The best meals to eat for weight loss are simple and delicious meals that you can enjoy on a regular basis with your family. These best meal tips will help you get started with simple meal options you can easily cook at home and that most of your family will enjoy.
Healthy foods you should be eating
It seems like every day we wake up to a new “superfood” that will change your life. With the abundance of information available, how do you know what’s actually good for you?
“Eat plenty of fish, which are high in healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and smaller portions of red meat to reduce your risk of diseases like stroke, heart disease and cancer.”
2. Broccoli or any of the cruciferous vegetables
“These foods are rich in nutrients including glucosinolates, which are key in detoxification processes. These are best served raw or quick-steamed for five to ten minutes.”
“No matter which color – red, yellow, golden – or which part – root or greens – they contain a wonderful variety of protective carotenoids. Evidence suggests their dietary nitrates can be converted to nitric oxide and improve endurance exercise.
4. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
“These are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin: nutrients that can help protect against macular degeneration.” – Jeffrey Caspar, professor of ophthalmology at the UC Davis Eye Center
“It’s a green leafy veggie that I love chopped in salad or cooked with onion and garlic. It is nutrient dense, has lots of antioxidants and can help lower cholesterol.” – Brandee Waite, director of the UC Davis Sports Medicine fellowship
6. Peanut butter
“My favorite food is peanut butter. It has protein, carbs and sugars. It’s a great recovery food and my kids love it!” – Brian Davis, clinical professor of the UC Davis Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
“Almonds have a lot of vitamin E, which protects against macular degeneration as well as cataracts. I recommend eating just a handful a day.
“They are low calorie, high in fiber and vitamins A and C. They also have other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and have been linked with multiple health benefits. Plus, all my kids like them, so it is something we can all agree on.” – Bob Canter, professor of surgery at UC Davis Division of Surgical Oncology
“Blueberries are excellent frozen because they will cool down your oatmeal with bonus fiber and antioxidants. They contain resveratrol, like red wine without the alcohol, hangover or extra calories.”
Best Foods To Eat At Every Time Of Day
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been so caught up in life that you accidentally skipped lunch! Sometimes it’s disturbingly easy to power through your day without putting enough fuel into your body, which can leave you feeling hangry, weak, and completely unenthused at the thought of a post-work exercise session. As it turns out, eating every few hours is the key to getting both your body and mind through the day.
“Structuring your day so you’re eating smaller, more frequent meals will not only keep you energized and focused, it will help keep your metabolism working at its highest so that you are constantly burning calories at your body’s maximum rate,” Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition, tells SELF. It’ll also stop you from getting so ravenous you overeat during any one meal, she explains.
It’s not just about eating every few hours, but about eating the right things. Each meal and snack should have a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Together, these macronutrients are magic: Carbs offer up energy while protein and fat are satiating. “When you add fat and protein to carbohydrates, the carbs are released more slowly into your bloodstream and your meal is digested a lot slower as well,” Abby Langer, R.D., owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, tells SELF. “That means you’ll be fuller for longer, and you wont have blood sugar spikes and crashes.”
Here, a breakdown of what you should eat when, plus a few quickie recipes for inspiration.
In general, breakfast should happen within an hour of you waking up, says Zeitlin. (You don’t have to eat breakfast if you’re not into it, but if you know it’s an important part of you feeling good, definitely don’t skip or delay it.) You’re especially looking for a supercharged combination of protein and fiber. “Typically, breakfast foods are very carb-rich, like pancakes or a bagel with butter,” says Langer. But filling the tank with fiber-less carbs and no protein is going to leave you hungry again soon (a feeling which could persist throughout the day) and won’t give you the sustained energy you need.
Some breakfast ideas:
- Scrambled or hardboiled eggs on whole wheat toast.Don’t ditch the yolks: “The fat in them helps keep you full, and that’s what gives your eggs flavor,” says Zeitlin.
- Oatmeal made with milk, topped with a cup of fruit and ounce of nuts.“There’s no real reason to choose fat-free [dairy],” says Langer. “With fat it tastes so much better, and fat is good for satiety.”
- Two or 4 percent Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.Same here: Choose yogurt with some level of fat so you’re not hungry again an hour later.
For more delicious breakfast ideas, check out 10 Whole30 Breakfast Recipes You’ll Actually Want To Eat.
“If you’re having a late lunch, you definitely want to squeeze in a mid-morning snack that is going to pack the greatest punch,” says Zeitlin. The mid-morning snack is somewhat optional; depending on your breakfast, you might be able to cruise through to lunch with nary a hunger pang. But if you do opt for a mid-morning snack, keeping it under 200 calories is a good idea. Otherwise, it starts getting into meal territory.
Some mid-morning snack ideas:
- About an ounce of nuts.“My go-to snack right now is a 100-calorie pack of Wonderful pistachios,” says Zeitlin. “They are a good source of that protein/fiber combo that is so vital to stay alert, plus they are loaded in healthy fats, which help me make it to lunch with no problem!”
- A piece of whole wheat toast with avocado and hot sauce.In addition to being almost unbelievably delicious, avocado’s healthy fats can help keep you full, says Langer. Stick to 1/4 of an avocado or less to stay within the 200-calorie guideline.
- A cup of berries with string cheese.Langer recommends capping your fruit intake at three servings throughout the day while Zeitlin recommends two or fewer. Even though the sugar in fruit is naturally occurring, it’s still sugar, so going overboard can eventually lead to weight gain and health issues, Zeitlin explains.
For more delicious mid-morning snack ideas, check out 9 Simple And Filling Snacks You Can Make At Work.
