Trying to lose weight to improve your health or for a special occasion? Chances are, if you’re like nearly 50% of people in the U.S., you’ve already decided to go on a diet, hoping to shed those pounds quickly. There’s just one problem: Diets seldom work.

In fact, research shows that only 20% of overweight people are able to lose weight and keep it off for at least a year. The remaining 80%, however, are unable to maintain that loss and face increased risk for obesity-related conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, how can we set ourselves up for success?

Relying on healthful nutrition and regular exercise to lose weight has been shown to be more achievable and more sustainable. It allows you to get used to your new healthy habits — and your body time to adjust — versus a crash or fad diet that’s focused only on fast weight loss.

By avoiding the pitfalls of weight-loss programs that overpromise and underdeliver, we can avoid the hunger, frustration and effects of poor nutrition that derail the most dieters.

Here’s what to avoid — and embrace — to ensure you lose weight and stay healthy. (Including two recipes, below, inspired by the ultra-nutritious and effective Mediterranean diet.)