Many people struggle with finding the proper diet for them, going through dozens of eating plans before finding one that works. Yet, one of the fundamental aspects of weight loss is stocking your house with healthy foods to avoid consuming highly caloric meals.
Getting used to preparing delicious meals with these foods will allow you to make losing weight seem like an effortless journey. Plus, most of these ingredients have several health benefits apart from the weight-losing ones. Here’s what you need to know.
Top weight loss foods
Any person who has tried to lose weight will tell you that the best way to ensure eating healthy meals is to stock yourself on low-calorie ingredients. From cabbage to eggs, dozens of options are great for losing weight, allowing you to cook sophisticated and delicious plates.
On top of that, some of these ingredients can also act as snacks — meaning that you’ll also be able to eliminate those between-meals extra calories. So next time you go to the grocery store, make sure to check for some of these weight-loss ingredients:
Beans and legumes are all-time classics for weight loss thanks to their excellent nutrient density. Legumes provide fiber, iron, magnesium, carbohydrates, and zinc, among other things. But, most importantly, they provide an exceptionally high amount of protein (1).
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for weight loss, as its satiating nature will lead you to decrease your overall caloric intake. Furthermore, this macronutrient boosts your resting metabolic rate — which may lead to higher caloric expenditure (2, 3).
Although surrounded by misconceptions, whole eggs can be some of the most beneficial ingredients you could add to your weight loss diet. Egg whites mostly contain water and protein, while yolks also provide vitamins and minerals (4, 5).
Recent research has shown that including eggs in your breakfast positively impacts your satiety levels throughout the rest of your day. However, remember not to go overboard with this — the impact of eating more than a couple of eggs a day isn’t yet clear (6, 7).
Leafy greens, such as spinach, are one of the healthiest options when it comes to stocking weight loss foods. This is because these vegetables contain a unique protein called thylakoid, which has been shown to positively impact long-lasting satiety levels (8, 9).
Foods that fit this category include spinach, kale, and arugula. These make for ideal components for salads or as the main focus in vegetarian plates. If you want to reap all possible benefits, make sure to try a mix of leafy greens to get the most nutrients (10).
Salmon and Tuna
Seafood is a known alternative to meats when one is trying to lose weight. Specifically, salmon seems to be one of the better choices thanks to its high protein concentration. Plus, it contains iodine — a nutrient crucial to good metabolism (11, 12, 13).
Similarly, tuna also provides high levels of both iodine and protein — yet, it might be the more convenient choice when working on a budget. Tuna also has high levels of omega-3, a fatty acid that benefits your heart (13, 14, 15).
Whole grains are essential to every healthy diet thanks to their high nutrient density. Oats, brown rice, and quinoa are all fantastic protein sources while also providing high amounts of fiber — a combination that helps you feel satiated throughout the day (2, 16, 17, 18, 19).
While whole grains like brown rice are usually the best choice, some processed foods like white rice and bread are also acceptable to eat in most diets. However, check the ingredients before buying them to ensure they don’t have excess calories (20).
Berries, spanning from strawberries to blackberries, are fantastic sweet alternatives to include in your diet. Packing less than 60 calories every 100 grams, they provide a considerable amount of fiber and other nutrients like iron and calcium (21).
Yet, the most important aspect of berries as a weight loss food actually comes from pectin — a particular type of fiber found in some fruits. Pectin delays gastric emptying and increases feelings of satiety, meaning that snacking on berries will lead to eating less later on the day (22, 23, 24).
Although chicken is a significantly more caloric food than most of the ingredients on this list, it stands as the best meat for losing weight. It is an excellent protein source and has lower collagen levels than most other meats, making it easier to digest (25).
But, as with most foods, there are healthy ways to cook chicken and not-so-healthy ones. Experts usually recommend boiling, steaming, or microwaving instead of grilling and frying, as the latter two could lead to several side effects (26, 27).
While it may seem counterintuitive due to their high concentration of carbs, potatoes are an excellent choice for losing weight. This applies to most root vegetables, although white potatoes are particularly beneficial for weight loss.
During a recent study, experts found that participants who were given boiled potatoes often ranked them as the most satiating food. This makes them a fantastic choice as a side order or as a quick way out of a meal, as they’ll keep you full for hours after eating (28).
Avocados have been rising in popularity due to being an astoundingly rich and nutrient-dense food. Although they contain high amounts of fat, experts consider them healthy, such as the ones found in olive oil (29).
One of the most attractive aspects of avocados is their versatility — from salads to soups, you can use this fruit in almost every recipe. Some people even eat avocados with a spoon as a healthy mid-day snack.
Nuts are the perfect snacking choice for anyone trying to lose weight. Cheap and satiating, they’re filled with nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats. Keeping a bag of nuts near your desk will keep you from common pitfalls such as snacking on sweets (30).
