Even with healthy food habits, the kilos need not melt away. With simple adjustments you can reach your weight loss goal

You snack on fruit, check calorie counts, and start most days with a walk or swim. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what you're doing wrong. Even with such healthy habits, sometimes a seemingly inconsequential snack choice or a larger (but common) food myth can keep pounds in place. Take heart: A simple, slight adjustment in how you eat and think can help you reach your weight loss goal.

Healthy habit

You count calories

The key to weight loss: Take in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and you will drop pounds. But very few people correctly estimate their ideal daily calorie requirements. The rest of us tend to over estimate, and that's what keeps us from losing weight. Assume that a target of 2,000 calories per day will allow you to get to your weight goal, but it really takes 1,800: Those extra 200 are enough to keep an additional 20 pounds on your frame.

Do it better

Determine the right number of calories you need each day — and stick to it

Get your maximum intake

Ascertainthe weight you want to be (as well as your height, age, and activity level) to get your daily calorie allowance.

Divide it up

Set limits on your meals and snacks. If 1,800 calories is your maximum, split it into three 500-calorie meals and one 300-calorie snack.

Create a custom meal

If your favourite dish has 500 calories, that's all you get. Find one for 300, however, and you can have some fresh fruit and a small salad with it.

Healthy habit

You're consistently active

Spend a few hours running errands and it feels like you've worked off some serious weight. But even between the aisle laps at the mall, hauling around shopping bags, and loading and unloading the car, you burned only about 400 calories — that's about 1/10 of a pound.

Do it better

Rev your routine

Short bursts of intense activity burn more calories — and up to 36 per cent more fat, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Strolling around the mall or the park for an hour works off about 150 calories; pick up the pace 1 minute out of every 5 to burn over one-third more calories — try a similar method if you bike. Swimmers can switch from freestyle or breaststroke to a more challenging crawl every few laps, or just go a little faster. Even small steps make a difference: Skip the elevator and carry your groceries up the stairs to burn 128 more calories, or instead of hitting an automatic car wash, do it yourself and zap 204 calories.

Healthy habit

Choosing nutritious foods

What you put on your plate is important, but healthy eating is also about being mindful of how much you consume.

For example, your husband has pancakes with butter and syrup for breakfast, your son grabs a doughnut, and you opt for a cup of oatmeal with a handful of walnuts, a sliced banana, and a large glass of juice.

You may win on nutrients, but when it comes to calories you're dead last: That healthy-sounding meal adds up to almost 700, more than a third of your allotment for the day.

Bottom line: Life's too short for forbidden foods.

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