30 Amazing Weight Loss Secrets You Must Steal ASAP

These are the only (editor-approved!) tricks you need to lose weight and keep it off. 

Medically reviewed in September 2021

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Most people have wanted to lose a few pounds at one time or another. But what are the best tips to lose weight? The editors at Sharecare rounded up the most effective (and science-backed) weight loss secrets to help you get svelte.

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Add calorie-free flavor with spices

Healthy meals don’t have to be bland and boring; a few simple, low- or no-calorie flavors can instantly transform any dish.

Before you get chopping and cooking, raid your spice cabinet for hidden treasures like oregano, paprika, ginger and dried herbs such as parsley, thyme and basil. A sprinkle or two of these, or any of your favorite herbs and spices, can transform any dish into a flavor-rich meal.

For a richer flavor, add bouillon cubes or vegetable broth to your dish. Toss one cube or an entire cup of low sodium broth into a pot with whatever you’re whipping up to add a full-bodied flavor for just 15 calories.

Skip the salt and spice up ordinary stir-frys, salads, casseroles or rice dishes with apple cider vinegar instead. Its sweet and savory flavor complements many dishes. Vinegars can also add a much need kick—for savory Asian-influenced dishes, try using rice vinegar and for Mediterranean-inspired meals opt for red wine vinegar.

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Savor (some) sweets

Depriving yourself of the occasional sweet treat could seriously detail your diet. Instead of swearing off the bakery counter, stomp out sugary cravings with these healthy-sweet ideas: 

  • Eat fresh fruit. A brimming cup of sliced strawberries contains fewer than 50 calories and just over seven grams of sugar.
  • Make frozen yogurt popsicles. Blend one cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt with a cup of your favorite berries—like blueberries—pour into a mold and freeze. These 68-calorie snacks make easy treats to grab anytime a craving strikes. 
  • Indulge in gelato! Half a cup of Italian chocolate-chip gelato will run you about 200 calories.

Whip up one-ingredient banana ice cream. Simply cut up a banana, place slices in a plastic bag and freeze. Next, toss the frozen banana slices in the blender. Serve and enjoy! 

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Stay slim with smaller plates

An optical illusion could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts, according to research from Cornell University. The white space surrounding the food on a dish may make the serving appear smaller than it actually is, which can lead to overeating.

The solution? Use 8- to 10-inch dishes for higher calorie foods and 12-inch dishes for veggies and lean proteins. The same goes for your drinking glasses: Swap short, wide glasses for tall, skinny glasses, so you’ll drink fewer calories and feel fuller faster. Get more tips for effortless ways to lose weight.

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Think before you eat

It’s easy to turn to food for comfort if you’re feeling upset, stressed or bored. It may seem like you have no control in these situations, but this automatic response is actually a habit that can be broken.

Researchers have found that once habits are established, they can happen automatically in the lower brain area called the basal ganglia. This leaves the “thinking brain,” in the prefrontal cortex, completely out of the picture.

One strategy—tell yourself to STOP and consider if you'll really feel better if you indulge in another treat, or keep eating even if you're not hungry. Bringing decision-making into the process can help you eat less and boost weight loss.

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Zap veggies for quick, healthy meals

Your microwave is for more than warming up leftovers. Not only is it a quick way to cook veggies—it's even healthier than cooking them in water, since water leaches out some of the nutrients. A small amount of water may still be used when you nuke them, but it’s better than boiling them in a pot.

Experts say that the best way to cook veggies to retain the most nutritional value is a method that cooks them quickly with the least amount of liquid possible—and microwaving fits that bill. Another bonus? You're less tempted to sauté them in butter or oil. Mushrooms, cauliflower and carrots can taste just as good zapped in the microwave. Give it a try!

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Attitude is everything

You know you want to shed a few pounds, but it's also helpful to remember why you're on this weight loss journey. Improving your health, boosting energy or fitting into your pre-baby clothes are all good reasons (losing weight for someone else is not).

