Maybe you only have 5 pounds to lose. Or maybe you’ve already dropped 25 pounds in your goal towards shedding 30 pounds and have totally plateaued. Maybe you’ve been trying to figure out how to lose 5 pounds since, oh, college. Or maybe a two-month weight loss journey has gotten you a few pounds shy of your goal weight.
Regardless of the case, nutritionists know a thing or two about how to lose 5 pounds—whether it’s the first five or last five. That’s why we reached out to some of our favorite healthy eating experts about how to lose five pounds with tips for everything from dining out to what to snack on at home.
How to lose 5 pounds will be different for every person.
Of course, it’s worth noting that losing 5 pounds can be a very different experience for everyone based on a variety of factors ranging from genetics to how long you’ve been trying to lose weight.
To make it easier for you, we’ve taken a multi-pronged approach in providing many different tips that hopefully provide something for everyone. That applies to people that range from using spirulina as an everyday word to people just starting to add vegetables to your plate.
Pick a few of these 25 expert-approved tips for how to lose 5 pounds and watch that scale number head down to finally see your goal weight.
The caloric needs of women and men will differ if you’re looking to lose 5 pounds.
- Women lose weight on 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day
- Men lose weight on 1,600 to 1,800 calories per day
“My clients often insist they eat healthily and don’t know why they are not losing weight, then they calculate it with an app and it turns out they are eating and drinking 2,000 calories/day!” says nutritionist Lisa DeFazio, RD. DeFazio recommends My Fitness Pal, but there are plenty of apps on the market, so experiment with a few and see which interface you like best.
Beyond logging it on an app, also take a moment to look at your plate and reflect on how much food is there. “There are physiological reasons for weight loss plateaus. However, a common culprit is simply that portion sizes have crept up. If this sounds like it may apply to you, recommit to tracking your portions and ensure you’re eating balanced meals and snacks,” says nutritionist Maggie Moon, MS, RD, author of The MIND Diet.
“For example, two cups of cooked pasta looks surprisingly reasonable on a dinner plate. But if you replace half the pasta with broccoli florets, tomatoes, garlic, and olives, you’ll save about 200 calories. With this one small swap alone, you could say goodbye to five pounds worth of calories in about three months (12.5 weeks),” says Moon.
Guzzle, guzzle, or your belly might face more trouble. “Often people mistake thirst for hunger. When you drink adequate fluids, you can ensure that you are not simply eating because you are thirsty,” says nutritionist Brocha Soloff, RD. “Drinking during meals can slow you down and help fill you up quicker. Our bodies are mostly water so we need to replenish that. Plus with a high fiber diet, without adequate fluid, you will become impacted. The average adult needs about three liters a day.”
“When our clients have a target to lose those last five pounds, they typically think they have to feel deprived and that they can’t go out to eat or enjoy their meals, which isn’t the case! We have them apply our own “Italian restaurant” trick (but at any restaurant!), to enjoy larger portions and keep the calories in check,” explain Eat This, Not That! Advisory Board members, The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.
Here’s how to use the “Italian restaurant trick” to lose five pounds:
- Order a side of steamed veggies (without oil or butter!).
- When the meal (such as pasta at an Italian restaurant) is delivered to the table, immediately cut the meal in half. Put half of the meal on a bread plate to be put in a doggie bag for another day.
- Mix the big serving of veggies right into the remaining half of the meal.
“Our clients feel like they’re eating a large plate of food, and often they’ve trimmed the calories by 400 calories or more,” say The Nutrition Twins. “They enjoy their food, and actually eat pasta without the calories getting out of hand. We have them apply this at home too, and sometimes at more than one meal a day. This saves them at least 400 calories per day, which has them losing those last five pounds in less than six weeks.”
Or “Positive Mental Attitude.” If you do so, you may be surprised to see the pounds slip away.
“Soothe your mood, improve your waistline. It sounds odd, but consider stress eating. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can trigger food cravings and increase belly fat accumulation, stalling weight loss efforts. For a healthy fix, try tossing wild blueberries into your morning smoothie. Not only are they low in sugar and calories, but recent research suggests they may be a mood boosting-food,” says Moon. “A cup of frozen wild blueberries is only 80 calories and a potent source of brain-healthy polyphenols, too.”
For a mood-boosting smoothie to help you lose five pounds, try this recipe:
- 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
- 1 handful of baby spinach
- 1-inch fresh ginger
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Shake of cinnamon
This smoothie will run you 200 calories and 15 grams of filling protein. It’s also a good source of calcium (15% DV) and an excellent source of fiber (30% DV).
