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Losing weight and keeping it off requires commitment and planning. Here are a few guidelines to help you make healthy dietary choices and reach your weight management goals:

Plan ahead:

Shop for unprocessed, fresh, whole ingredients. Avoid packaged and canned foods that are lower in nutritious value. Also, limit starches and simple carbohydrates, as they convert to sugar quickly. Emphasize a wide variety of colorful vegetables and modest portions of proteins such as lean meats, fish, tofu, legumes or whole grains. Eliminate foods containing Trans fats from your grocery list and include foods with good fats such as avocados, olives or nuts.

Cook ahead:

Designate one day to prepare your meals for the week. Instead of buying prepackaged meals, make your own and freeze them so they reheat quickly. Make a lot of different foods to ensure a healthy variety.

Control portions:

Use small plates to make the portions look bigger and to avoid overeating. To keep hunger at bay, consider eating small portions more often. Eat slowly, chewing well to give your stomach time to signal your brain that you are satisfied.

Use spices, lemon juice and herbs:

Small portions are more satisfying when the flavors are intense - you will eat less and your food will taste better. Also, spices, herbs and lemon juice can have additional health benefits. Turmeric, ginger, garlic and onions offer antioxidant benefits; pepper helps support digestion and absorption; lemon juice supports healthy pH levels; and cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary and other green herbs are full of green food micronutrients.

Increase your fiber;

If you struggle with appetite, consider consuming a fiber drink with plenty of water 30 minutes before a meal. Fiber helps fill you up, is very low in calories and keeps you regular.

Avoid desserts:

Who said dessert has to be a daily event? Make it an occasional reward for a job well done or when you've reached a short-term goal. And when you do indulge, make it a small portion and as healthy as possible like berries dipped in plain Greek yogurt or a small square of dark chocolate.

Replace sugar:

For many people, sugar is a part of their daily routine, such as sweetened tea or coffee every morning. Find a natural, non-caloric or reduced calorie sweetener you like, such as stevia or xylitol, and get in the habit of using it instead of sugar.

In between meals:

Chew xylitol gum to get rid of the munchies. Xylitol is a low-calorie sugar alcohol that helps freshen breath. Plus the act of chewing can help prevent you from reaching for high calorie foods.

Get a buddy system:

Ask a friend or family member to follow the plan with you and cheer each other on.

Take progress pictures:

Instead of religiously watching the scale, take a picture of yourself once a week and post it on a bulletin board., your refrigerator or a wall. Weight loss doesn't necessarily always show up on the scale, especially when healthy, lean muscle mass is gained and fat mass is lost. One pound of fat is approximately twice the size of one pound of lean muscle! So don't fret over the number on the scale because it doesn't tell you what kind of weight you're losing. Soon, you will see progress in how you look and feel, which is better than a number on a scale!

Exercise regularly and move:

If you haven't exercised in a while, start slowly. Take your dog for a walk for at least 30 minutes every day or dust off your running shoes and take a little jog around the block. Perhaps now is the time to sign up with a gym! Whatever it is , move every chance you get! Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator, park at the far end of the parking lot, or ride a bike to work if possible. If you have a few minutes to spare during your work day, do short-burst interval exercises! Run in place for 15 seconds, or run as fast as you can up and down a short flight of stairs for 30 seconds. Consider adding muscle building exercises when you are ready. Just keep moving!

Stay hydrated:

In between meals, drink often and try to consume the equivalent of half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Water is essential for proper cellular function, electrolyte balance, and it even helps remove toxins and harmful metabolites. For better digestion, don't drink water while you are eating because it dilutes stomach acid.