Come up with two or three affirmations for extra motivation. Write them down in a place where it will be easy to read them every day. Focus on affirmations that put you in the "doing" mode, not the "trying" mode. "I can do this! I am doing this!" is a good place to start.

And remember that all action starts in the mind. "I crave fresh and healthy foods" is another way of reinforcing what you're doing and why.

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Step on the scale

There are a couple schools of thought about how often to weigh yourself. Some experts say daily, others say weekly—either way, at the same time of the day. But weighing yourself each day could be more frustrating than helpful, since weight can fluctuate by a couple of pounds from day to day.

Try focusing on longer-term trends, weigh yourself once a week and note your weight in a calendar. (Remember that losing one or two pounds a week is considered healthy for lasting weight loss.) Steady progress—no matter how small—will get you to your goal.

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Meal prep like a pro

Whether you’re starting a new diet or you’re following a new healthy eating routine, you’ll be surprised at how seamless your week will be if you take time to prep your food for the week.  

And meal prepping doesn’t have to be full meals portioned out into containers. You can wash, dry and cut up fresh vegetables and fruits, and store them in plastic bags so they’re readily available for salads, stir-fry’s, snacking, smoothies or wraps during the week.

And prepping protein and whole grain options the same way can help, too. Brown rice, quinoa, legumes and sautéed tofu can all be made ahead and stored separately. Instead of piling all of the ingredients together and eating the same combos over and over again, mix and match these ready-to-go ingredients on the fly. 

10 / 31
Snack smarter

Snacking is not a bad thing—in fact, healthy snacking has been shown to give you energy and keep you full. Snack right by keeping lean protein, healthy fats and fresh fruits or vegetables on-hand. Otherwise, you’ll be begging for more a few minutes later. Shoot for snacks that are 200 calories or less and only snack when you’re hungry. For active people, snacks can be 300 calories.

Some of our favorite snacks:

  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn, plus one cheese stick
  • Roasted chickpeas with olive oil and garlic salt
  • Whole-wheat pita with part-skim mozzarella cheese, onions and green peppers
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Branch out from your normal grocery store haul

It’s easy to load the same things in your grocery cart week after week, but doing so can be pretty boring. Start to purchase new-to-you foods like jackfruit, soy milk, nutritional yeast, Portobello mushrooms and lentils. Vegan and vegetarian-friendly foods aren’t all scary, and you may be surprised to learn that you actually like them!

Did you know that jackfruit can be a great shredded pork substitute and has vitamin C? And cauliflower pizza crust made with nutritional yeast is a pretty good way to load up on veggies instead of carbs, plus it has some protein and potassium, too.

Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to your foods, and don’t be afraid to turn down the all-natural food aisles at the grocery store. Get started with these ideas:

  • Unsweetened soy milk can add creaminess to smoothies, and 8 ounces has just 80 calories, 4 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein
  • Lentils are cost effective, plus they are great in soups. One cup has 230 calories, just one gram of fat, 18 grams of protein and 37 percent of your daily iron value.
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Save major cals with simple plant-based swaps

It’s easier than you think to swap some of your favorite high-fat foods with low-cal vegetarian alternatives. Take for example, a three-ounce grilled burger with 75 percent lean ground beef has that has 15 grams of fat and 235 calories, compared to a grilled Portobello mushroom cap that has one gram of fat and 42 calories. And opting for a ½ cup of black beans in your burrito rather than four ounces of chicken breast can save 95 calories and 7 grams of fat. Here are some other plant-based swaps:

  • Substitute jackfruit for pulled pork
  • Swap soy crumbles turkey meatballs
  • Skip almond milk and opt for whole milk
  • Trade mashed avocado for mayo 
  • Swap tofu for chicken
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Try one-pot stir-frys

One-pot meals tend to be easier to make, and easy to clean up. And if you haven’t discovered the beauty of stir-frys, doing so may rock your world—and help you lose weight.

