Nutritionists Agree: These Are the Best (and Worst) Foods for Weight Loss
So you're looking to lose a little weight. We're not judging you. Everyone's fitness goals are personal and individual, so whether you're interested in dropping a few pounds of bloat or a bigger amount, we're here to help.
We should all probably know by now that straight-up calorie restriction is not the best weight-loss method. (Trust us—check out seven diet tips that work way better than calorie counting.) Instead, choosing the right foods, instead of no food at all, is the way to go. But how is a person to know what foods successfully encourage weight loss? Which meals help reduce inflammation, suppress your appetite, and keep you satisfied for longer while filling you up with all the nutrients you need?
To find out, we consulted three trusted nutritionists who clued us into the best meals to eat to lose weight. Keep reading to find out the six best (and three worst) foods for weight loss!
The Best Foods
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"Diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids like those found in salmon can afford a greater reduction in abdominal fat than a low-fat diet can," says Christy Shatlock, registered dietitian at BistroMD, a doctor-designed meal-delivery service. These fatty acids also help boost brain function and focus (because being fit and brilliant is the real goal.)
"In addition, salmon is an excellent source of iodine, which is essential for proper thyroid functioning and optimal metabolism," says Shatlock.
High in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, avocados are a powerhouse food for gorgeous skin, hair, and a lean frame. The healthy fats in avocados keep you "satisfied longer," and are "less caloric than the equivalent amount of butter or mayonnaise," explains registered dietitian Lauren O'Connor.
In addition, avocados contain oleic acid, a compound that Shatlock says can "suppress hunger pangs, help prevent excess calorie intake, and encourage weight loss."
Gimme Some Oven
"A regular breakfast of nutrient-rich eggs can help enhance weight loss," says Shatlock. "A great source of protein, eggs will satisfy your hunger for a longer period of time."
But make sure you're eating the whole egg, not just the whites. "Egg whites are low-calorie, but if you are just eating the white, you are missing out on a ton of nutrients, including selenium, choline, lutein, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and vitamin A," explains nutrition coach and clinical psychologist Candice Seti of The Weight Loss Therapist.
"Even though egg yolks do contain cholesterol, most studies have shown that eating egg yolks actually improves your cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease!" Seti adds. "So eating the whole egg can help your heart, your eyes, your brain, your skin, your immune system, and your weight."
It's true—carbs can help encourage weight loss (at least the right kinds of carbs). "BistroMD recommends a moderate intake of complex carbohydrates while on a weight-loss diet," says Shatlock. Brown rice is the optimal carbohydrate for weight loss because it is considered a resistant starch.
As Shatlock explains, "Unlike white rice, the resistant starch in brown rice helps boost the metabolism and burn fat. Brown rice is also higher in fiber, curbing your appetite longer than the empty calories in refined starches."
According to nutritionists, this classic snack is one of the best and most convenient foods for weight loss. "Apples contain an array of heart-healthy nutrients and have enough fiber to keep you satisfied," says O'Connor.
Not only that, apples also help actively suppress hunger. "Studies show eating half an apple before a meal results in lower calorie consumption," says Shatlock.
The Worst Foods
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"People generally assume the word 'salad' must be healthy, but salads often contain the same (if not more) calories and fat as a cheeseburger," Shatlock tells us. And dressings and crunchy toppings are usually to blame.
Instead, O'Connor recommends using oil and vinegar. "Or make your own dressing like this homemade citrus vinaigrette, and use a minimal one to two teaspoons on your salad," she adds. "Trick: Place rinsed and fully dried lettuce and crunchy veggies in a ziplock bag or Tupperware, add minimal dressing, seal well, and shake vigorously to coat well and get all the flavors." Instead of croutons, add a few nuts or seeds for flavor and texture.
Foods marked "fat-free" or "100 calories" may seem weight-loss friendly, but our experts say to steer clear. "These snacks are often full of additives, chemicals, are mainly starch, and have very little nutrient value," O'Connor says. Plus, these foods are completely unsatisfying, causing you to feel hungrier later.
"Eating behavior studies have shown that when eating low-fat products, people tend to eat up to 50% more," adds Seti. Devoid of fat and nutrients, these types of foods also tend to be higher in sugar, which can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels—bad for heart heath, bad for weight loss.
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As we've learned, not all carbs are bad, but no nutritionist would recommend packaged, white sandwich bread. "White flours and breads are essentially wheat products stripped away from fiber and beneficial nutrients, adding no nutritional value to your diet," says Shatlock.
Slather your white bread with margarine, and you're in real trouble. Many fake butters contain trans fats (aka hydrogenated fats), which are difficult for the body to metabolize. "So they just hang out in our fat tissues and actually prevent us from using other proteins and fats," Seti explains. "As a result, trans fats are ultimately linked to increased 'bad' cholesterol and heart disease, increased inflammation, and metabolic disease. Check your labels before buying!"
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