Furthermore, nuts could be beneficial for diabetes and some metabolism-related conditions. While research is limited, experts suggest that this might have to do with the anti-inflammatory effects of nuts (31).
Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin that gives them their distinctive spiciness. However, not many people know that this component can contribute to losing weight through two different methods.
First, like many other elements on this list, capsaicin can make you feel full for a long time after eating a chili pepper. But more importantly, recent studies show that eating capsaicin can increase your caloric expenditure, letting you burn an extra 30 calories per day (32, 33).
Greek yogurt is a more sour but healthy version of regular yogurt. Experts indicate that despite being made from the same ingredients, Greek yogurt has fewer sugars and provides more protein. On top of that, it’s a great source of probiotics (34).
As we’ve already mentioned, protein can make you feel fuller after eating. In that sense, Greek yogurt is no exception — eating some after a meal or during breakfast will go a long way in preventing overeating (35).
Watermelon could be considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods considering its few calories. For example, a 100-gram serving of watermelon provides only 30 calories due to being almost 90% water (36).
Yet, this doesn’t make it useless as food — rather, it’s one of the best ways to introduce all kinds of vitamins in a single serving. From vitamin A to K, watermelon has all the micronutrients you need to complete a day of healthy eating (36).
Cabbage has earned a hard reputation due to the so-called “cabbage soup diet” — an eating plan which consists of eating nothing but cabbage soup for a week. While experts disregard this diet as unhealthy, it doesn’t mean that cabbage isn’t a good weight loss food (37).
Much like watermelon, cabbage is composed of more than 90% water, making it almost non-existent regarding calories. Carrying only 25 calories per 100 grams, it makes for a fantastic main component in salads (38).
Carrots are one of the most healthy vegetables, providing a series of elements called carotenoids. These compounds have dozens of health benefits, such as being antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and preventing cancer (39).
Calorie-wise, carrots provide as little as 40 calories in a 100-gram serving. Considering the micronutrients it carries, they make for perfect snacks throughout the day. You can also use them in specific sweet recipes (40).
Cucumbers are one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about light foods due to their watery texture. Usually found in salads, cucumbers can also be eaten as a snack or added as a base to more caloric dishes.
Cucumbers only provide about 15 calories in a 100-gram serving — yet, you may find that they aren’t a very filling meal on their own. Instead, try to add them to a mix of other vegetables to make the dish more appealing without adding more calories (41).
There’s a reason why almost every mother tries to get their children to eat broccoli. The number of health benefits this vegetable provides is astounding — preventing conditions such as heart disease and stomach cancer (42, 43).
While the exact energetic content of broccoli will change depending on the cooking method, it usually carries 35 calories per 100-gram serving. Broccoli also provides a fantastic amount of potassium, vitamin C, and calcium (44).
Brussels sprouts, like broccoli, form part of the cruciferous vegetables — all of which are known to be excellent sources of micronutrients. These mini cabbages are no different, as they contain astounding amounts of vitamin C (45).
A 100-gram portion of brussels sprouts carries 45 calories while also providing a fair amount of calcium and potassium. If you’ve never eaten them before, try cooking them in different ways, such as grilling, sauteeing, or roasting (45).
Apples make for the perfect dessert if you’re trying to lose weight. Sweet and crunchy, they only carry about 60 calories per 100-gram serving. Plus, thanks to being easy to carry around, they’re also a perfect snacking choice when away from home (46).
These delicious fruits are also great for your health, as they reduce the risk for chronic disorders such as cardiovascular disease. Similarly, they may also positively impact metabolism and gut microbiota — but more research is needed (47).
Cooking Low-Calorie Recipes
Most of these ingredients are usually good on their own or in simple recipes such as salads. Yet, having some extra weight loss recipes in your back pocket is never a bad idea. Here are some of the most popular meals you can make with these ingredients:
Apple Slices With Peanut Butter
If you ever find yourself desiring a sweet dessert, make sure to give apples and peanut butter a shot. This perfect combination provides an excellent nutrient balance and the creamy goodness we all need every once in a while.
Apples help get those last few micronutrients you might have missed during the day. Also, they’re good for your heart and your general gut health. Peanut butter, instead, will take care of providing you with a fair balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats (47, 48).
The recipe consists of simply cutting the apple into slices of your preferred size and placing them near a bowl of peanut butter. Easy, quick, and simple — all the requirements needed for a great dessert.
Sheet Pan Salmon With Vegetables
It’s common to think that losing weight implies eating bland, simple meals. Yet, this couldn’t be farther from the truth — and nothing better than a seafood-based meal to prove your guests wrong.
