Lower your risk of developing serious health problems by maintaining a healthy weight — or safely lowering your weight, if you are overweight.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of developing potentially serious health problems. However, maintaining a healthy weight is often as simple as eating right and getting regular physical activity. Maintaining or losing weight is formulaic:
- To maintain your weight, you need to burn as many calories as you take in
- To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in
Assess your weight
To find out where you stand, use the BMI calculator on this page. If you are overweight (your BMI is 25 or higher), combining a low-calorie, well-balanced diet with regular physical activity can help you let go of the extra weight.
If you find from your BMI that you need to lose weight, remember that healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or “program.” The key to success is ongoing lifestyle choices that include long-term changes in daily eating and physical activity habits. Realistic goals with small and consistent wins will bring you back to a weight that is healthy for you.
Get a daily dose of physical activity
- Everyone is different, but 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking is a good start for most of us.
- Being physically active has the added benefit of burning calories, which can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
- It adds up! You don’t have to do it all in one stretch—ten minutes here, 20 minutes there works well, too.
Make good food choices
Low- and no-calorie alternatives
Sometimes all that’s needed to lose weight are small adjustments—for instance, making the low-calorie choice of an apple versus a bag of chips for a snack—or making the no-calorie choice of tea or coffee instead of a soda.
Green light choices
Some foods, like the alternatives mentioned above, give you a nutritional “green light” like:
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a natural choice for nutritionally dense foods, so you can be generous in serving up these highly nourishing treats. In fact, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov, fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate at any given meal—about 30 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. Choosing fruits and vegetables of different colors also adds variety in terms of flavor and nutrition.
How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you need each day? This depends on your age, sex, and levels of physical activity. Visit the Fruits and Veggies: More Matters page to learn more and get a personalized recommendation about your daily fruit and vegetable quota.
Whole grain foods
Grains should also account for a sizable portion of your plate—about 30 percent. The USDA recommends that whole grains make up at least half of those grains. Whole grains not only can give you more fiber, which helps you feel more satisfied.
Lean sources of protein
Lean protein is important to a smart eating plan—it should make about 20 percent of your plate. There are many good sources of lean protein, including:
Dairy and other calcium-rich foods
Dairy products can be a good source of protein and calcium, but low-fat and no-fat dairy products are the most nutritionally dense. Other calcium-fortified food sources include cereals, breads, and some juices, as well as soy, rice, and nut beverages. Dark leafy vegetables, like turnip greens, kale, Chinese cabbage, and mustard greens, are additional sources of calcium.
Drink low- and no-calorie beverages such as water, unsweetened tea and coffee, or flavored sparkling water. Foods like raw fruits and vegetables can also help keep you hydrated. Your body can have trouble distinguishing hunger from thirst pangs, so being well hydrated can often keep you from eating too much.
“Red light” and “yellow light” choices
While some foods clearly get the “green light” nutritionally, others deserve a yellow or even a red light. Fats, oils, sugars, and other high-calorie/low nutrition foods, should be approached with caution. Alcohol also gives you high calories with minimal nutrition, so if you're watching your calories and you want every calorie to count, avoid the empty calories in alcohol.
Watching your portion sizes is also important for losing or maintaining your ideal weight. Smaller portions mean fewer calories, and moderate-sized portions can help you maintain your weight. You can still have things you enjoy, just less of it. Have a “sliver,” a “taste,” a “bite,” and savor the flavor.
All most of us need to do is to make some adjustments—go for the low- or no-calorie choice and have more “green light” foods, avoiding red and yellow light foods. This can put you on the road to losing weight or maintaining your current healthy weight.