Weight loss will remain a major topic in years to come, with food being one of the biggest conversations in the space. According to recent statistics, about 45 million Americans go on a diet every year1https://www.bmc.org/nutrition-and-weight-management/weight-management. In total, the U.S. population spends about $33 billion annually on weight loss products.
Worldwide, about 42 percent of adults are trying to lose weight at any given time2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215364/.
But there’s a catch. Not all diets help in healthy weight loss. The Boston Medical Center reports that out of the estimated 45 million Americans on a diet, 50% use fad diets. These curtail weight loss efforts while posing a couple of health risks for the patient.
So, what food is great for weight loss? Let’s dive into that.
What is Healthy Eating?
To lose weight effectively, you have to commit yourself to healthy eating. Healthy eating involves ingesting various foods rich in the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, energized, and make you feel good.
The most common nutrients the body needs include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, water, and minerals.
Some combos of a healthy diet include:
- Staples like cereals or starchy tubers or roots comprising wheat, barley, rye, rice, or maize for the cereals and potato, cassava, yam, or taro for the roots.
- Legumes such as beans or lentils
- Foods from animal sources such as meat, fish, milk, and eggs.
- Fruits and vegetables
When nutrition is combined with physical activity, you can maintain a healthy weight or lose weight healthily. Good nutrition also helps your body stay strong, especially when undergoing treatment for conditions such as breast cancer.
What you eat also affects your mood and immunity. Studies show that even a change in season can lead to an increase in emotional eating. For instance, individuals who experience winter blues tend to snack more, eat more sugary and starchy foods, and eat more in the evening.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Healthy?
Healthy eating comes with a ton of benefits beyond managing weight3https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/resources-publications/pdfs/Healthy_Eating_Benefits_Adult_April2021_H.pdf. Some of them include:
- Increased life expectancy
- Stronger muscles
- Healthy skin, eyes, and teeth
- Improved immunity
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers
- Stronger bones
- Healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Improved functioning of the digestive system
Examples of Great Foods for Weight Loss
Delicious food can still be healthy and help you lose some weight. It all boils down to simple math. You need to ensure that you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in. And when it comes to healthy dieting, some foods help you shed weight by keeping you fuller for longer and curbing cravings.
Here’re some examples of food you can cook or buy in the supermarket for healthy weight loss.
Beans are inexpensive, versatile, filling, and a great source of protein. Beans also provide high amounts of fiber and slow down food digestion, keeping you fuller for longer. This reduces the chances of binge eating or succumbing to any food cravings between meals.
Dark chocolate can be a great snack to tame your in-between-meals cravings. However, it strictly has to be dark chocolate.
This is from one study where participants who snacked on a square or two of dark chocolate in between meals ate 15% less pizza a few hours later compared to those who snacked on milk chocolate4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3302125/.
Moreover, dark chocolate has less fat and sugar, plus it’s the least processed, making it almost as healthy as spinach.
If you start your meal with a cup of soup, you may eat less. The soup should be broth-based. However, you have the option of making it chunky or pureed.
The best soup should pack about 100-150 calories a serving. That means avoiding toppings such as cream and butter.
Yogurt with Berries
Taking a protein-rich breakfast will help you avoid snacking cravings throughout the day. This is the result of a study conducted on obese women where those who started the day with 35 grams of protein felt fuller right away and snacked less.
The participants in the study ate a 350-calorie breakfast comprising eggs and a beef sausage patty. The effects of the high-protein breakfast lasted until evening, with the women eating less fatty and sugary foods than the other test group that had cereals only for breakfast.
Eggs and sausage may not be your choice for several factors, including their saturated fat content. However, you can go for Greek yogurt with nuts and berries or yogurt with no added sugar.
It is possible to add more veggies into your diet, cut on the calories you’re eating, and enjoy some “cheat” foods simultaneously. This is from a study conducted by Penn State researchers where they added some pureed cauliflower and zucchini to mac n’ cheese. The kids still loved it.
However, they were ingesting 200 – 350 fewer calories or about 11% less.