“The mood boost alone may help overcome a weight loss plateau, but this smoothie will also save about 250 calories compared to a medium smoothie at your local smoothie shop. With this one swap, you can save five pounds worth of calories in 10 weeks,” Moon says.
We hate to be the bearer of such stinky—pun intended—news, but eliminating cheese from your diet can really help you lose weight fast. “Cheese is loaded with calories and fat. People don’t realize how calorie-dense cheese is for a small amount. No cheese on salads or tacos or snacks or pizza! You will cut hundreds of calories and lose that last five pounds,” advises DeFazio.
Yes, they can impact your waistline, too. “A lot of folks tend to have beverage amnesia—they’re not calculating energy intake from alcohol, kombucha, juice, sparkling waters that have calories, sweetened teas/coffees, milk, and those $13 green juices,” says nutritionist Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “When you really hone in on what these contribute and then perhaps make some cuts— that may lead to some significant results.”
This little tweak can make a big difference. “Asking for salad dressing on the side at restaurants can save you hundreds of calories and help you lose an extra pound or more per year, depending on how often you eat out. Instead, use the fork method by dipping your salad in the dressing so you wind up using only half or less,” advises Soloff.
“Although sodium contains no calories, it retains water and contributes to bloating. Decreasing the sodium in your diet can help shed two to three pounds of water,” notes nutritionist Andy Bellatti, MS, RD. “Remember, most sodium is already in foods (especially sauces, salad dressings, and baked goods), so you may be eating a high-sodium diet even if you never once pick up a salt shaker.” Nutritionists recommend their favorite ways to reduce sodium intake.
“You don’t know how it’s prepared. My clients always underestimate calories. A Cobb salad is not a good choice just because it’s a salad!” says DeFazio. At chain restaurants, it’s easy to find calories on menu boards and/or online; otherwise, try to input the ingredients and estimated portion size into a calorie-counting app.
You can do it, friends. “Stop eating when you are satisfied; notice I didn’t say when you felt stuffed or sick but satisfied,” says nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD. “We can easily overeat 600 to 800 calories and avoiding this excessive food intake can help you to lose five pounds in just three weeks.” If you think you have overeating issues, there are some easy tips for how to stop overeating.
High-intensity interval training, friends. “Weight-bearing exercise like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and jumping jacks count as muscle-building weight training, and can burn up to 300 calories per 30 minutes (this example uses a 150 lb person). This is important because weight loss often involves some muscle loss, slowing down metabolism and how quickly the weight comes off,” notes Moon. “The process of building muscle burns calories, and the increase in muscle mass itself fires up the body’s metabolism to be better at burning through calories, too. Adding 30-minutes of high-intensity weight training to your fitness routine three times a week will burn through five pounds worth of calories in about four-to-five months.”
RELATED: Learn how to fire up your metabolism and lose weight the smart way.
It’s not for everyone, but the science-backed practice of intermittent fasting can help you shed weight effectively. “To lose five pounds, start intermittent fasting by decreasing your feeding phase to eight hours a day (for example noon to 8:00 p.m.) and the rest of the day/night will be your fasting phase which is 16 hours,” says Dulan. “This can help you lose five pounds in five weeks.”
Technology isn’t for everyone, and sometimes taking pen or pencil to paper can make a more tangible impact than simply logging food with a few clicks. In a diary, you can also take notes on how you felt that day, write down stress triggers, and even log things you are grateful for. “Whether you are a nutrition pro who has been eating healthy for years or you are new to the game, keeping a food journal holds you accountable to yourself,” suggests Soloff. “You can write down your food record at night or you can even map out your day prior. Are you a man or woman of your word? It is often helpful to even track the day prior to ensure that you stick with your intentions. Map out the best way to eat to reach your goals.”
This visual cue can make a big difference in how much food you consume at mealtimes. Follow the wisdom of nutritionist Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living: “Use smaller plates so that you can pile less food on them. Less food means fewer calories. It may be a little hard in the beginning to adjust, however, a full plate is a full plate (even if it is a small plate). Instead of plating up a 14-inch dinner plate, grab a nine-inch dinner plate (or smaller).”
“Exercise is great, but…. We all feel like Olympic athletes after a spin class. But then we go and sit 8 hours a day which can contribute to fat storage. It would probably be more beneficial to metabolism to do as the Europeans do—and walk, constantly! (Or ideally, do both exercise and constant movement),” recommends Auslander Moreno.
