For many of us, “diet” is a four-letter word that means "torture", "deprivation", and "temporary".

The popular diets that promise you’ll “lose weight quickly while eating all the foods you love” sounds terrific. And while these diets can work initially, they are often full of rules that can be challenging to live with long term. They also tend to encourage people to eliminate entire food groups. This can lead to malnutrition and a feeling of failure if you have a nibble of that “forbidden food.”

The reality is that we can get to a healthy weight if we reframe our minds away from dieting and towards eating for a healthy lifestyle. UC Davis Health registered dietitian Melinda Gong gives you three tips to help get to and keep a healthy weight in the new year.

1. Slow and steady weight loss wins the race

Many of us want to lose a lot of weight quickly, but it's important to realize that healthy weight loss can take time. Losing weight too quickly or depriving your body of needed calories can actually lead to weight regain.

Multiple studies show that a small amount of weight loss of 5-10% over a longer period of time is better for your overall health. (That would be 10-20 pounds of weight loss for a person who weighs 200 pounds.)

2. Small eating changes lead to big rewards

Losing weight starts with decreasing your food and beverage intake by 500 calories a day. That could potentially help you lose up to 1 pound a week.

Eating 500 less calories each day can be done by making small changes in your food choices. The best place to start is with your beverages. By drinking water in place of one 12 oz. juice or soda, you will save 150-200 calories each day.

Another idea is to eat fewer deep-fried foods, which have a lot of hidden fats. For example, if you choose a baked potato over French fries, you can save about 250 calories.

With a few small changes, you can easily save 500 calories without eating less food.

3. Stay moving a little each day

Multiple studies show that moving your body more leads to long-term weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry shows that people who have lost weight and kept it off have increased their level of physical activity.

On average, people should move about 1 hour or more per day. This doesn’t necessarily require going to a gym for 1 hour, but instead incorporate other ways to move. Find ways to add in exercise such as walking to the mailbox daily, riding your bike for small errands, or walking to a nearby friend’s house instead of driving.

For more tips on healthy weight loss, you can take a free virtual class called Achieving a Healthy Weight, taught by UC Davis Health registered dietitians. Check out the class schedule, and sign up via MyUCDavisHealth, or call 916-734-0718.