad plate

If you poured your favorite breakfast cereal into a large bowl and a small bowl, we can almost guarantee that you’ll put more in the larger bowl. Why? Because a larger bowl makes the food look smaller. You mistakenly think you aren’t getting enough, so you keep on pouring. Similarly, the smaller plate or bowl makes your food look much larger, tricking you into taking a smaller portion. In one study, campers who were given larger bowls served themselves and consumed 16% more cereal than those given smaller bowls. Swapping dinner plates for salad plates will help you eat more reasonable portions, which can help reduce calorie consumption.

walk dog

Studies suggest that people who own dogs are healthier and fitter than those who don’t, because walking a dog is good forced daily exercise. You’ll burn 61 calories in just 15 minutes of walking a dog, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

kids happy meal

If you must have a cheeseburger and fries, indulge, but order the kids’ size meal. The smaller portion will satisfy your cravings without undoing the progress you’ve made.

Meal prep chopped veggies brussels sprouts onions mushrooms peppers zucchini on wooden cutting board

Prepping healthy, homemade meals can help you avoid hitting up the drive-thru or reaching for convenient processed foods that will cause you to pack on the pounds. Cooking more at home will save you money as well as calories. While cooking dinner on Sunday afternoon, whip up another meal or two to freeze for later in the week. Sure, it takes more time, but it will save you more time when the busy work week starts.


What’s that? Well, let’s look at the flip side: The opposite of eating mindfully is eating without thinking. It’s consuming whatever is handy or delicious-looking without paying attention to content or portion control. Think of mindlessly chomping through a bag of chips while watching television or rhythmically dipping your hand into a bowl of yogurt-covered peanuts while chatting with a friend at the kitchen table. When you eat mindfully, you pay attention. You pause before you munch.You evaluate your hunger cues and make a smart plan for satisfying them. You make a better choice by selecting a food that’s good for you and will satisfy your hunger and your taste buds without triggering blood sugar spikes. Studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that paying attention while eating helps people lose weight. Distracted eating, by contrast, can lead to overeating by hundreds of calories.

looking at label

One of the best ways to practice mindful eating is to become a student of the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods. By regularly perusing the nutrition label (and don’t forget the ingredients list!), you’ll be more likely to make smarter food choices. You’ll be amazed at how often you will put a product back on the supermarket shelf after reading unpronounceable things on the ingredients list.

Roasted spiced sweet chickpeas

Toss chickpeas with olive oil, spices, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Spread on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. Also try these 15 Best Snack Combos That Double Weight Loss.


According to researchers, late sleepers—defined as those who wake up around 10:45 a.m.—consume 248 more calories during the day, as well as half as many fruits and vegetables and twice the amount fast food as those who set their alarm earlier. If these findings sound troubling to you night owls, try setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier each day until you’re getting out of bed at a more reasonable hour. This may take a week or so but it really works.

Fruit bowl

Fill it with fruits and fresh vegetables. You’re more likely to grab fruits and veggies over less healthy options if they’re ready to eat and in plain sight. Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers, suggests keeping washed and prepared veggies like cucumbers, peppers, sugar snap peas, and carrots in the front of the fridge so they aren’t over-looked. Bananas, apples, pears, and oranges should be kept on the counter where everyone can see them.

woman eating a bowl of oatmeal

Many dietitians and weight-loss coaches advise their clients to limit themselves to just a couple of go-to breakfasts or snacks. Why? Repetition builds rhythm. You don’t have to ask yourself, “Hmm, what shall I have?” If you know of a few things that you love that are also low in calories and high in nutrients, why keep searching? Switch things up every couple of weeks, but keep variety to a minimum.

healthy plate

This is another no-brainer way to make weight-loss easy: Fill at least half of your lunch and dinner plate with vegetables. Vegetables will fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than starches, like rice, will because they are high in satiating fiber and water.

container of mints

Want to keep from spooning yourself seconds of that casserole or taking an extra chocolate chip cookie? Pop an Altoid in your mouth. We often yearn for more of what we just ate because the taste of the food still lingers in our mouth. So cleanse your palate with a mint or a breath strip and you’ll reduce the urge to keep noshing.

bread basket

We’re talking about the bread basket they bring to the table before you order or the tortilla chips and salsa they serve in a Mexican restaurant. Both are carb-heavy calorie bombs. Ask your server to take them away, and you’ll immediately improve the nutritional profile of your restaurant meal.

canned fish

You’ll end up eating more fish with brain-healthy omega-3 fats if you keep your pantry stocked with canned tuna and salmon. Choose light tuna, which contains fewer calories and less sodium. The best canned fish is salmon because it contains fewer toxins like mercury and more of the omega-3s DHA and EPA than other canned fish.

White baby bella mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet uv light

If you substituted low-energy-density foods like mushrooms for high-energy-density foods such as hamburger just once a week, you’d save more than 20,000 calories and roughly 1,500 grams of fat over the course of a year without changing anything else about your diet, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.

eating cereal
Ryan Pouncy/ Unsplash

Instead of gobbling down breakfast at home, eat at your desk a few hours later than you typically do. Pushing back your first meal of the day naturally reduces your “eating window”—the number of hours you spend each day grazing. Why is that beneficial? Sticking to a smaller eating window may help you lose weight, even if you eat more food throughout the day, a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found. To come to this finding, researchers put groups of mice on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 100 days. Half of them were allowed to nibble throughout the night and day on a healthy, controlled diet while the others only had access to food for eight hours, but could eat whatever they wanted. Oddly enough, the fasting mice stayed lean while the mice who noshed around the clock became obese—even though both groups consumed the same number of calories. Try it yourself: What Happens To Your Body On The Intermittent Fasting Diet.

grocery list

Think writing a grocery list before heading to the store is a waste of time? As it turns out, it may be the key to finally losing weight. A Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study of more than 1,300 people discovered that shoppers who regularly wrote grocery lists also purchased healthier foods and had lower body mass indexes than those who didn’t put pen to paper before heading to the store. Researchers hypothesize that shopping lists keep us organized, which in turn helps us fend off diet-derailing impulse buys (hello, candy aisle). Before heading to the supermarket to stock up, spend a few minutes taking inventory of your kitchen, and then write a list. Be sure to organize it by category to prevent zigzagging all over the place; that ups the odds you’ll walk by—and purchase—tempting treats that could derail your weight loss success. While you’re at it, throw on these 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

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