What can you eat to help you lose weight? We’ve made a comprehensive list for you, these foods will help you boost your metabolism, curb your cravings and help you manage your weight.
Weight loss – for some people, it comes so effortlessly, and they seem to be able to eat whatever they want. That can be frustrating for the rest of us though, that’s why we’re here to help you.
Crash diets may give quick results for some, but they’re hard to stick to as they can be very restrictive. Often the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose comes back which can be incredibly demotivating. It has been shown scientifically, that in order to lose body weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume (1) (2). This is called a calorie deficit.
Your body burns calories just by performing its basic bodily functions such as breathing and keeping the heart beating. This is the BMR or basal metabolic rate (3). In order to achieve weight loss, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn in a day, and it can be done by either eating less or exercising more.
The amount of calories each person needs varies due to differences in stature, metabolism and level of activity. For steady, maintainable and healthy weight loss, aim to cut your calorie intake by 500 calories per day. This amounts to 1 or 2 snacks, or a few healthier swaps as part of your meal. Alternatively, you could eat the same amount as you usually do, but increase your activity level to burn an extra 500 calories a day.
So, let’s think about this. To achieve a 500 calorie deficit, we can change our way of eating to give us 500 calories less, or we can go for a 3 to 4 mile run to burn them off. For some, exercise may be the preferred option, as they don’t want to change the way they eat. For others, the preferable choice may be to skip a snack and go for a 30 minute walk. There is no right or wrong.
What we do know is that at least 20 minutes of movement should be included in any daily routine for general good health, whether or not your end goal is weight loss. Pair that with some healthier meals and you’ll be on the right track!
It is always recommended that you check with your doctor before starting any new form of exercise.
In order to help you make these food choices, we have come up with a comprehensive list of the 20 Best Weight Loss Foods.
First, we need to make something clear. This list of foods does not mean that you can eat unlimited amounts of them and expect to lose weight. This list is a great tool for finding inspiration for healthy meals, or a substitute for a less healthy choice.
For example, if you feel like something sweet, we’d suggest you reach for a small portion of Greek yogurt with blueberries instead of ice cream. Or if you are at a restaurant, choose a salmon dish with a side of spinach instead of a burger and fries. And if you have any questions – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
You’ll see that this list doesn’t include processed foods, high carb foods, or added sugar. But these healthy foods will satisfy your appetite and help you curb cravings which leads to a calorie deficit and healthy weight loss!
The types of food we’ve listed will help you achieve a calorie deficit and include good sources of protein and fiber, leaving you feeling full for longer.
The key is finding nutritional balance. Nutritious foods can improve your energy level, mood, and overall health too, so let’s get started, shall we?
The Main Food Groups that help Achieve Healthy Weight Loss
Protein is vital to weight management. Calories are burned when your body digests and metabolizes protein, so by eating a high-protein diet you could boost your metabolism by up to 100 calories per day! (4)
Fiber is another very important element to get into your diet. It is undigested in the stomach and ends up in the colon, where it feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. A healthy gut promotes digestion as well as improved overall health. Research shows that high fiber foods may help with weight loss, specifically soluble fiber as it helps to stave off feelings of hunger. (11) The average female should include at least 30 grams of fiber in her daily diet.
As you can see, protein and fiber go hand in hand as important elements in your diet to help keep you feeling full longer and thereby help you lose weight.
Healthy fats are just that, healthy! We aren’t talking about the saturated fats found in junk food and baked goods. Healthy fats are full of essential omega 3’s, HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and vital nutrients to nourish every cell in your body. These can be found in foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados.
What Not to Eat
Rule number one: Stay away from heavily processed foods! This includes anything made in a factory that comes with a long label of unpronounceable ingredients on the packaging. These ‘foods’ are not only manufactured for convenience, but they can contain preservatives and additives which could really harm your health in the long run. These foods are often engineered in a way that will keep you coming back for more which is difficult to navigate when you’re watching your weight.
On the flip side, natural foods are unprocessed. Shop for products that do not come in a package or box. Aim for single ingredient and nutrient dense foods, such as those found along the perimeter of the grocery store – eggs, meat, fish and produce. Have you ever noticed how all the processed, packaged foods are in the middle of the store?
Now we’ve covered the basics, so let’s get to our list of 20 Best Foods for Weight Loss.
The 20 Best Foods for Weight Loss
Eggs are the powerhouse of weight loss foods. They are full of good protein, quality fats and vital nutrients and minerals. Their high protein content makes them filling which will help curb cravings (12) ; (13) ; (14).
Start your day with eggs. Studies have shown that women who eat eggs for breakfast whilst on a weight loss diet, achieved a 65% greater weight loss over an 8 week period! (15)
Eggs are easy to cook, cheap, and so versatile. It’s wise to have a few boiled eggs ready to go in the fridge for those hunger pangs or an afternoon snack. We also love them in salads, quinoa bowls, scrambled or fried.
