Losing weight is not rocket science but still raises many questions. As some diets are too dull and restrictive, many people fail to achieve or maintain results. We will explain what to eat to lose weight and how to manage your diet.
In fact, fat-burning foods and foods with negative calories don’t exist. The only exception is cold water or ice because your body spends energy to warm them up. So what food choices are actually good for weight loss?
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You need a calorie deficit to lose weight. Consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis, and you will see results. The tricky thing is that eating less might cause food cravings and mood swings.
For better comfort during weight loss, pick foods that give you enough energy and don’t make you hungry too soon. Include more protein in your diet as it takes longer to digest and keeps your stomach full. It also protects your muscle mass, and you will primarily lose fat1Champagne CM, Broyles ST, Moran LD, Cash KC, Levy EJ, Lin PH, Batch BC, Lien LF, Funk KL, Dalcin A, Loria C, Myers VH. (2011, December). Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial J Am Diet Assoc. DOI:10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.014.
In addition, complex carbohydrates, foods rich in fiber, and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats are also necessary for a healthy weight loss diet.
Use this list of weight loss foods with recipes to prepare versatile meals:
Chicken is easy to cook, cheap, and high-protein food. It also contains calcium and phosphorous2USDA (2018, April). Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171477/nutrients. Chicken breasts are not the only option for weight loss. You can eat chicken wings and thighs as well. Replace plain boiled chicken with roast chicken, chicken salads, or chicken wraps.
Choose squid (also named calamari) if you are looking for low-calorie and high-protein food. It contains 18g of protein and only 2g of fat per 100g3USDA (2018, April). Mollusks, squid, mixed species, cooked, fried. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171982/nutrients. Same as most seafood, calamari goes well with garlic, lemon, lime, cream sauce, basil, and other greens. You can bake, fry, boil, or steam squids.
Tuna is a lean fish full of protein, Omega-3 (also known as fish oil), vitamins, and minerals. You can find several options: canned tuna, tuna fillets, or tuna stakes. Use it in pasta, salads, sandwiches, burgers, sushi and sashimi, or poke bowls.
Salmon contains a lot of Omega-3, which is essential for heart health and good skin condition4USDA (2016). Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/. It is also a source of high-quality protein and selenium. You can buy smoked or salted salmon that doesn’t need any preparation or easily cook it at home.
Shrimps are another lean protein source that works especially well for people who can’t or choose not to eat meat. 100g of cooked shrimps with no oil added contain 21g protein and only 2g fat5USFDA (2018, November 31). Nutrition Information for Cooked Seafood (Purchased Raw). U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-cooked-seafood-purchased-raw. Add shrimps to salads, pasta, rice bowls, soups, and noodles or eat them separately.
Choose lean or ground beef as a part of your weight-loss diet. Such meat contains significantly more protein than fats and no carbohydrates at all6USDA (2018, April). Beef, loin, tenderloin steak, boneless, separable lean only, trimmed to 0" fat, choice, cooked, grilled. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170642/nutrients. Freshly-cooked beef steak is a healthy meal that gives you enough protein to maintain your muscle mass when you lose weight. Beef can become a great snack too. Look for beef sticks in grocery stores or prepare dried beef yourself in an oven.
Eggs are a popular choice for breakfast. It’s no wonder because there are many ways to cook and serve eggs. Eating eggs for breakfast also tames your hunger for at least 3 hours as they are very satiating due to the high amount of protein and fats7Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. (2010, February). Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutr Res. DOI:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002. You can prepare boiled, poached, fried, and scrambled as a separate dish or use them as an ingredient for a sandwich, salad, or omelet.
Greek yogurt contains two times more protein than regular yogurt and also has probiotic bacteria that improve digestion8USDA (2018, April). Yogurt, Greek, plain, whole milk. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171304/nutrients. For better weight management, choose whole and sugar-free options without additives and fillings. You can eat yogurt with fruits and nuts, prepare overnight oatmeal with it, and use it as a dressing for fruit salads.
Asparagus is a low-carb perennial plant rich in potassium, vitamin K, vitamins B9, B1, B2, vitamin A, and fiber9USDA (2018, April). Asparagus, raw. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168389/nutrients. You can add fresh asparagus in raw salads, roast, steam, or bake it.
As cucumbers consist of 96% water, they hydrate your body10Mukherjee PK, Nema NK, Maity N, Sarkar BK. (2012, October 23). Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber. Fitoterapia. DOI:10.1016/j.fitote.2012.10.003 and have low calorie density. They provide you with vitamin K, calcium, and vitamin D11USDA (2018, April). Pickles, cucumber, dill or kosher dill. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/324653/nutrients. Put cucumbers in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, or add a couple of slices to your water bottle.
Beloved by many health & fitness influences, avocados are a wonderful source of healthy fats that provide long-term satiety12Zhu L, Huang Y, Edirisinghe I, Park E, Burton-Freeman B. (2019, April 26). sing the Avocado to Test the Satiety Effects of a Fat-Fiber Combination in Place of Carbohydrate Energy in a Breakfast Meal in Overweight and Obese Men and Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu11050952and reduce the risk of heart diseases13Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. (2013, January 2). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1. Moreover, there are countless interesting recipes for avocados. You can use avocado slices or guacamole to prepare sandwiches, salads, appetizers, or even soup toppings. Add avocados to smoothies and desserts to make them more filling.
