Use our step-by-step guide to dieting to shape your eating habits and lose weight.

I'm often asked for tips on boosting weight-loss success. While there's no single answer that works for everyone, focusing on your diet and tuning up your exercise are two key elements for weight loss. Another? Having a plan. Start out the week by planning what healthy meals and exercise you can fit in during the upcoming days. There are also some things you can eat and do at certain times throughout the day to maximize your weight-loss success. Here's a sample day in the life of a successful dieter:

-Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

8 a.m. Eat a bowl of oatmeal with banana and walnuts.

8 a.m. Eat a Bowl of Oatmeal With Banana and Walnuts.

Science shows that regular breakfast eaters tend to be leaner and that dieters are more successful at losing weight-and keeping it off-when they eat breakfast. But choosing the right breakfast can give an extra boost to your weight loss. Eating "slow-release" carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or bran cereal, three hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat, suggests a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition. Here's why: slow-release carbohydrates didn't spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates, such as white toast. In turn, insulin levels didn't spike as high and because insulin plays a role in signaling your body to store fat, having lower levels may help you burn fat.

10 a.m. Grab a small nonfat latte and an apple.

10 a.m. Grab a Small Nonfat Latte and an Apple.

If having a snack between meals helps to tide you over, make your choices count. Snacks are a great place to fill nutritional gaps. Choose foods that provide calcium and fiber-two nutrients that people often skimp on. The latte and apple do the trick.

11 a.m. Take a brisk 40-minute walk.

11 a.m. Take a Brisk 40-Minute Walk.

Although the recommendation is to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who exercised an extra 10 minutes five days a week were more successful at warding off weight gain as they moved from their twenties and thirties into middle age.

1 p.m. Eat a Big Veggie Salad Topped With Grilled Chicken and a Slice of Whole-Grain Bread.

The formula for a get-skinny lunch that will power you through the afternoon (and banish the need for extra munching) is simple: vegetables, whole-grain bread and lean protein (like chicken, fish, tofu or beans). Why does it work? Making veggies the biggest portion of your lunch will give you a satisfying dose of fiber, the stay-full nutrient, while delivering healthy phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. The whole grains also add fiber and may help bust belly fat, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. The lean protein helps keep you feeling full throughout the afternoon--gram for gram, protein will keep you feeling fuller longer compared to carbohydrates and fat.

The Pros of Mini Meals

4 p.m. Snack On Fresh-Cut Veggies With Hummus…Or Not.

Before having a mid-afternoon snack, take a minute to see if you're really hungry. If not, forgo the extra calories and wait until dinner. If you are, follow the fiber-plus-protein combo for a snack that will really kick your hunger. Carrots and hummus are a classic combo.

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Tomato Gazpacho

6 p.m. Start Your Meal With a Soup or Salad.

Filling up on fiber- and water-rich foods first can help prevent you from overdoing high-calorie fare later. Research out of Penn State shows that eating a first-course salad can reduce overall calorie intake at a meal by up to 12 percent. And in a study in Appetite, people who started lunch with vegetable soup ended up eating 20 percent less than those who skipped the soup. Try these Soups and Salads to Help You Lose Weight. Whatever you choose for your main meal, try eating it off a smaller plate-it may help you to eat less while not feeling deprived.


8 p.m. Indulge in a Few Squares of Dark Chocolate.

Believe it or not, giving yourself little treats may be the secret to losing weight-for good. Aiming to be "too good" sets you up to fail. Chocolate is a good choice (if you like it!) because chocolate delivers extra health benefits-it contains antioxidants called flavanols that are good for your heart.