Avocados rose in popularity as trendy toast toppers, but they are here to stay as they are full of health benefits. Whilst they do contain a lot of calories (upwards of 250 per fruit depending on its size), they are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats which may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (16) and help you feel full for longer. They are also high in fiber and benefit your gut biome, and a healthy gut is key to good overall health! (17)
This is one of those foods that we urge you not to eat in unlimited amounts. Whilst it has amazing health benefits and weight loss potential as part of a healthy diet, avocados are high calorie foods. So stick to ½-1 avocado per day to enjoy its benefits and help you on the road to weight loss.
Whey protein is not really a food in itself, but a supplement which is, as the name implies, high in protein. Whey protein is the protein part of whey, a liquid that separates from milk during cheese production. It is a complete, high-quality protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. This high quality protein is easily absorbed by the gut (18) and efficiently utilized by the body.
This is a great little tool to have up your sleeve for busy days. It comes in powder form with a stable shelf life, so it’s easy to add to your smoothie or to baked oats for a protein boost which will help to keep you fuller for longer.
Whey protein is popular in the fitness world as it helps with weight loss whilst holding on to muscle. (19) That’s not to say that it’s not a great source of protein for anyone not looking to lift weights.
As for servings, follow the instructions on the package, but a good rule of thumb is 1-2 scoops per day in order to aid in weight loss.
Dark leafy greens
If eggs are the nutrition powerhouse for protein, dark leafy greens should be considered the powerhouse for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, all whilst being low in calories. Kale, spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce are just a few examples of dark leafy greens that make delicious salads or can be incorporated into a warm meal. Aim eat a good handful of your greens at least twice a day.
Add them to a smoothie for a nutritious boost, slice and roast in a little olive oil, drizzle with dressing or just pile on top of a sandwich or your bowl of soup. These are low maintenance and high in nutritional return!
Here’s another superfood which is packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein and healthy fats, as well as countless vitamins and minerals. The fiber content paired with the healthy fat content will help you feel full for longer.
Nut butters are also great! But look for a natural nut butter instead and check the label for additives and added sugar. It should only contain nuts and salt (if you opt for the salted version). Nut butters are great to add to a smoothie or spread on slices of apple or pear.
A great way to get the benefits of nuts is to have a small handful as a snack to stave off hunger, or even just a teaspoon of nut butter will do the trick to curb a craving. Almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews are some of the best choices.
Fish is another great source of protein, and it’s lower in calories than poultry or red meat. Fatty fish in particular is beneficial as it is packed with Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are a type of fat essential for the body to function, but it can’t be produced on its own. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and aid weight loss. (20) Salmon, sardines, mackerel and herrings are great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.
It’s important to remember that eating fish alone isn’t going to guarantee weight loss. Choosing fish over other higher calorie, and higher saturated fat choices such as steak, burgers or even fried fish, may well help you lose weight if it’s consumed as part of a healthy diet. Aim to eat two 3-ounce servings a week for optimal health.
Chia seeds contain a whopping amount of fiber – nearly 10 grams in just 2 tablespoons! Studies have shown that a diet high in fiber may also help with weight loss (21), so aim for at least 30g of fiber a day. Sprinkle some chia seeds on your morning oatmeal or yogurt and you will be well on your way to the 30g goal! But don’t overdo it, chia seeds are relatively high in calories and fat (138 calories and 9g fat per 2 tablespoons) so stick that amount and you’ll be fine.
These vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and they are also great for weight loss as they are low in calories but high in fiber. They will fill you up, keep you regular and provide you with a good range of nutrients and antioxidants to boot!
Our favorite way to enjoy them is drizzled with a little olive oil and roasted in the oven at 375F for 20-30 minutes. It’s a good idea to check halfway through and toss to ensure even browning. Sprinkle with Himalayan Sea Salt and your choice of herbs, and serve as a side with a nice filet of salmon.
Aim to fill half your plate with greens, both cruciferous veggies and dark leafy ones at least twice a day!
Greek Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, potassium and healthy gut bacteria, all for a relatively low calorie count. The protein will help curb your appetite which will help with urges to snack.
Make sure you choose plain full fat yogurt. With regards to calories, the full fat versions may have a higher calorie count but when you take something out of a product, it needs to be replaced with something else to make it palatable. In most cases this is sugar! So you’re much better off adding a little bit of honey or maple syrup to your bowl, where YOU are in control of the sugar content.
A great way to enjoy yogurt is to use it instead of sour cream or mayonnaise in dips. You can put it on pancakes, or mix it with a variety of fresh herbs to make a delicious condiment for your dinner. For a healthy and well-balanced snack, have a small serving with some berries and nuts and a drizzle of honey.
Chicken is a lean meat which is high in protein (22) and especially white chicken meat is low in calories. It is also a good source of vitamins B6 and B12 (23) which are important for regulating blood sugar and DNA health.
When consuming chicken with weight loss as a goal, it is important to remember that you should opt for the pure meat, not fried, breaded or processed versions. Luckily, chicken is a versatile meat, so it can be prepared healthfully in many different ways.