While you can make this recipe with pretty much any piece of fish, salmon may be the better choice for weight loss. Its high protein concentration, paired with the micronutrient paradise from vegetables such as broccoli and peppers, makes for one of the most nutritious plates you can cook (11, 44, 49).
To make it, pick all the vegetables you want and throw the ones that require longer cooking times in the oven at 450° F. After about 15 minutes, put the fish in the middle, season, and cook until it’s browned all the way through. If you want, combine some oil, salt, capers, and garlic in a bowl and spoon it over the fish when served.
Toasts With White Beans and Kale
There’s nothing better than a recipe you can adjust to every meal of the day. These delicious toasts make for a refreshing lunch, a quick dinner, or simply the most nutritious breakfast you’ll eat in a long time.
Beans and kale are a combination that’ll provide you with incredible amounts of magnesium, zinc, protein, and pretty much every nutrient you can imagine. Pair them with a whole-grain slice of bread, and you’ve got yourself a quick nutrient-dense meal (1, 50, 51).
To make this recipe, throw some garlic and onion in a large skillet and sauté until they’re tender. Then, add the kale and season to your liking. Finally, after about two minutes, take the skillet away from the fire and top the bread slices with a bean mixture and the wilted kale.
Chicken curry is another proof that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating bland. Coming from traditional Indian cuisine, this 30-minute recipe is a fireproof way of delighting kids and adults alike. The only downside is that you may not have the necessary spice blend in your kitchen.
The big calories from this plate come from the chicken breasts, which also bring protein to the table. The fiber, instead comes from the rice — which, although the recipe calls for white rice, can also be subbed with healthier varieties (52, 53).
To start, cook some onions and garlic in a pot, later adding ginger, paprika, and garam masala (the spice blend). After about two minutes, add some tomato paste and the chicken, stirring occasionally. When cooked through, add some chicken broth and yogurt and serve over rice.
What Else Can I Do to Lose Weight?
While stocking on healthy ingredients will go a long way in helping you lose weight, many habits can also contribute to a healthy figure. By ingraining some of these habits into your life, you’ll ensure a higher caloric expenditure every day. Here are some of the best things you can do to lose weight:
Naturally, exercising turns out to be the single best complement to a healthy weight loss diet. Training every day will also help you combat the effects of sedentarism, which is linked to conditions such as obesity and insomnia (54).
If, for any reason, you find yourself unable to perform an exercise routine, make sure to stand up frequently from your desk. Modern lifestyle often forces us to sit in front of a computer for extended periods — setting a timer every few hours helps mitigate some negative consequences (55).
Eat at Home
One of the biggest pitfalls of the weight loss journey is eating out too often. Even if a restaurant promotes itself as serving healthy, homemade food, it’s always a better idea to stay at home and cook for yourself. Eating at home is linked to decreased sugar and carbohydrate intake (56).
Research also shows that people who eat at home can lose, on average, an extra 100 calories per day. Furthermore, eating at home usually provides more fiber — a nutrient linked to feeling more satiated after each meal (19, 56).
Add Eggs to Your Breakfast
We already mentioned the fantastic benefits eggs can have on a weight loss diet. Yet, many people take out eggs from their breakfast, thinking this will decrease their caloric intake. While this is true to some extent, the benefits of eating eggs during the day’s first meal outweigh the extra calories.
Recent research has shown that eggs highly increase your satiety levels, meaning that you’ll feel less inclined to mid-day snacks if you include them in your breakfast. However, studies don’t analyze what happens after eating more than two eggs a day — so try to stay within these limits to be sure (6, 7).
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are prevalent in today’s society — yet, they have proven to be harmful to your body. Fast food, pre-cooked meals, and snacks usually contain added sugars and unhealthy amounts of fat, even if they’re advertised as low-calorie products (57).
Furthermore, despite generally being highly caloric products, processed foods don’t make you feel as satiated. This means that you’ll start feeling hungry soon after eating, leading to overeating and a higher caloric intake at the end of the day (58).
Starchy Carbohydrates Are Your Friends
Although carbohydrates seem to be somewhat of an enemy to losing weight, some specific carb-heavy meals can be beneficial for getting a healthy figure. Mainly, starchy carbohydrates are a healthy way of adding some extra fiber to your diet.
Starchy carbohydrates are found, for example, in pasta, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables. Including some of these meals in your daily menu will help you feel more satiated while also keeping your gut healthy (59).
Key Takeaways: Foods for Losing Weight
Ensuring a good diet is probably the most important aspect of losing weight healthily. So if you are settled on losing some extra pounds, stock yourself on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods such as eggs, leafy greens, and nuts.
However, if you find yourself unable to stick to a weight loss diet for long periods, make sure to check with a nutritionist or dietitian. A trained professional will be able to give you precise instructions taking into account your personal circumstances.