15 Foods to Eat if You're Trying to Lose Weight
It’s tempting to believe that there’s one magic food or nutrient that leads to weight loss. In reality, knowing what to eat to lose weight is much more complex.
The truth is, many foods may help you reach your target weight. But as Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, notes, “It’s not the food itself that can lead to weight loss, it’s how that food fits into your diet.”
Regularly choosing certain foods may help you achieve a healthy balance of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber, which does more to promote weight loss over time than drinking fat-burning tea for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The following 15 foods, for example, offer a healthy mix of nutrients — and most won’t break the calorie bank. So if you need some guidance on what to eat to lose weight, consider this your cheat sheet. Work these weight loss foods into your healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
Berries are a fantastic weight loss food. These bite-size fruits deliver fiber, which helps fill you up with fewer calories. A cup of sliced strawberries, for example, packs roughly 3 grams of fiber and only 53 calories.
Fiber-filled foods like berries also tend to digest more slowly than low-fiber foods. This can keep you feeling full and satisfied longer, which (hopefully) means you’ll eat less overall.
Another perk is there are many types of berries to choose from, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, and cranberries. Pick your favorites and toss in yogurt or smoothies, sprinkle on pancakes, or simply enjoy by the handful.
Nuts like pistachios are a great snack option for weight loss. Not only do they provide satiating fat and protein (nearly 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat per ounce, without the shells), they’re also easy to grab on the go.
The benefit of choosing pistachios over another type of nut is it takes time to remove the shells, which may help you slow down and eat more mindfully.
The shells also provide a visual cue, telling you exactly how many pistachios you’ve eaten, Gans says. This visual cue may help you avoid going over the recommended 1-ounce serving by making you aware of your consumption.
3. Olive Oil
“People think they need to avoid fat in order to lose weight, but you need some fat in your diet,” Gans says.
The key is to stick to foods with heart-healthy dietary fats, like monounsaturated fats. These fats are abundant in olive oil.
Drizzle olive oil on pasta, mix into a salad dressing, or choose it for cooking. Just be sure to watch your portion sizes. Like any fat-rich food, olive oil is high in calories. Stick to 1 teaspoon.
4. Whole Grain Bread
You may not think of bread as a weight-loss food, but certain types of bread are absolutely a great choice. Namely, regular sliced bread made with whole grains. “I’m not talking about eating a bread basket at an Italian restaurant,” Gans says.
Instead, opt for sliced whole grain sandwich bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice, Gans says. Check the ingredient list. Are whole grains in one of the top two spots? This bread is perfect for breakfast toast and lunchtime sandwiches.
If you need weight loss-friendly protein for your summer meals, it doesn’t get much better than shrimp. “Shrimp is so low in calories,” Gans says. Three ounces of this cooked crustacean packs nearly 15 grams of protein and only about 77 calories.
“There are so many things you can do with [shrimp],” Gans says. Skewer and toss it on the BBQ, fashion a shrimp cocktail, or sauté and toss in pasta.
With filling protein and relatively few calories, eggs are a great food to start your day with, Gans says. One boiled or poached egg boasts 6 grams of protein and only 72 calories.
Just be sure to stick with healthier cooking methods and recipe add-ins. “If you’re making a three-egg omelette with cheese and bacon, that kinda defeats the purpose of having eggs,” Gans notes.
But top a slice of whole grain toast with a poached egg and some spinach and you’ve got a well-balanced breakfast, she adds.
Reach for an apple anytime you need a portable, weight loss-friendly snack. One of these medium-size fruits provides 104 calories and nearly 5 grams of stomach-filling fiber.
Smear on some nut butter, and “it becomes a very satisfying snack,” Gans says.
8. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a high-protein snack or breakfast option that satisfies with a modest calorie count. Go for a low-fat version to score 12.5 grams of protein and 95 calories per ½-cup serving. Gans suggests topping with berries.
Almonds are another handy snack that won’t hinder your weight loss.
In fact, research suggests the fat, fiber, and protein in almonds may help you slim down. One study found that overweight and obese adults who incorporated almonds into their weight-loss diet shed more total body fat than people who didn’t. And both groups had cut 500 calories from their diet with the goal of losing weight.
Since almonds are calorically dense, Gans suggests limiting your almond snack to 1 ounce. This will give you 172 calories, nearly 6 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber.
Salmon offers loads of satiating protein and healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, according to Gans. Three ounces provide 17 grams of protein, nearly 4 grams of fat (less than 1 gram of saturated fat), and only 108 calories. Serve it broiled, roasted, grilled, or poached.
11. Sweet Potatoes
Gans likes sweet potatoes for their filling fiber and limited calories — one (5 inch) sweet potato packs 4 grams of fiber and only 112 calories. Roast and eat it alongside a lean protein source and some veggies, slice it into healthier French fries, or mash it up to add fiber to baked goods.
Avocados are a trendy food you can embrace. Not only are they tasty, they’re also high in fiber and healthy monounsaturated fat. “The fat is satiating, so you’re less likely to overeat,” Gans says.
Add avocado slices to toast, soup, salad, and sandwiches, or use it to create a healthy spread or salad dressing. Keep in mind that avocados are high in calories, so stick to a ¼ of this yummy fruit, Gans says.
13. Leafy Vegetables
You can’t go wrong with classic leafy vegetables. One cup of cooked spinach, for example, provides 4 grams of fiber and only 41 calories.
Kale, collard greens, cabbage, arugula, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and mustard greens are other great options. Mix them into a salad, cook and serve with pasta, or blend into a smoothie.
Hydration is key, both for weight loss and overall health. “Sometimes, people think they’re hungry but they’re really just dehydrated,” Gans explains.
Reaching for a glass of water or a low-calorie, water-rich snack like watermelon (stick to 1 cup of cubes) may keep you from choosing less healthy options that push you over your daily calorie needs for weight loss.
15. Black Beans
Legumes like black beans pack in the beneficial protein and fiber, Gans says. Each ½-cup serving provides roughly 8 grams of plant-based protein and a whopping 9 grams of fiber, according to estimates. This combo of protein and fiber will help you stay full for longer.
Mix black beans with corn and red peppers for a summery side salad, stir into soup, or even use in place of meat for vegetarian burgers.
- Strawberries fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167762/nutrients
- Nuts, Pistachio nuts, Raw fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170184/nutrients
- Shrimp, Steamed or Boiled fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1099155/nutrients
- Egg, Whole, Boiled or Poached fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100185/nutrients
- Apple, Raw fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102644/nutrients
- Cheese, Cottage, Low fat fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098053/nutrients
- Almond Consumption during Energy Restriction Lowers Truncal Fat and Blood Pressure in Compliant Overweight or Obese Adults academic.oup.com/jn/article/146/12/2513/4589993
- Almonds, Unsalted fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100511/nutrients
- Fish, Salmon, Pink, Raw fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175138/nutrients
- Sweet Potato, Raw, Unprepared fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168482/nutrients
- Spinach, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168463/nutrients
- Black Beans, From Canned, No Added Fat fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100378/nutrients