The Best Weight Loss Foods to Add to Your Diet
Sure, you can jumpstart a car no problem, but can you really jumpstart a weight loss journey? Why yes, yes you can! By eating healthy weight loss foods that not only help you shed the pounds, but provide a myriad of benefits to your system. Think lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, according to Lisa Richards CNC, nutritionist and founder of The Candida Diet. "Simply eating more good-for-you foods can kick off a weight loss journey," she says.
Not only do these food groups fill you with more pound-dropping nutrients per bite, but "by prioritizing these whole foods, you'll naturally reduce intake of inflammatory refined carbs, sodium-dense snacks, and unhealthy fat foods, which slashes daily calorie intake," Richards says. The result? Weight loss.
But, admittedly, "eat more healthy foods" is pretty vague advice. So, with the help of nutritionists and science, we rounded up a few dozen of the best weight loss foods. And for more helpful tips, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Ever chow on celery because you heard digesting it burns more calories than the flavorless food contains? Well, it turns out the idea of "negative calorie" food is completely bogus. But there are other reasons the crunchy stalks can support a weight loss journey. "Celery offers much more than just low calorie contents," says Richards. For starters, it contains a great deal of inflammation-lowering antioxidants that can help fight damaging free radials, which are thought to contribute to chronic conditions and cancer, she says.
"Celery also contains a compound called "apiuman," which has been shown to support gastrointestinal health," according to Richards. "When the gut is healthy, your metabolism can work more efficiently to aid in weight loss," she says. Goodbye constipation-induced weight gain!2
An apple a day keeps the . . . weight gain away? It's true. The how is two fold. Richards explains: "Apples are rich in antioxidants that help rid the body of toxins that can contribute to inflammation in the body and unwanted weight gain."
And they contain a ton of fiber, she says. One apple contains upward of 5 grams of fiber, which makes them more filling compared to snacks of similar calorie contents. It's simple: eat an apple, feel fuller, snack less throughout the day. Richards adds: "The fiber also helps keep the gut microbiome healthy and balanced—an essential component of a good metabolism."3
A buzzy bev that's made by fermenting tea, kombucha's main claim to being a healthy weight loss food fame is that it contains a boatload of probiotics. As a refresher: probiotics help to support the good bacteria in your intestines, which help keep your digestive tract happy, healthy, and moving, explains Richards. While more research is needed to make conclusion declarations, recent research has gone as far as to consider probiotics a possible method for treating obesity. Exciting!
Calorie slashing hack: replace your nightly beer or morning fruit-juice with the trendy tea (which only contains 45 calories per serving) to reduce your daily calorie intake by one hundred, or so. Just be sure to check the nutrition label before making the swap—some 'buch brands load the probiotic-rich beverage with sugar and other not-so-weight-loss-friendly ingredients.4
Another way to pack your eating plan with a probiotic punch? Snacking on sauerkraut. That's right, due to the fermentation process it undergoes, the beloved weiner topping has some legit health benefits. Mainly: it's good for your gut. Adding the pro-bacteria food to your diet can support weight loss in the long term, says Richards.
Don't like kraut? Nosh on kefir, kimchi, miso, or yogurt instead.5
These little buggers may not have quite the same buzz as they did ten, or even five, years ago. But there was a reason the seeds got so much PR: they're dynamite for weight loss. Just one serving (two tablespoons) of chia seeds contains close to 10 grams of fiber—close to forty percent of the recommended daily intake. "The fiber in the seeds helps you feel full, which can stop you from overeating," says Richards.
Beyond that, chia seeds actually expand in water, which means if you chow down before letting them soak in water (or your alternative mylk of choice!), they'll expand in your gut, literally creating a sensation of fullness. Richard warns, however, that for folks with sensitive digestive tracts this can cause uncomfortable gas. "The best way to eat chia seeds to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort is to use them as an ingredient in a smoothie, yogurt, or pudding," says Richards, as opposed to sprinkling them on your salad, she says.6
The fibrous benefits of kale are no secret to anyone who's caught the down-wind of someone who just ate a kale-icious dinner. "Fiber-packed veggies like kale support a weight loss journey by keeping you full between mealtimes," says Richards. It's also very high in antioxidants which, she says, are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body which can interfere with weight loss.