The great thing about stir-frys is that you can essentially add anything you have on hand to your skillet or pan. Simply heat olive, sesame or avocado oil in a large skillet then add chopped onion, fresh veggies like broccoli or cabbage and a protein like tofu, ground turkey or soy crumbles. Mix in your favorite seasonings such as soy sauce or tamari, tahini or buffalo and bam—a 20-minute dinner in a flash.

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Mix up your breakfast

If you’re still not sold on heart-healthy oatmeal, give this version a try:

  • Buy a mixed-grain cereal that includes oatmeal, plus other grains like barley and rye to boost your whole grain intake, along with the flavor and texture of your breakfast. Old Wessex 5-Grain Cereal is heartier than traditional oatmeal and cooks in less than five minutes. It also contains 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving to keep you full.
  • Add blueberries. Research suggests blueberries may strengthen memory by encouraging communication between brain cells. Aim for two or more servings per week.
  • Mix in nuts and seeds for extra crunch.
  • Skip the sugar and honey; add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract instead.
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Get oil savvy

You cook with olive oil at home, but forget about butter and margarine when you’re eating out. Sound familiar? Even if you’re ordering a light chicken or fish dish at a restaurant, you might be surprised to learn the “healthiest” item on the menu may be swimming in butter and salt. Request an olive oil or water base instead.

When cooking at home, coat the pan lightly with olive oil, and then switch to water if you need more moisture. Sauteé sweet onions as your base and/or add savory garlic to forget all about butter. 

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Steer clear of sugar bombs

Once you start checking labels, you’ll quickly realize that sugar bombs often hide in unexpected places. Beware of beverages especially; even “low sugar” or “no sugar added” juices may contain over 20 grams of sugar per serving.

Tea, coffee and sport drinks are also major culprits. Opt for sparkling water with muddled fruit and fresh herbs instead. If you absolutely must have OJ or lemonade, fill a glass with ice, pour in water and then add a splash of the drink you’re craving. 

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Use these 3 water tricks

Drinking enough water is not only great for your overall health, it can slim your waistline, too. Aim to get about eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day—that includes other beverages, too. These H20 tricks will help you easily up your water intake:

  • Think you’re hungry? Down some water first. Thirst or mild dehydration can be mistaken for hunger. Drink a glass of water, wait 15 minutes then see if you’re actually hungry.
  • Jazz up plain water. Use a fruit infusion pitcher to give regular water a boost of flavor. Fruits like lemons, raspberries or limes make for great infusion options.
  • Drink a glass of water before each meal. You might notice that you actually eat less! 
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Give your kitchen a makeover

This simple kitchen update only takes a few minutes and can seriously impact your weight loss. After a grocery trip, do the following:

  • Move all of the whole, healthy foods to the front of your refrigerator
  • Place unhealthy, high calorie or high fat foods to the back or bottom shelves
  • Clean your counters—people with breakfast cereal on their counters weighed about 20 pounds more than neighbors who didn’t have cereal on their counters, according to some data. Replace these counter-bound cereals and chips with a bowl of fresh fruit. 
  • Eat meals at the table and leave the big serving trays in the kitchen. You might eat less if you have to make more trips back and forth. 
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Beware the “health halo”

Natural, low-fat, organic—if these phrases are on the food label, then it’s automatically healthy right? Well, it could just be part of the “health halo” effect. The “health halo” refers to food items that are perceived as “healthy” because of marketing claims. 

When you’re shopping, remember that these words—like organic, local, grass-fed, gluten-free, low-fat, low-calorie—doesn’t necessarily ensure that what you’re eating is healthy.  Health halo foods are foods that seem healthy but could possibly be loaded with sugar, calories, fat or more. Some examples include:

  • Smoothie or acai bowls
  • Granola
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Baked chips 
  • 100-calorie snack packs
  • Some protein bars

Don’t fall victim to the health halo effect by: reading nutrition labels, sticking to the recommended serving sizes and buying whole foods with limited ingredients.