You can use this same strategy on current high-calorie foods you struggle to cut down. The pureed vegetables add a low-calorie bulk with little sacrifice to the taste of the meal, allowing you to enjoy your “cheat” foods while slightly cutting down on calorie intake.
Whole eggs were once feared for their high cholesterol, but they’re slowly making a comeback. The initial fears were rooted in misconceptions about how the body regulates cholesterol levels.
According to research, the body sources it only when needed from our diets or liver to maintain the baseline levels5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946211/. Thus, moderate consumption of whole eggs, about 7- 12 a week, has been proven safe for most people. However, individuals with higher baseline LDL levels, a bad cholesterol, should be more conscious about their intake.
Whole eggs are suitable for a healthy weight loss diet because they pack a lot of nutrients. Most of these nutrients are found in the yolk. These include vitamin D and choline. The egg whites also deliver about 4-6 grams of protein each.
The combination of protein and fat makes you feel fuller for longer. Research conducted on obese adults shows that eating eggs and butter toast for breakfast significantly increases the feeling of satiety for up to four hours compared to cereal milk and orange juice.
Fatty fish like salmon pack a lot of nutrients and are incredibly satisfying. Salmon is loaded with healthy fats, high-quality protein, and various essential nutrients. That combination keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which helps you maintain or lose a healthy amount of weight.
Salmon also has omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Inflammation plays a significant role in increasing the chances of metabolic disease and obesity.
Fish and seafood can also supply the body with a healthy amount of iodine. Iodine facilitates better thyroid function that helps keep your metabolism running optimally.
If you’re not a fan of salmon, you can try tuna, trout, herring, sardines, mackerel, and other types of fatty fish.
Leafy greens have several properties that make them one of the best choices for anyone taking a weight loss diet. They pack nutrients and fibers that keep you hydrated and satiated.
Leafy greens contain thylakoids, a group of plant compounds that have been linked by research to increased satiety and better appetite management in humans. Due to better appetite management, the participants in the research also reported weight loss.
However, there’s more research being done on thylakoids to establish their effectiveness in achieving weight loss for human adults and their long-term effects when taken as supplements.
Nonetheless, leafy greens still pack a good supply of fibers and micronutrients that are great for most diets. Adding leafy greens to your diet can also help you reduce cravings for less nutritious foods, which can also help in achieving larger weight loss goals.
Examples of leafy greens include collard greens, kale, swiss chard, and spinach.
If you’re taking medications such as blood thinners like warfarin, you need to consult with a registered dietician or healthcare professional on how much leafy greens you should take in a day. Leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which may interact with your medication.
Chicken Breasts and a Few Lean Meats
Meat is still a controversial topic among dieticians and the general public. Research is yet to show the link between red meat and increased risk of diabetes or heart disease. Moreover, there are sustainability and ethical issues surrounding the consumption of meat.
However, the lack of supporting scientific evidence does not mean that we should carelessly ingest meat or completely shun it from our diet6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6912709/. Instead, we should be responsible for how much we take in.
Research hitherto shows that a high intake of processed and red meat increases the risk of cancer, premature death, diabetes, and heart disease.
Responsible eating of unprocessed meat may look like ingesting 2 – 3 servings a week. You can have the meat alongside vegetables, fruits, and wholegrain. Research shows that taking this balanced approach reduces the risk of some cancers associated with meat consumption7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468967/.
Nutritionally, both chicken and red meat are high in iron and protein. Skinless chicken breast and lean red meat also have less saturated fat than other cuts. These are the best choices for weight management and better heart health.
How each meat is prepared also affects its health benefits. For instance, red meat cooked against hot cooking surfaces forms a toxic by-product called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that can cause cancer.
Thus, limit the smoke during preparation, wipe any drippings, and eat lean meat in moderation, preferably 3-ounce servings per week.
Start Your Weight Loss Journey Today
A healthy diet will take you smoothly down the path of healthy weight loss. However, you can kickstart the journey strongly by considering bariatric surgery if you are obese. These surgeries effectively manage weight, especially when combined with the right diet and physical exercise regime.