If moving the scale in a downward direction is on your list of New Year’s goals, no doubt you’re especially motivated to make some changes. A plan as simple as strategically selecting the foods you eat can lead not only to losing weight, but also to loading up your diet with a healthy dose of nutrition.
Nothing Fancy, Just Real Food
While there’s no magic food that can guarantee pound-dropping success, some, like those listed below, can squelch cravings or burn more calories because of lean protein, fiber, or healthy fat. Read on for a few foods for weight loss to keep on hand when a lower station on the scale is on your mind. With the right foods filling you up, you won’t have to worry about filling out!
Fit and Fab: Five Foods for Weight Loss
Whole Wheat Pasta
Who doesn’t love this basic, comforting standby? Problem is, it’s all too easy to overdo the serving size, skyrocketing your calories, so it can be a tricky food. But there’s no need to boot it from your plate altogether: Just try making the switch to whole wheat pasta. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, but lower in refined grains, can help lower insulin sensitivity – and that can lower blood glucose levels and reduce fat depositing. Plus, there’s the fiber factor at work; whole wheat pasta is more filling than its refined cousin, so you can eat less, and you’ll stay satisfied longer.
Protein is also a dieter’s delight; since it has the highest satiety value of the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), eating something with a good dose of protein will keep you fuller longer than other foods. In a November 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, findings indicated that modestly reducing glycemic index while moderately increasing protein led to greater success in weight loss maintenance. And the good news is, lean meat fits this description perfectly! Add in cuts like breast of poultry, pork tenderloin, and fish to fill you up and keep you on track.
In recent years, a collection of studies has investigated dairy’s link with weight loss. Happily, evidence is growing that adding more dairy to your diet can help take off pounds. Take one September 2011 study that examined pre-menopausal women: Those following a weight loss program including exercise as well as increased protein and dairy experienced better success building lean body mass with lower fat mass. Three servings of skim or 1% milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese or cottage cheese can be a boon to your diet. And as a bonus, you can give dairy double duty: Instead of mayo in chicken salads, dips, and dressings, give plain, nonfat Greek yogurt a try.
Versatile and cheap, beans not only provide a healthy dose of protein, but also contain soluble fiber that studies show can help slow down the spike of blood sugar, and thus delay hunger following a meal – making them perfect for weight loss. Toss a couple cans of drained and rinsed beans into the crock pot with spices, onion, garlic, and salsa and serve over brown rice for a no-fuss meal. Or, if you’re not ready for an all-bean spread, try reducing the meat in your chili by half, and add kidney beans to make up the difference. Beans are also a speedy protein source perfect for bulking up salads or canned, low-sodium soup.
Though some fruits like apples have been singled out in studies for helping with weight loss, the truth is, you can enjoy more than an apple a day… in fact, you should! Most any produce can benefit your weight loss efforts. Since fruits and veggies are packed with fiber but have just a few calories, you’ll find them to be just the thing to reach for when hunger calls. For the biggest punch, stick to higher fiber fruits and veggies you eat along with the peel, like apples, pears, and berries, plus other great picks like citrus, and leafy deep green and orange veggies.
The Bottom Line
Skip foods like “nutrition bars” that come with outrageous claims for aiding your weight loss. The real secret to finding foods for weight loss is choosing simple, unprocessed foods that pack plenty of filling nutrition without a lot of calories. That’s exactly the essence of Gloria Tsang’s book Go UnDiet – Un-HPF, or, in other words, stay away from highly processed foods (HPF).
Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.