Now is vegetables’ time to shine. “Lunch is an awesome time to get in a lot of vegetable servings,” says Langer. Zeitlin agrees: “Veggies are super high in fiber, which is going to fill you up and keep you full, focused, and energetic enough to get through the afternoon.”
Some lunch ideas:
- A huge, colorful salad with a ton of vegetables, some feta or goat cheese, avocado, and protein like shrimp, tuna, or chicken.“This is my go-to lunch,” says Langer. Zeitlin adds that using nuts or an olive oil dressing is a great alternative to cheese and avocado if you’re not into those options.
- A grain bowl with brown rice, quinoa, freekeh, or another healthy carb, plenty of vegetables, leftover chicken, and tahini dressing.“There’s nothing wrong with having carbs, but keep them at one cup or less,” says Langer.
- Savory Greek yogurt with chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, cumin, and mint.Using yogurt for savory meals instead of sweet can be surprisingly delicious, says Langer.
For more delicious lunch ideas, check out Tasty Lunches You Can Make With 5 Ingredients Or Less.
Cue the dreaded post-lunch slump. “I have so many clients who don’t bother to eat an afternoon snack, so they’re starving and either pick up takeout on the way home or hoover the entire kitchen while making dinner, then actually eat dinner,” says Langer. Zeitlin sees similar patterns. “[After lunch], so many people are trying not to eat again until dinner, but your body needs to refuel,” says Zeitlin. FYI, coffee isn’t enough.
Some afternoon snack ideas:
- An apple or banana with no sugar-added nut butter.“Barney Butter and Justin’s are two brands that make great single serving-pouches of peanut and almond butter that are easy to have in your bags or keep in your desk drawer,” says Zeitlin. If you’re spooning your own out from the jar, she recommends keeping your serving to a tablespoon.
- 2 Medjool dates with blue cheese.Yes, this sounds like a drool-worthy treat, and that’s a good thing, says Langer. Eating well is about finding items that offer up healthy benefits but also taste good, otherwise you’re less likely to stick with it.
- Plain popcorn with a tablespoon of melted peanut butter.“It’s filling, has a little fat, protein, and carbs, and is really full of fiber,” says Langer. “This is an amazing snack.”
Healthy eating and diet
Major food groups
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating groups the foods that should make up our daily diets into 5 major food groups.
The 5 food groups are:
- vegetables and legumes or beans
- lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes or beans
- grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain or high cereal fibre varieties
- milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.
Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients. For example, key nutrients of the milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives group include calcium and protein, while the fruit group is a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin C.
Eating a varied, well-balanced diet means eating a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups daily, in the recommended amounts. Because different foods provide different types and amounts of key nutrients, it is important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group. As a bonus, choosing a variety of foods will help to make your meals interesting, so that you don’t get bored with your diet.
Some foods do not fit into the 5 food groups because they are not necessary for a healthy diet. These foods are called ‘discretionary choices’ (sometimes referred to as ‘junk foods’) and they should only be eaten occasionally.
They tend to be too high in saturated fat, added sugars, added salt or alcohol, and have low levels of important nutrients like fibre.
These foods and drinks can also be too high in kilojoules (energy). Regularly eating more kilojoules than your body needs will lead to weight gain.
Examples of ‘discretionary choices’ or occasional foods are:
- sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts and pastries
- processed meats and fatty, salty sausages, savoury pastries and pies, with a high fat or salt content
- takeaway foods such as hot chips, hamburgers and pizza
- sweetened condensed milk
- alcoholic drinks
- ice cream and other ice confections
- confectionary and chocolate
- commercially fried foods
- potato chips, crisps and other fatty and/or salty snack foods including some savoury biscuits
- cream, butter and spreads which are high in saturated fats
- sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, sports and energy drinks.
It’s okay to have some of these foods now and then as an extra treat. But if these foods regularly replace more nutritious and healthier foods in your diet, your risk of developing obesity and chronic disease, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, increases.
Restaurant meals and takeaway foods
Restaurant meals and takeaway foods are often high in saturated fat, added salt, added sugars, and kilojoules.
Think about how often you consume food and drinks prepared outside the home. If you’re doing this regularly, consider cutting back and focusing more on the 5 major food groups. That doesn’t mean you have to stop completely.
Suggestions for reducing saturated fat in takeaway food options include:
- Try ordering a takeaway meal without the fries.
- Choose bread-based options like wraps, kebabs, souvlaki or hamburgers.
- Avoid deep fried and pastry options.
- Include extra vegetables and salad.
- Choose smaller portions or share with someone else and add a green salad to reduce the kilojoules of the meal.
- Limit high fat, high salt sauces and toppings like cheese, fatty meats and mayonnaise – remember, you can ask for less.
- Choose tomato-based pasta sauces, rather than cream-based sauces.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t upsize unless it’s with a side salad.
Fast foods that have relatively low levels of saturated fat and added salt include:
- pizzas with less cheese and meat
- grilled chicken burgers or wraps
- grilled, lean meat hamburgers, with no cheese or bacon additions
- grilled fish burgers.
High sugar foods
Foods and drinks like soft drinks, cordials, biscuits, cakes and confectionary are high in added sugars and high in kilojoules. Sugar itself does not lead to diabetes. But added sugars can cause weight gain and being overweight increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sugar-sweetened drinks are the largest source of sugars in the diets of Australians. There is strong evidence of an association between increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and the development of childhood obesity and tooth decay. That’s why eating foods and drinks with a high sugar content should be limited.
Sugar-free versions are okay to drink sometimes, but sugar-free fizzy drinks are still acidic, which can have a negative effect on bone and dental health. Water is the healthiest drink – try adding a slice of lemon, lime or orange for flavour.