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Swap a meal for a smoothie

You don’t have to eat a plate full of greens to get your daily serving of veggies. Swap your breakfast, lunch or dinner with a veggie-packed, nutrient dense smoothie to keep your taste buds (and your waistline happy). You can try weight-loss boosting add-ins like chia seeds, avocado and protein powder. Here are more smoothie ideas to get you started:

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Learn how to measure your portions

The proper serving size of your favorite foods may surprise you, so it’s important to measure out portions. Invest in a kitchen scale—or break out the measuring cups and spoons—to ensure you’re not overeating without even realizing it.

What does a healthy serving size look like?

  • 3 ounces of lean meat, like chicken or salmon (or the size of a deck of playing cards)
  • 1.5 ounces of cheese (weigh your portion on a kitchen scale)
  • 0.5 cup of ice cream or frozen yogurt (or the size of half a tennis ball)
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Brown bag it

Sure, popping out of the office for a Big Mac meal is easy, but consider this: in one 2013 survey, researchers found that adult fast-food orders averaged 836 calories. Three years later, a study in Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discovered the average restaurant takeout meal contained around 1,200 calories. That's 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for a moderately active, 30-year-old woman.

So, if you're trying to drop some pounds, the solution is simple: bring your office lunch from home. Not only will you have control over your food, odds are you'll save a bundle, too. Try these tips for easy brown bagging:

  • Take an hour on Sunday to make lunches for the week. Soups, salads, grain bowls, bean-and-veggie burritos and sandwiches with whole-grain bread will typically keep for a few days. If you opt for salads, make sure salty items and dressings are separate; they'll wilt greens.
  • Purchase small, portable foods for easy snacking and lunch assembly: whole fruit, cheese sticks, bags of nuts, hummus cups, etc.
  • Double your dinner and immediately put away half for the next day.

You may want to look into a Bento box or reusable lunch box, as well, since partitions and compartments can help you control portions. Not to mention, they look nice.

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Rethink how you drink

Consider this: A 12-ounce pina colada has 656 calories, according to the USDA. A 12-ounce bottle of Guinness? Just 125 calories.

The beverages you choose have a big impact on your waistline. Follow these tips for lighter imbibing:

  • Beer: choose light beers or regular beers with a lower alcohol by volume (ABV). Less alcohol content generally means fewer calories.
  • Wine: skip dessert wines like port, but keep in mind the sweetness of a wine doesn't necessarily determine its calorie count. Riesling often has fewer calories than Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance. Again, look for the lower ABV.

Liquor: liquor is usually calorie-dense due to its high alcohol volume, so stick to one drink on the rocks or dilute it with a low-calorie mixer. Cutting flavored vodka with seltzer, for example, reduces calories and allows for ample nursing.

Mixed drinks and pitchers can be tricky, since contents are often a mystery. In general, skip calorie-jammed mixers like coconut milk or sour mix, and opt for lighter juices, tonics and seltzers. Adding cut-up fruit never hurts, either.

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Log your meals and snacks

It's no wonder so many major diet programs ask you to record your daily food intake. Multiple studies have found that logging meals is strongly linked to weight loss—and those who keep more comprehensive diaries tend to drop more weight. That's because:

  • It reveals how many calories you truly consume each day.
  • It helps you understand correct serving sizes and portion control.
  • It tracks progress, from pounds dropped to eating more balanced meals.
  • It keeps you accountable, even if it's only to a computer.

To log your food intake, using a pen and paper certainly works. However, dozens of apps and programs are also available for easier monitoring. Our favorite? The hugely popular—and free—MyFitnessPal, which includes a comprehensive database of foods.

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Turn off the TV

Distracted eating—chowing down without paying attention to what you consume—is a proven way to pack on the pounds. And for Americans, whether it's Netflix or the evening news, that diversion often comes from the television set. To curb your addiction, try these:

  • Nix the distractions. Keep TVs out of the kitchen and dining room, and put your phone away during dinner.
  • Eat meals with someone else. Set the table nicely to feel like more of an experience.
  • When the weather is nice, eat outside. It feels like a treat, and there are no screens to distract you.