Auslander Moreno’s tips to be more active throughout the day so you can lose five pounds include:
- Take your phone calls while walking
- Park far from where you’re headed
- Take the stairs in your building
- Stay on your feet and pace around
- Get up to talk to someone in the office—don’t email
“Assess how much alcohol you are drinking. Alcohol is loaded with calories (and it can make our weight loss efforts push to the back burner for the weekend). Think about how much you drink in a week, assess the calorie amount and analyze if alcohol is holding you back from losing those last five pounds,” counsels Kostro Miller.
“For example, one five-ounce glass of red wine (plus, do you only drink five ounces per glass?) contains about 120 calories. If you consume five glasses of red wine per week (remember 5 ounces of wine), that’s 600 calories consumed per week. That’s 3,600 calories in six weeks, so if you work on reducing your calorie intake, you can lose another pound without much effort.” Swap happy hour dates for power walks or museum visits with friends or unwind at home with a book and a bubble bath over a glass of vino.
For now, at least. “Beer, wine, and hard liquor have calories and open your appetite making you crave fat and sugar. Your body stores the alcohol calories immediately because there is ZERO nutritional benefit for your body. Cut booze, cut calories, lose weight,” explains DeFazio.
“Choose high-fiber carbs like bran cereal and GG crackers to reduce your total calorie intake. Studies show that by just adding fiber, you absorb 100 calories less a day due to fiber’s ability to bind to fat and calories and usher it out of the body,” says Soloff. “Over the course of a year, that is a 10-pound weight loss. Also, fiber fills you up so you end up eating less.”
Unless it’s for water. “To lose five pounds, stop eating after dinner. Americans can easily eat an extra 500 calories after dinner and much of this unconscious eating is sabotaging your weight loss efforts,” says Dulan. “If you avoid eating after dinner you can lose up to five pounds in five weeks.”
“We overdo fat. Yes—fat is back, and I’m not afraid of an avocado’s calories. But some of us pile on 4 (or more) servings of fat per meal which may be too much for our needs. Try to stick to one serving of fat per meal,” says Auslander Moreno. “A salad doesn’t need an avocado, feta cheese, salmon, olive oil, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Choose one-two fat sources per meal. Since fats are so energy dense, this is likely to have an effect.”
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) can be holding you back from reaching your goal weight. These sugar-laden drinks are also loaded with empty calories that contribute to weight gain. “If you get the Starbucks grande iced caramel macchiato with 2% milk every day, that drink is 250 calories. If you order that five days per week, that’s 1,250 calories per week!” says Kostro Miller. Rethink your drinks. “Choose plain coffee/tea or coffee/tea with minimal added flavorings and creams,” Kostro Miller recommends.
SSBs you should avoid to lose five pounds include:
- Sports drinks
- Flavored milk drinks
- Loaded coffees
- Loaded teas
“As registered dietitians, we find that many of our clients scarf down calorie-dense foods at snack time, like potato chips. These don’t fill them up, so they end up overeating, often consuming 500 or more calories in a sitting,” say The Nutrition Twins.
If this sounds like you, the Twins have a tip: “How to lose five pounds involves choosing 30 in-shell pistachios. This is a smart, satisfying snack that feels indulgent, that you can’t wolf down and that saves calories,” explain The Nutrition Twins. “If the only change you make in your diet is replacing a daily snack of potato chips (a little over a third of an eight-ounce bag is 500 calories) with 30 pistachios (115 calories), you’ll lose about five pounds in six weeks.”
“Hurray for quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, squash, and sprouted grains and breads, indeed. But if you’re struggling with ‘sticky’ weight—you may be over-portioning these at meals and throughout your day,” says Auslander Moreno. Plus, you may not realize those healthy carbs you’ve been eating are actually among the foods higher in carbs than you thought. Auslander Moreno recommends you figure out the exact amount you need to make your meal feel complete and not deprived, which likely involves cutting out some carbs.
Her tips to cut back on carbs to lose five pounds include:
- Use one slice of bread for a sandwich instead of two
- Save half of your sweet potato for lunch
- Swap out grains in your grain bowl for a bed of lettuce
“You’re definitely encouraged to include healthy complex carbohydrates every day—but perhaps two servings at every meal is too much for your needs and preventing weight management,” says Auslander Moreno.
When the sun sets, it’s often easiest to go overboard on the eating front. Don’t: “Eat your lightest meal at dinner and don’t participate in late-night snacking. You don’t need the calories at night and you sleep on them and store them as fat,” comments DeFazio. Post-dinner snacking is among the late-night habits that prevent weight loss.