Set small goals and think long-term. It may take 2-3 years to reach a healthy weight. Expect ½ to 1-pound weight loss per week average. The number on the scale is a result, not a goal. Set small goals to change habits that will lead to weight loss.

Plan extra time each week. Healthy eating requires anywhere from 7-14 hours per week of time. This includes meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, food preparation, and cleanup.

Get rid of sugary drinks. Sugar hides in soda, sweet tea, lemonade, sport drinks, energy drinks, fruit juice and coffee drinks. These drinks are linked with weight gain.

Eat 3 meals and 0-3 snacks each day. Make time for breakfast. Don’t skip meals. Try to eat every 3-5 hours.

Plan your day. Make a list and grocery shop once per week. Bring food to work or school each day.

Limit restaurant and take-out meals to 2 times per week or less.

Drink plenty of water- 6-8 cups (48-64 ounces) daily. Make at least half of your total liquid water.

Use smaller plates and bowls. Use an 8-inch plate for meals (most dinner plates are 11-12 inches). This helps you eat smaller portions.

Eat at least 1-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack. Eat fruit and vegetable first to help decrease hunger for the rest of the meal.

Exercise about 30-60 minutes per day. Walk, bike, or swim at a moderately brisk pace. Start slowly and increase intensity, duration and frequency of the exercise as tolerated.

Limit screen time. Aim for less than 10 hours per week playing on the computer or watching TV.

Write down what you eat every day. You can use paper and pencil or try free web tools or phone apps to help you keep track.

Weigh yourself once a week, at most. It may be better to hide the scale and focus on how you feel and how clothes fit.

Use a support network. Keep a personal journal to track your progress, check in with a friend, attend a support group, or follow up with a dietitian every week to discuss your progress.

Figure out why you eat. If you reach for food when bored, stressed, or sad, you may be giving your body food it doesn’t need. Learn to identify true hunger and to cope with emotions instead of eating.

Teach Back

  • What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?

  • What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?

If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at

Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.

Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770.