We have the best diet secrets to help you manage your weight long term. And the best news? They’re simple to follow and really work. It’s all about making small changes for larger gains such as making everyday nutrient-rich foods a regular part of your diet. These diet secrets will help ensure you achieve your optimal weight and stay in the best possible health.
Follow these 8 diet secrets for long-term weight loss
1 Focus on plant-based foods
One of the simplest diet secrets is to start small. We don’t need to completely cut out animal foods, but plant foods should be at the centre of our diet if we want to live healthier lives, says dietician Lynne Garton. “Studies have found eating more plant foods like fruit, veg, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, and soya has many health benefits, like lowering risk of heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Adding more healthy vegetarian dishes to your weekly menu is a great way to enjoy a wider, more prominent variety of plant foods in your diet.”
At the same time, another diet secret to reduce risk of bowel cancer, is to limit your intake of red and processed meats like ham and bacon to no more than 70g (cooked weight) a day. “Serve it as an accompaniment rather than the main part of the meal,” says Lynne.
2 Enjoy everyday ‘superfoods’
There’s no need to seek out unusual and pricey ingredients like seaweed, kefir, acai berries, raw cacao and maca powder for a nutrient boost…
“Some of the most nutritious foods we can eat are right under our noses in the supermarket,” explains nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam. “The reality is, adding the latest ‘superfood’ to your diet is unlikely to transform your health. But making everyday nutrient-rich foods a regular part of your diet – like green veg, tomatoes, onions, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, oily fish, eggs, wholegrains, low-fat milks and plain yoghurt – will help ensure you stay in the best possible health.”
3 Get sugar savvy
Honey, coconut sugar, organic raw cane sugar, agave nectar – they all seem more natural and healthier than the white stuff, don’t they?
Health experts actually advise that we limit all forms of sugar, and that includes honey, syrups, fruit concentrates and fruit juices. “Many alternative sweeteners like maple, fruit or agave syrups are often sweeter than regular sugar, which can help to reduce intakes if we use them in smaller amounts,” explains dietician Lucy Jones. “But use them ‘like for like’ and you might as well have regular sugar.” Don’t fall for the marketing hype either, she says.
“No matter what the label says, all types of sugar and syrups are low in vitamins and minerals and offer no real health benefits.” If you really want to make a difference to your teeth and waistline, she recommends reducing obvious high-sugar foods packed with kilojoules and few nutrients. “Cutting down on biscuits, chocolate, sweets, cakes and sugary drinks, rather than swapping sugar for a trendy alternative, is a much better bet for staying healthy,” confirms Lucy.
4 Spread protein throughout the day
Many women eat little protein during the day, then have a big portion with their evening meal. But this isn’t necessarily the best approach for fighting hunger, according to nutritionist Dr Alexandra Johnstone.
“There’s now growing evidence that protein helps to improve satiety, especially when it’s combined with carbohydrate. Also, spreading this across the day is a better approach for appetite control. It doesn’t have to be meat or poultry – protein is found in dairy, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts, seeds and tofu,” she adds. When combined with exercise, evenly distributing protein across meals also stimulates muscle growth more effectively. “Eating protein to maintain lean body (muscle) mass is essential for women as they age, as the more muscle we have, the higher the metabolism and the more kilojoules we burn, which makes weight control easier.”
5 Ditch low-carb diets
The latest nutritional advice is clear. Rather than limiting carbohydrates, half of our kilojoules should actually come from them – just preferably in the form of wholegrains and high-fibre, lower-sugar starchy foods. “Studies suggest that the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes may be up to 30% lower in people who regularly eat wholegrains as part of a low-fat diet,” says dietician and nutritionist Azmina Govindji.
“Any diet changes need to be made gradually if you’re going to stick with them,” she adds. “So, you could start out with oats in the morning and do wholewheat pasta or brown rice later on. Eventually, you can try the more unusual wholegrains such as wholewheat couscous, quinoa, buckwheat noodles or bulgur wheat.”
6 Cook from scratch but without the fuss
It’s a common misconception that cooking from scratch has to be time-consuming, and that it requires masses of ingredients.
But it is possible to create healthy meals in minutes, say Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice, co-authors of The Midlife Kitchen (Mitchell Beazley).
“Having simple, fresh ingredients to hand helps. Our fridges always contain the building blocks of a healthy meal – things like mackerel fillets, lemons, natural yoghurt and fresh herbs,” says Mimi. “We love to make life easier in the kitchen, for example, using pouches of pre-cooked lentils and grains or using frozen vegetables like peas, broad beans and edamame beans, which often retain more nutrients than the fresh varieties,” says Sam.
7 Don’t be afraid of fat
“Fat doesn’t need to be avoided altogether, but we need to make sure that we eat the right types,” says dietician Victoria Taylor.
“Too much saturated fat in our diet from products like butter, cakes and biscuits can have implications for our cholesterol levels. Raised cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, so swap foods high in saturated fat for those rich in unsaturated fats.” This includes olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
Meanwhile, if you need to lose weight, keep an eye on the total amount of fat you have. “Being overweight increases your risk of heart and circulatory disease,” says Victoria. One of her top tips is to use a measuring spoon when adding any fat to home-cooked meals.
8 Enjoy every mouthful
With today’s hectic lifestyles, many of us pay little attention to what and when we eat – and this can affect our waistlines and our overall health.
“I’m always surprised by how many people say they ‘love to eat’. Yet if you watch them, they pay little (if any) attention to what they’re putting in their mouth,” says dietician Sheri Taylor. “It’s what we call mindless or distracted eating.” One of the main problems is that it’s easy to unconsciously stack up excess kilojoules, so we gain weight over time, a fact backed up by many scientific studies. The types of foods we’re most likely to eat when we’re distracted are also often low in nutrients, she adds.
Always sit down to eat, have a digital detox at mealtimes (that means no TVs, computers or phones) and use a knife as well as a fork to help slow you down, advises Sheri. “When you start to savour every mouthful, you’ll be more likely to choose foods that nourish your body, both physically and mentally.