Oats are considered one of the healthiest whole grains on the planet. They’re very high in vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber and antioxidants. This slow release carb will also help you feel full for longer and will also benefit your blood sugar and cholesterol levels (24).
One of our favorite ways to enjoy oats is as an ‘overnight oat’ breakfast. Simply put ¼ cup of oats in a mason jar, top with milk or a milk alternative, stir and leave in the fridge overnight. Add berries, a spoon of yogurt, and some healthy seeds for a very delicious, and portable, breakfast.
Oats can also be added to your smoothie to bulk it up and keep you feeling full longer.
Beans and Legumes are a great vegetarian option for B vitamins, fiber and protein. They are also fantastic for overall health, decreasing cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as feeding your gut with ‘good’ bacteria!
As a substitute for red meats, beans have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and even some types of cancer. (25)
Some of the most commonly eaten legumes and beans are chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), lentils, and pinto, black and cannellini beans. These make great additions to quinoa ‘bowls’, salads, or soups.
Quinoa is a high protein grain, which means it can give your metabolism a boost and curb your appetite too. It boasts many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, B vitamins and antioxidants.
Quinoa can be cooked as a porridge for breakfast, or used as the base to a ‘bowl’ meal. This is a great way to get a lot of the foods in this list in one sitting. Measure 1 cup of cooked quinoa, top with a little bit of avocado, some beans, leafy greens, and a piece of salmon and you will have a well-rounded and delicious meal!
Cottage cheese is a high protein, low calorie and low fat food which digests slowly, leaving you feeling full for longer. It contains bone-healthy calcium, but no fiber, so make sure to add some berries and/or nuts to your serving for a well balanced snack or small meal.
Most types of fruit are high in sugar, albeit natural sugar. The best fruits for weight loss are therefore berries of all sorts. High in vitamins, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, these fruits will perk up any breakfast, snack or salad. Choose between blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.
As these are best in season, opt to buy them frozen and thaw as needed. It’s much more cost effective and you’ll always have berries on hand!
We know sauerkraut gets a bad rap, but it’s a great condiment to add to your meal. Not only is it low in calories, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamin C, it’s fermented making it great for your digestive system, feeding it with all sorts of good bacteria. The fermentation process creates an environment which encourages the growth of probiotics, which are also found in products such as yogurt.
Studies have shown that it may reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from food. So as you can see, sauerkraut makes a refreshing side to a main course, or tossed in salads and it’s full of health and weight reducing benefits.
Raw unsalted pumpkin seeds are again a great source of protein and fiber. You can snack on a handful mixed in with nuts, sprinkle them on salads and quinoa bowls, or add them to your morning oats.
Whilst these little seeds pack a punch of nutrients, this is one of those foods which we urge you to eat sparingly. Like nuts and other seeds, they are high in calories and fat, with a half cup (without the shell) containing around 400 calories and 35 grams of fat. Don’t let this deter you, as their benefits for overall health outweigh the bad, and sprinkling a couple of tablespoons on your salad will keep consumption in moderation.
Bell peppers are the non-spicy cousin of the chili pepper! Whilst the capsaicin in chili peppers is known to have appetite reducing effects and fat burning properties(26), its milder variation, the bell pepper, also contains a bit of capsaicin providing similar weight loss benefits.
As it’s more enjoyable to eat 1 cup of bell peppers than 1 cup of chili pepper, you get all the nutrient benefits in a bigger dose!
Bell peppers are also rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, and potassium. They make a delicious snack or side to most meals. Slice into sticks and dip in hummus, or dice them and sprinkle in your omelet. They are low in calories so you can eat them limitlessly!
Here’s another vegetable which you may not automatically associate with weight loss, but asparagus has a lot of fiber and few calories. Asparagus also has a ton of nutrients and vitamins in it, as do the rest of the veggies on this list!
They can be steamed, sautéed (with a drop of olive oil), or our favorite way is to roast them.
Just spread them out on a baking tray and roast at 375F for 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and enjoy with a nice vinaigrette as a side to your dinner. They’re also delicious with eggs, so use them as dippers in a soft boiled egg, or have them on a side of scrambled eggs.
Papaya has properties that may help you on your weight loss journey as part of a healthy diet. Papaya is high in fiber and low in calories, making it a nice option if you’re craving something sweet. Our favorite way to enjoy ripe slices of papaya is sprinkled with a little lime juice or added to smoothies with yogurt for a protein boost.
A Recap: Which of These Can I Eat Freely and Which Ones Do I need to Eat in Moderation?
When you’re on a mission to lose weight, the key is achieving a calorie deficit on a daily basis over a period of time. This can be done by eating whole foods and staying away from processed foods and sugar.
Some foods are ok to eat unlimited amounts of:
- High quality meat, fish, poultry and eggs;
- Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt;
- Herbs and spices to liven up your meal.
Some foods are helpful for weight loss, but should be enjoyed in moderation:
- Fruit as it contains natural fruit sugars. Aim for 1 serving a day of berries or papaya;
- Whole grains such as quinoa and oats. No more than 1 serving a day.
- Avocado. No more than 1 a day.
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