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Healthy eating for weight loss

Dr. Alexandra Phelan: General Practictioner | minute read
Aerial view of a woman using a food processor, with food on chopping board and counter.

There can be a range of reasons for wanting to lose weight throughout our lives. These might include wanting to improve physical and mental wellbeing, increasing the chances of getting pregnant (a healthy weight helps support the chances of conceiving in both men and women), or reducing the risk of certain health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

The most effective approach to healthy, sustainable weight loss combines positive lifestyle changes including a balanced diet, enough activity, and managing stress using coping techniques that work for you.

This article explores how a healthy, balanced diet can support safe weight loss and long-term weight management.

Factoring in calories

The NHS recommends reducing your daily calorie intake by approximately 600 to start losing weight. This means a target of:

1,900 calories (kcal) per day for men

1,400 calories (kcal) per day for women

Using this as a daily guide, you can start to plan meals and snacks that fall within these calorie limits.

Meal planning and portion sizes

The NHS Better Health website provides a handy recommended breakdown of calories for each meal. It also gives snack suggestions to help curb cravings and hunger pangs throughout the day.

For women:

Breakfast allowance of 280 kcal

Lunch allowance of 420 kcal

Dinner allowance of 420 kcal

Snacks and drinks throughout the day – 280 kcal

For men:

Breakfast allowance of 380 kcal

Lunch allowance of 570 kcal

Dinner allowance of 570 kcal

Snacks and drinks throughout the day – 280 kcal

Planning out your meals using this calorie guide will naturally help with portion control. You can also make small changes like swapping to smaller plates or bowls and eating at the table. This makes it easier to focus on enjoying your meal and taking time to eat mindfully without rushing. Eating more slowly allows our bodies to recognise when we’re full without overeating.

 Find family-friendly, nutritious, affordable meal inspiration in this online recipe collection. If you want to experiment with your own recipes, choose a high-fibre carbohydrate base like wholewheat pasta or brown rice. These options will help you to feel fuller for longer. Opt for two portions of vegetables to go with it and a source of lean protein like salmon, eggs, turkey, or chicken. Limit saturated fats like those found in hard cheese, sausages, and other processed foods. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, choose sources of protein such as lentils, kidney beans, chick peas, or other pulses as alternatives to meat and fish.

Snack during the day on fresh fruit and nuts to help curb sugar cravings and avoid the common mid-afternoon slump in energy levels.

Fluid intake when losing weight

Staying hydrated is important for all our body functions, and getting plenty of fluids when trying to lose weight is equally important. Aim for 6-8 cups a day including water, hot drinks, and even soup. If you take sugar in your tea or coffee, try swapping it for a low-calorie sweetener or a natural alternative like honey.

Tools to help you with healthy weight loss

A sustainable approach to weight loss can take time, but the multiple health benefits are worth the effort you put in. To make things easier, try using tools available from the NHS like this weight loss plan app. It allows you to set goals, track progress, plan meals, and more.

If you’re concerned your weight gain may be due to an underlying health condition, check in with your GP.