Losing weight doesn't have to be painful. Here's how to do it easily and safely.

10 Tips for Safe and Sane Weight Loss

Does it sometimes seem like everyone you know is recommending a different diet? It can be hard to know where to find reliable information on weight loss when there are so many choices, all of them so different.

One place to get free, sensible nutrition and weight loss advice is from the U.S. government’s MyPlate.gov, a guide created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In addition to offering valuable information about nutrition and healthy eating, the website has a section called Choose My Plate with a host of interactive weight loss tools for the for every age group.

There are calculators to help you figure out your body mass index (BMI) or how much weight to gain during pregnancy, and quizzes to test your knowledge about different foods.

Here are 10 tips for easy weight loss, along with additional resources to help you make healthy lifestyle changes day by day.

  1. Find out what you actually eat and drink every day by using the USDA’s online Supertracker tool.
  2. Using the information from your supertracker food list, make a personalized meal plan based on healthier choices.
  3. Pay attention to portion size; this advice from the National Institute of Health can help you avoid what experts call portion distortion. (Many people discover the portions they’re eating are double the size indicated on food labels and calorie counts.) One trick: use smaller plates, bowls, and glassware to prevent you from helping yourself to oversize portions.
  4. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. (Note: this includes many fruit juice-based drinks.)
  5. Avoid foods high in solid fats such as pizza, and fatty meats and choose fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products.
  6. Substitute whole grains for processed grains — for example, choose brown rice instead of white and baked goods made with whole wheat flour.
  7. Find a physical activity you like and try to do it at least four times a week. This useful chart tells you how many calories you’ll burn doing many popular sports and activities.
  8. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you don’t just grab whatever’s easiest. The What’s Cooking guide has recipes, calorie guides, and many other materials to make healthy meal planning easy.
  9. Try to cut back on desserts or eat just a few bites, enough to at least temporarily satisfy your sweet tooth. According to government officials, the number one source of calories for most Americans is desserts and sweets. And when you do eat sweets, pay attention to the internal cues that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough to eat before, during, and after meals.
  10. Cut back on the amount of time you spend on the computer, watching TV and playing games and doing social media on your phone.  The more hours you spend sitting rather than being physically active, the harder it is to lose weight.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.