While there's no such thing as unhealthy lettuce, per say, swapping out iceberg and romaine for kale is a good bet. Pro tip: massage the leaves in lemon juice or a bit of olive oil to make them a little less rough and a little easier to digest.7
A staple in Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking, ghee is a butter alternative that's popping up in everything from baked goods, to bulletproof coffee, to broccoli stir frys. Simply put, ghee is butter that's had all its cow milk protein and sugar lactose removed, explains Richards. While from a caloric and fat-content standpoint, the two products are neck-and-neck, ghee is a great option for those on a lactose-free diet, those with a lactose allergy, and those who just want to limit daily intake, she explains.
Because ghee is a saturated fat, this isn't a food that should be eaten willy-nilly. But Richards says that if you stick to a half to one tablespoon serving size, incorporating ghee can help keep you feeling full for longer.8
The average American consumes approximately 15.5 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. Unfortunately, this type of noodle is usually void of fiber and micronutrients. Spaghetti squash, on the other hand, boasts only about 40 calories per cup—more than 75 percent fewer calories than a cup of plain pasta—and is an excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Make this simple swap to jumpstart your weight loss and you'll be fitting into your skinny jeans in no time! For more swaps to save you calories, don't miss these food swaps that cut calories.9
Another weight-loss-friendly substitute to keep in mind is favoring salsa over ketchup. While ketchup typically has around 19 calories and 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon, fresh tomato salsa has about 5 calories per tablespoon, no added sugar, and is packed with nutritious veggies. Tomatoes, for example, are loaded with fat-blasting fiber and vitamin C, a deficiency of which Arizona State University researchers associated with increased body fat and larger waists. If you can handle spice, toss some jalapenos in your salsa to rev up your metabolism. For more on how you can switch your metabolism into overdrive, check out the best ways to boost your metabolism!10
On top of its 4 grams of belly-filling fiber, a cup of hearty oatmeal delivers as much protein as an egg. In other words, the popular breakfast food is an excellent weight loss tool. In fact, according to a study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, scientists found that having oatmeal for breakfast resulted in greater fullness, lower hunger ratings, and fewer calories eaten at the next meal compared with a serving of ready-to-eat sugared corn flakes, even though the calorie counts of the two breakfasts were identical. For ways to get more fiber, sprinkle some berries and chia seeds on top of your oatmeal, but be sure to stay away from fattening syrup and sugar.11
Of all the healthy weight loss foods we know, Greek yogurt is closest to being the perfect ingredient for a well balanced diet. Per study in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Missouri compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate-, and low-protein yogurts on women aged 24-28, and found Greek yogurt, with the highest protein content, to have the greatest effect. What's more, probiotics in items such as yogurt and fermented foods, like pickles and sauerkraut, help good bacteria in the gut process food more efficiently. Hello, weight loss! If you want to get even more protein in your yogurt, check out Icelandic yogurts, which can have two to three more grams of protein per serving compared to Greek.12
Similar to Greek yogurt, a study from Nutrition Research showed that eating eggs for breakfast can make you feel more full and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day, meaning they're quite the secret weapon for weight loss. Nutritionally speaking, one large hard-boiled egg (about 50 grams) contains less than one gram of carbs and remains an excellent source of protein. Eggs are also loaded with amino acids, antioxidants, and healthy fats.13
As far as grains go, quinoa is a good one to have around if you're looking to lose weight. It's packed with protein and fiber and contains approximately 220 calories per cup. What's more? Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that offer a complete set of amino acids, meaning it can be converted directly into muscle by the body.14
Though we singled out quinoa above, whole grains in general (we're talking cereal, rice, pasta, and more) are conducive to weight loss, especially when they're used in place of refined—white—grains. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that substituting whole grains for refined grains in the diet increases calorie loss by reducing calories retained during digestion and speeding up metabolism. Unlike refined grains, whole grains are packed with satiating, heart-healthy fiber.15
Sure, nuts aren't known for being low in calories, but they have an array of other properties—namely a high protein and fiber content—that makes them ideal for weight loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation, found that consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds daily (as opposed to a carb-dense muffin) along with a heart-healthy diet, helped to improve cholesterol and lipid profiles among the research participants. The study also found that eating almonds reduces belly fat, too.