Beans in all variations are a great source of plant protein and starch as they belong to a food group of legumes. It makes dishes made of pulses a must-have in all vegetarian and vegan diets. Moreover, they contain probiotics that help digestion and promote satiety14Kim SJ, de Souza RJ, Choo VL, Ha V, Cozma AI, Chiavaroli L, Mirrahimi A, Blanco Mejia S, Di Buono M, Bernstein AM, Leiter LA, Kris-Etherton PM, Vuksan V, Beyene J, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ, Sievenpiper JL. (2016, March 30). Effects of dietary pulse consumption on body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. DOI:10.3945/ajcn.115.124677.
Most popular cooking options include beans in tomato sauce, steamed or boiled green beans, or fried beans in traditional English breakfast.
Like any other greens, broccoli contains a lot of fiber and a few calories. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it is rich in folate and vitamin K. Apart from losing weight, broccoli also helps reduce inflammation15Jang, M.-W., & Ha, B.-J. (2012,December 31). Effects of Broccoli on Anti-inflammation and Anti-oxidation According to Extraction Solvent. Journal of Food Hygiene and Safety. DOI:10.13103/JFHS.2012.27.4.461.
If plain boiled broccoli seems like a tasteless dish to you, try roasted broccoli, broccoli cream soup, and adding it to pasta or rice bowls.
As 90% of watermelon is just water, this fruit is a perfect choice for weight loss. One 100g serving is just 30 calories16USDA (2018, April). Watermelon, raw. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167765/nutrients. Watermelon’s sweetness makes it a great dessert that will keep you hydrated and won’t harm your body.
Zucchini, or courgette, is rich in antioxidants and is beneficial for your digestion17Macfarlane S, Macfarlane GT, Cummings JH (2006, September 1). Review article: prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2006.03042.x. Of course, they are low-carb, and also contain a lot of fiber and vitamins. There are thousands of dishes where you can add zucchini, from raw salads, stews, and soups to stuffed zucchini, zucchini noodles, and ratatouille.
Nuts are relatively high in fats, which gives you lots of energy but doesn’t make you hungry too soon. Studies have shown that despite being so high in calories, nuts make your overall calorie consumption lower18Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. (2011, June 23). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. N Engl J Med. DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa1014296. Almonds will be the best choice in this case19Wien MA, Sabaté JM, Iklé DN, Cole SE, Kandeel FR. (2003, November 27) Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. DOI:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802411.
Nuts are easy to transport and have a long shelf line. That is why they are perfect as snacks. Nut butter and nut dressings are also a good choice. In addition, you can put them in your oatmeal, salads, and desserts.
Popcorn might not seem an obvious choice while discussing weight loss. However, as it is not high-density food, it makes your stomach full faster than other snacks. One average cup of popcorn without butter and artificial flavors has around 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber20USDA (2018, April). Snacks, popcorn, air-popped. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167959/nutrients.
Make sure you choose air-popped, not oil-popped popcorn. Sweet popcorn is also a lot higher in calories.
Most berries contain lots of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and are low in calories. 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of strawberries contain only 32 calories21USDA (2018, April). Strawberries, raw. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102710/nutrients. You can eat fresh or dried berries as a snack, add them to oatmeal, yogurts, or desserts, prepare acai bowls, and make smoothies.
Coffee speeds up your metabolism22Acheson KJ, Gremaud G, Meirim I, Montigon F, Krebs Y, Fay LB, Gay LJ, Schneiter P, Schindler C, Tappy L. (2004, January) Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling? Am J Clin Nutr. DOI:10.1093/ajcn/79.1.40 and even leads to consuming fewer calories23Schubert MM, Irwin C, Seay RF, Clarke HE, Allegro D, Desbrow B. (2017, December) Caffeine, coffee, and appetite control: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr. DOI:10.1080/09637486.2017.1320537. But be aware that adding milk, syrup, sugar, cream, or anything else can make your drink not so innocent. For those who like a snack with a cup of coffee: use berries or nuts instead of sweets.
Set no limits for yourself! You can still maintain a calorie deficit even with some junk food in your diet. It is even beneficial to your mental health as you don’t have to live with restrictions. So you can treat yourself with some not perfectly healthy meals or snacks from time to time. There will be no harm to your body.
Of course, you need to maintain healthy proportions in your diet. 80/20 or Pareto principle works well in many areas of life, and diets are no exception. For example, if you need to eat 1600 calories a day, you can leave up to 320 calories for whatever you want to eat. It can be a piece of chocolate, some cookies, or pastry. You can also replace your favorite junk foods with healthier or lower-calorie options.
Control the amount of high energy density foods you consume, such as nuts, sauces and dressings, sugary snacks, and cheese.
Avoid situations when you cannot control the amount of food you eat. It is quite easy to eat a huge bowl of chips and drink 2 liters of cola when you binge-watch Netflix. You won’t eat that much in usual circumstances. So try to be present and conscious during each meal.
You can lose weight, eat tasty food, and enjoy life at the same time. Knowing what food is better for weight loss gives you freedom, not boundaries. You can effortlessly consume fewer calories by just picking the right foods and adjusting a few details in your diet. Try different foods and cooking methods from this list to find what’s perfect for you.
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