How can I keep a healthy weight?

  • Keeping a healthy weight reduces your risk of cancer and other health conditions.
     
  • Our tips for losing weight are based on scientific evidence and can help you create long-term healthy habits.
     
  • You can get support from your GP and local weight management services. 

This information is for adults wanting to keep a healthy weight. It is also useful for people who are overweight who want to lose weight. If you are underweight and looking for information on weight-management, please visit the NHS website. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure commonly used to check if someone is a healthy weight, underweight, overweight or obese for their height. You can find more information on BMI at NHS healthy weight.

Keeping a healthy weight has loads of benefits, including reducing the risk of cancer, having increased energy and a lower risk of other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and joint pain. Eating healthier meals, eating the right portions and being more active can help you be a healthy weight.

We know it can be difficult to keep a healthy weight. Lots of things impact our weight, and the world we live in affects how healthy we are. But there are changes we can make to be healthier.

 

10 top tips to help you lose weight healthily

Our tips for losing weight are based on scientific evidence and can help you form healthy habits in your everyday life.

 

 

  1. Keep to a meal routine. Eat at roughly the same time each day and try not to skip meals. This can help you avoid unplanned meals and snacks.
  2. Cut down on calories. Foods high in fat and calories like takeaways, fried foods and some processed meats can make you put on weight. Get small amounts of healthier fats from nuts and fish. Try choosing some reduced-fat dairy products and leaner meats.
  3. Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. It might sound like a lot but start with small distances and you’ll soon increase your steps. Taking the stairs and walking to the shop can all add up.
  4. Pack a healthy snack. Try swapping biscuits or chocolate for something healthy that you enjoy, like a piece of fruit or plain popcorn.
  5. Look at the labels. Food labels can tell you about how healthy food is. Pick options higher in fibre and lower in fat, sugar and salt. Find out more about how to read food labels below. 
  6. Caution with your portions. It’s not just what you eat and drink. Getting the right amount of the right types of foods is important too. Find out what makes up a healthy meal.
  7. Get up on your feet. Sitting less has lots of health benefits. You could stand on the bus or train, during TV adverts, or when you’re on the phone. Doing household chores and gardening are great ways to keep active.
  8. Think about your drinks. We should aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. But alcohol, fizzy drinks and energy drinks can be high in sugar and calories. Try to choose water or sugar-free squash, and limit fruit juice to one glass per day.
  9. Focus on your food. It’s easy to eat more if you’re on the go, watching TV or working. Eating slowly away from distractions can be an effective way to eat less.
  10. Don’t forget your 5 A Day. Having fruit or vegetables at every meal makes it easier to get at least 5 portions of fruit and veg in a day. It can be fresh, frozen or tinned.

Forming long-term habits can help you lose weight safely and keep it off. Most ‘quick fix’ or ‘crash’ diets aren’t a long-term solution and most people gain back the weight they lose.

For more support on losing weight, speak to your GP, local weight management services, or a local weight support group. The NHS Better Health website also has lots on information on healthy weight loss.

 

How can I make healthy changes stick long-term?

Making small changes in your everyday life can add up and help you keep a healthy weight. Here are our tips for building long-term healthy habits:

  • Decide when to do it. Choose a point in your daily routine where you can most easily make your change. Then do it every time. For example, you might decide to take the stairs instead of the lift each morning.
  • Plan ahead. Making a plan increases your chances of doing something. For example, planning an extra walk into your day and deciding what meals to cook for the week ahead.
  • Set yourself goals. Working towards a goal can help motivate you to keep up healthy changes. Try to set a time or number for your goal. Like getting off public transport a stop early three times a week. Or working up minute by minute to a 30-minute dance session.
  • Buddy up. Telling your friends and family can help you stick to your goals. You could make a change with someone so you can give each other support.
  • Be prepared. Think about what could get in the way of you making a change. For example, make sure you wear comfortable shoes so you’re more likely to walk.
  • Track your progress. Make a note of how you’re getting on to help stay motivated. You could use your phone, a calendar or a notebook by your bed. Remember to celebrate the progress that you make. Focussing on even small achievements can help your healthy changes stick in the long-term.
  • Be realistic and stick with it. It can be difficult to make lots of changes all at once. Try starting with one or two new habits until you feel ready to add in another.

 

How can I shop for healthy food?

Shopping smarter is a great way to help you and your family be healthier and could even save you some money. Here are our top tips:

  • Plan your meals and write a list. Take time each week to plan your meals and write a shopping list. If you plan what you need and stick to your list, it can make it easier to avoid unhealthy impulse buys.
  • Add more fruit, veg, wholegrains and pulses to your shopping list. Fruit, vegetables, wholegrains (such as brown bread and oats) and pulses (such as beans and lentils) are great healthy foods. Lots of them are high in fibre, so they can make you feel fuller for longer. Filling up your basket with these healthy foods leaves less room for unhealthy ones!
  • Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry you can be more tempted to put extra snacks in your basket. If you can, shop after a meal or have a healthy snack (such as fruit) on the way to the shops.
  • Check the labels. Check how much fat, sugar and salt is in your food by reading the food labels. Try to pick options that are lower in fat, sugar and salt. You can even download a label reading app such as FoodSwitch or NHS Food Scanner. Most packets have traffic light labels, so if you’re in a hurry, look at the red, amber and green colours. Try to pick options that have more green and amber, and less red.
Food labels tell you how much fat, sugar and salt are in your food. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt may be less healthy.

Setting a good example yourself can be a great way to encourage your children to lead a healthy life. Try to get the whole family involved in healthy living.

Plan the day around healthy family meals and do activities together like going to the park, cycling or kicking a ball around. Keep a healthier selection of food at home. You can use our healthy shopping tips above to help you do this.

The NHS Healthier Families website has more information on healthy weight for children. It has lots of good ideas for healthy food recipes and activities to help keep your family at a healthy weight.

Beeken, R. J. et al. A brief intervention for weight control based on habit-formation theory delivered through primary care: Results from a randomised controlled trial. Int. J. Obes. 41, 246–254 (2017).

Lally, P. & Gardner, B. Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review 7, S137–S158 (2013).

Lally, P., Chipperfield, A. & Wardle, J. Healthy habits: Efficacy of simple advice on weight control based on a habit-formation model. Int. J. Obes. 32, 700–707 (2008). 

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