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Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

Most health experts recommend that you eat a balanced, healthy diet to maintain or to lose weight. But exactly what is a healthy diet?

It should include:

  • Protein (found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and beans)
  • Fat (found in animal and dairy products, nuts, and oils)
  • Carbohydrates (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and other legumes)
  • Vitamins (such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K)
  • Minerals (such as calcium, potassium, and iron)
  • Water (both in what you drink, and what's naturally in foods)

Dieting or not, everyone needs a mix of those nutrients, ideally from foods. A good general rule is to use MyPlate, which makes it easy to envision just how much of each food type to include in your meal.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Split the other half between whole grains and lean protein. Stick to your calorie “budget,” because when you're working on losing weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat or drink.

Exactly how many calories you should get per day depends on your goal, your age, your sex, and how active you are. A dietitian can help you figure that out. Don't cut your calories too much, or your diet is going to be hard to stick with and may not give you the nutrients your body needs.

More tips:

  • Choose nonfat or 1% milk instead of 2% or whole milk.
  • Pick lean meat instead of fatty meat.
  • Select breads and cereals that are made with whole grains and are not prepared with a lot of fat.
  • You don't have to completely avoid all foods that have fat, cholesterol, or sodium. It's your average over a few days, not in a single food or even a single meal, that's important.
  • If you eat a high-fat food or meal, balance your intake by choosing low-fat foods the rest of the day or the next day.
  • Check the food labels on packaged foods to help you budget fat, cholesterol, and sodium over several days.

That's just the start of what you might want to know about nutrition for weight loss. Keep learning as much as you can, including the following terms.

Calories

Calories are a measurement, like an inch or a tablespoon. They note how much energy is released when your body breaks down food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to the body.

When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as fat. Even low-carb and fat-free foods can have a lot of calories that can be stored as fat.

Protein

Proteins help repair and maintain your body, including muscle. You can get protein in all types of food. Good sources include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, nuts, beans, and other legumes.

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