If you're going to eat in front of the TV then perhaps choose happier, lighter programs. A 2014 Cornell Food and Brand Lab study found that participants who viewed an action movie ate 98 percent more—98 percent!—than those watching a talk show.

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Make calories count

When you're trying to slim down, lowering your calorie count is usually part of the deal. Make them count by choosing fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods over empty, processed junk. Simple substitutions are the name of the game:

  • Choose whole-grain bread over white bread, and grains like barley, quinoa and brown rice over white rice.
  • Pick your salad toppings wisely. Skip croutons, candied nuts, sugar-added dried fruits, fatty cheeses and calorie-dense dressings. Choose vegetables, roasted nuts, beans, and fresh fruit.
  • The same goes for sandwiches: set aside your mayo and bacon. Opt for lettuce, tomato, hummus, avocado and low-calorie condiments like Dijon mustard.
  • Forgo sugary sodas and foofy barista drinks for water, tea, and coffee you make yourself, preferably with minimal added sugar and cream.
  • Snack on fruit, veggies, hummus, popcorn, nuts and dark chocolate (in moderation). Don't even buy chips and dips; simply having them in your house can be too much of a temptation.

Wondering whether a food is good for you? Stick to the mantra of In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 

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Fill up with high-fiber foods

You probably need more fiber in your diet. Americans eat an average of 16 grams per day, when they should be eating between 21 and 38 grams. Fiber may help decrease your bad cholesterol and protect against heart disease, and can keep your bowels regular.

Fiber also may help you feel full faster so you’ll want to eat less, but the science isn’t quite settled on that. Look on food labels for the fiber line, and check percent of daily value (usually written %DV)—reach for foods with a high %DV, around 20 percent if possible.

Packable, snackable choices high in fiber include raw carrots and peppers, unsalted nuts and fruit like apples, pears and bananas

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Feel fuller with protein

High protein foods are some of the best things to eat if you want to feel full. Go for foods that have at least 25 percent of their total calories coming from protein. Most people eat between 15 and 16 percent of their total calories from protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that’s probably enough.

Beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs and cashews make for good high-protein snacks. For meals, choose seafood, poultry and lean cuts of beef like sirloin or round. If you’re going meatless, you’ll want beans, peas, soy, nuts and seeds.

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Eat more grapefruit

If you’re a fan of sour, grapefruit beats sour candy every time. Grapefruit has solid amounts of fiber, potassium and vitamin A, and about a whole day’s worth of vitamin C. And, if eating grapefruit gets you to eat fewer calories, great. Participants in a 2012 study published in the journal Metabolism who ate half a grapefruit three times a day had modest weight loss and more significant drops in blood pressure and waist circumference compared to when they started, but there wasn’t much difference compared to a normal calorie-restricted diet.

If you decide to up your grapefruit intake, just be careful if you’re on medication Chemicals in grapefruit can mess with the way the body processes medications for high cholesterol, depression and more. 

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Caffeinate the right way

Need some motivation to get to the gym? Try coffee or tea. A moderate amount of caffeine—about 180 to 360 milligrams (mg) for a 130-pound woman—can enhance performance, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Caffeine may also act as an appetite suppressant, tamping your desire to mow through the kitchen, according to some research. Keep your caffeine consumption under 400 mg per day—anything more than that and you start to risk heart trouble. An 8-ounce cup of coffee has between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine. 

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Practice portion control

Weight loss is a function of calories in, calories out. If you eat fewer calories than you burn off, you lose weight. It’s that simple—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To get fewer calories in, practice portion control. Fill up on veggies and whole grains. Meat and poultry should be about the size of a deck of cards, while fish is approximately checkbook-sized. Go light on fruit and dairy.

Take extra care when you’re eating out. You already know a restaurant meal can cost you 1,200 calories, so try this the next time you’re getting a bite to eat at a restaurant: ask the server to bring half of your meal already in a doggy bag. That way, you slash your calorie consumption and have a delicious meal ready for the next day. 

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