Losing pounds to achieve a healthy weight is a wonderful goal. Living at a healthier weight reduces risks for many diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer. Even small weight changes produce health benefits as long as these small changes are maintained. So, what are some steps to healthy weight loss?

Some of you are probably aware of these small changes, and some of you may not be. First and foremost is following a healthy diet. Too many Americans live on a diet of processed foods high in fat and sugar. One of the most critical diet changes that must be made is to eliminate these processed foods. Instead, consumption of vegetables and healthy fruits in moderation should be made a priority. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and vitamins, low in calories, and full of micronutrients that are effective at preventing all kinds of disease and illness.

Appropriate amounts of lean dairy, lean meats, and high-protein legumes and nuts should also be made part of the diet.

The amount of food consumed should also be taken into consideration. To control portion sizes, use smaller plates and bowls. This will trick your mind into feeling fuller with less food. To avoid over-eating, eat consciously.

Eat slowly, chew your food, and give yourself 20 minutes after the first portion to determine if you’re truly hungry for more. It is also important to avoid skipping meals. This will backfire, causing you to substantially overeat later in the day.

In addition to diet, exercise should be an integral part of maintaining a healthy, normal weight. It is perfectly acceptable to start small—go for a 5-minute walk or walk up and down the stairs a few times. As you exercise more and lose more weight, physical activity will become easier, more enjoyable and you can add more time to reach the desired amount of minimum 30 minutes daily.

Finally, remember to set realistic goals concerning weight loss!