12 Simple Diet Changes That Will Help You Lose Weight

Trying to slim down by drastically slashing calories or completely overhauling the types of foods you eat will only end in frustration, so you’re better off making more manageable changes. Even if you feel like you’re doing a good job overall, you might be surprised at how just a few tweaks can make a big difference. You could end up saving yourself hundreds of calories on a snack just by opting for some different eats. These 12 tips prove that when it comes to losing weight, it’s the little things that count.

1. Start your day with eggs instead of a pastry

fried egg on toast with chives

Eggs on toast is a good way to go. | iStock.com

Many nutritionists recommend starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast to help keep you full throughout the day. Some people opt for yogurt with fruit while others smear nut butter on some toast, but eggs might be the best option of all. According to the Incredible Egg, the morning staple has an incredibly high biological value, meaning your body can use the protein much more efficiently. They’re also great for weight loss. One 2008 study found dieters who started their day with eggs shed more pounds than dieters who ate bagels for breakfast.

2. Replace your flavored latte with black coffee

two coffee mugs

Choose black coffee when you can. | iStock.com

You might be surprised just how many calories you sip with your morning coffee order. A standard 12-ounce vanilla latte from Starbucks can contain 200 calories, and that’s with reduced-fat milk. Maybe more shocking is the sugar tally, which is a shocking 27 grams. Opting for black coffee, which contains almost no calories, is the best option. If you need something a little creamier and sweeter, stir in your own milk and sugar.

3. Nibble on nuts instead of chips or cookies

close-up of mixed roasted nuts

Mixed nuts are a great snack choice. | iStock.com

It’s tempting to head to a vending machine when between-meal hunger strikes, but most of the snacks are just salty or sugary carbs without any good nutrition. You’ll end up eating a few hundred calories and find yourself hungry again in an hour or two. Instead of your usual bag of chips, opt for nuts. They’ll satisfy your craving for something salty and crunchy while giving you plenty of heart-healthy fats and protein. Plus, a review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported eating a handful of nuts or peanuts in place of less healthy foods can help reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes.

4. Eat your veggies before the rest of your meal

kale salad with apple and pomegranate

Curb your appetite by eating your veggies first. | iStock.com

Before tearing into whatever entrée you cooked at home or ordered at a restaurant, always start your meal with a vegetable-based soup, a salad, or even steamed veggies. Going for produce first means you’ll load up on plenty of fiber and other nutrients, and you also won’t have as much room for foods that aren’t so healthy. If you’re eating out, make the salad bar your first stop.

5. Make a better protein bar

homemade granola bars with dried fruit and nuts

Homemade granola bars are your best bet. | iStock.com

Most packaged bars are basically just candy in disguise. A glance at the nutrition label reveals they’re loaded with fat, sugar, and have sky-high calorie counts. Some of them are filled with some pretty unusual ingredients, too. Making bars at home is the best way to know exactly what you’re getting. If you do opt for a packaged bar, just aim to get something with minimal sugar and ingredients you can pronounce.

6. Go for full-fat milk and cheese

wheel of French brie cheese

Full-fat dairy is better than fat-free. | iStock.com

Cutting fat to lose fat is becoming less and less feasible as a weight-loss strategy. While many people have begun to add avocado and olive oil back into their diets, most are still a little afraid of fat when it comes to milk and other dairy products. It’s time to get over that fear once and for all because researchers are finding these foods really don’t lead to an expanding waist. One 2013 meta-analysis reported consuming full-fat dairy products was actually associated with a reduced risk of obesity.

7. Cook your own fast food

Chicken nuggets on a sheet tray

Baked chicken nuggets are a better option. | iStock.com

Whether you go for burgers and fries or pad Thai, takeout is never a good idea for your health. Even the smartest choices can come swimming in sugary or greasy sauces. Homemade is always a better bet. You can replace your favorite deep-fried foods with healthier baked versions like these crispy chicken nuggets from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. As long as you keep a well-stocked pantry, cooking these healthier versions might be even quicker than heading to the restaurant to pick up your order.

8. Use fish for taco night

fish tacos with slaw in flour tortillas

Fish tacos are healthy and delicious. | iStock.com

As much as we all love a good taco, fatty pork and beef versions aren’t particularly helpful for slimming down. Keep the flavors you love without undoing your diet by going for a seafood variation. Fish is a great source of protein that many medical professionals tout for its ability to boost heart health. And some evidence suggests the protein may be a secret weapon for weight loss. One 2009 study found men who ate the most cod lost the most weight over an eight-week period compared to those who ate less or no fish at all.

9. Cleverly cut back on meat

Tex-Mex chili with corn and beans

Cut your meat consumption and replace it with other proteins. | iStock.com

Much to the chagrin of meat lovers everywhere, studies continue to show plant-based diets are the best for losing and maintaining weight. Since eliminating animal protein isn’t realistic for a lot of people, cutting back on the amount in your diet is a more palatable option. This doesn’t mean you should try to satisfy your appetite with a tiny cube of chicken or steak. Instead, try using beans, lentils, and other plant-based proteins to bulk up your meals. You can easily make soups, stews, stir-fries, meatballs, and burgers this way.

10. Reach for a low-calorie cocktail

cocktail with grapefruit

Cocktails can break your diet, so use this tip. | iStock.com

No matter what beverage you enjoy drinking at happy hour, it’s likely doing more damage than good. Though wine and beer have been linked to some health benefits, they’re also loaded with calories. For example, just one 12-ounce bottle of a craft IPA can come in at over 200 calories. There are certainly some less caloric brews, but sticking with spirits is an even better idea. The Washington Post shared some great go-tos, some of which contain fewer than 100 calories.

11. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit …

fruit salad with mint leaves

Choose fruit salad for dessert. | iStock.com

If you crave a little bit of sugar at the end of your meal, try going for fruit instead of a baked good. You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth for far fewer calories and you’ll also get a bit of fiber to help keep you full. If plain produce is a little too dull, try this dressed up fruit salad from Epicurious.

12. … or dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is also a good option. | iStock.com

For some people, dessert is only dessert when it includes chocolate, and that’s actually not a bad thing. One 2012 study found frequent chocolate eaters tended to have a lower BMI than those who consumed the treat less often. Admittedly, there are some limitations to this research. Still, there seems to be very little harm in satisfying your sweet tooth here and there. The important thing to remember is the amount because chocolate does contain plenty of fat and calories. Stick with a 1-ounce portion.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec