For people who are looking for good healthy meals for weight loss, we’ve got something special for you. These recipes will be exactly what you’re looking for. They’re tasty and super easy to cook up in a matter of minutes. With these, you can keep your diet on track and have a few treats along the way!
Healthy weight loss foods, defined
Weight loss occurs when you consume less energy (calories) than your body requires to maintain its current weight, which often involves improving food-related hormone levels and resting metabolic rate. The number of calories you burn can vary depending on several factors, including your size, age, body composition, and what you eat.To lose weight in a healthy way, you should create a calorie deficit while meeting your needs for essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. And for your weight loss journey to be sustainable, you can’t go hungry or feel deprived.
First off, it’s important to avoid ultra-processed, high-carb, high-fat foods that are rewarding and can drive overeating. But once you’ve eliminated those foods, what should you eat to get the best results?
Many diets, including low carb and others, feature healthy weight loss foods. These foods have several things in common that can help you feel full and satisfied so you naturally take in fewer calories:
- A high percentage of calories from protein: Protein provides essential amino acids that your body requires to build and maintain muscle, among other important functions.Healthy weight loss foods get a high percentage of their calories from protein. A food’s protein percentage tells you how much of its calories come from protein rather than fat and carbs.Why is it important to prioritize protein for healthy weight loss? Eating more protein can increase satiety, so you end up naturally eating less. It can also slightly boost your metabolism, and improve your body composition.On the other hand, if your protein intake is too low — due to eating large amounts of fat, carbs, or both — you may be driven to overeat in order to meet your protein needs.Protein-rich foods can provide long-term satiety due to hormonal changes that occur after eating. When your body breaks down protein from food into amino acids (the building blocks of protein), your digestive tract releases hormones that can make you feel full and satisfied for several hours.Also, many essential vitamins and minerals are naturally abundant in protein foods. For this reason, foods that get a lot of their calories from protein tend to have high nutrient density. This means they provide a lot of nutrition per calorie — making them ideal for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
- Low energy density: “Energy density” refers to the calories (or energy) in a specific weight of food. It’s usually expressed as the number of calories per gram of food (calories/gram). The lower the number, the fewer calories a given amount of food contains.Foods with more water or fiber have lower energy densities, whereas foods higher in fat have higher energy densities. This is because fat provides 9 calories per gram, protein and carbs each provide 4 calories per gram, water provides zero calories per gram, and fiber is estimated to provide less than 1 calorie per gram.In studies, when people are allowed to eat to satiety — as much as they need to feel full — they usually end up naturally taking in far fewer calories when they eat foods with low energy densities compared to foods with high energy densities.On the other hand, filling up on only very low-energy-density foods can leave you overly hungry as a result of not getting enough calories. For sustainable healthy weight loss, you’ll need to eat some nutritious foods with more calories to meet your minimal energy needs.
- High in fiber (plant foods): Fiber is the non-digestible portion of carbs found in plants. Because it’s bulky, it can stretch your stomach and help you feel full. Some studies suggest that eating more fiber may help you eat less and absorb slightly fewer calories from mixed meals.While protein can lead to satiety that lasts for several hours, fiber can provide short-term satiety by stretching your stomach without triggering hormones that promote long-term fullness. And unlike protein, fiber isn’t considered an essential nutrient. So although fiber may play a role in healthy weight loss, selecting foods with high protein percentages and low energy densities is likely more important.
Eating Right for Health
A healthy eating style includes a variety of foods from all the food groups. Recommendations for men include:
- Two to 2 ½ cups of fruits and 2½ to 4 cups of vegetables each day to provide adequate vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and phytonutrients.
- Six to 10 ounce-equivalents of grains a day. Make at least half of your grains whole grains, like whole-grain bread, whole wheat cereal flakes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
- Five and a half to 7 oz-equivalents of protein foods a day, with 8 ounces from a variety of seafood each week.
- Three cups of dairy or a calcium-fortified soy equivalent daily.
Choosing these foods helps to meet a variety of nutrient needs. For example, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend between 28 to 34 grams of dietary fiber per day for adult men. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds all help to meet this goal. These foods, as well as dairy products, also help to meet potassium needs, which is a nutrient that is essential for a variety of body functions like heart, kidney and nerve health. Fish and other types of seafood provide unsaturated fatty acids and omega fatty acids which play a role in heart and brain health.
Eating for Energy
The foods we eat help power us and provide energy throughout the day. They fuel our brains to help us think as well as our bodies for physical activity. The number of calories we need each day varies depending on a number of factors, like weight, height, muscle mass and activity level. An estimated calorie range for moderately active adult males falls between 2,200 to 2,800 calories per day, depending on age.
Foods to avoid for healthy weight loss
The worst foods for losing weight are highly processed and provide lots of empty calories with little protein and other nutrients. Research suggests that consuming these foods may cause overeating that results in weight gain.
Here are the foods and beverages to avoid when trying to lose weight:
Ultra-processed high-carb, high-fat foods
Foods that are high in both fat and refined carbs are your number one weight loss enemy. The high-carb plus high-fat combination may drive you to overeat due to being so delicious and providing very little satiety per calorie. Indeed, some researchers suggest that these highly palatable foods can be addictive. Unfortunately, they’re among the least expensive and most extensively marketed, widely available foods around.
Some common examples are cookies, cakes, pie, potato chips, candy bars, and ice cream, although many similar products exist. Steer clear of these foods if you want to lose weight and improve your health.
Protein percentage range
Donuts and other
deep-fried desserts 3%
Energy density range (calories/gram)
Plain ice cream3
Chips, candy bars,
and many others5+
Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages get 100% of their calories from sugar. These “liquid sugars” can be very easy to over consume. In addition to soft drinks, stay away from sweet tea, punch, lemonade, energy drinks, sports drinks, and flavored coffee drinks. Avoid fruit juice, too — including 100% unsweetened juice, which is loaded with “natural” sugar. Finally, avoid sweet alcoholic drinks.
Sugary beverages have deceptively low energy densities because their sugar is diluted by a lot of water. However, they’re still loaded with empty calories.
Protein percentage range
Sweet coffee drinks
made with milk5-10%
Foods high in sugar and refined carbs
Avoid all types of sugar, including honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Also, stay away from products with added sugars, such as jams and jellies, candy, and “lite” treats marketed as healthy options, like nonfat frozen yogurt. Finally, read labels for hidden sugars in condiments, salad dressings, and packaged foods.
Processed starchy foods are also a no-go for weight loss. This group includes white bread and pasta, rice, fat-free chips, crackers, and similar snack foods. All are low in nutrients and provide little satiety per calorie. In fact, they may potentially increase your hunger and cravings.
Protein percentage range
White pasta 15%
maple syrup 0%
Energy density range (calories/gram)
Cooked pasta 1.6
Beer is sometimes called “liquid bread” because it contains carbs that come from grains. Like sugary beverages, beer has a deceptively low energy density because it’s diluted with lots of water.
Although light beers are lower in carbs, it’s best to minimize your beer intake when trying to lose weight.
Protein percentage range
For all beer0%
Easy and Healthy Meals for Weight Loss
Planning your weight loss menu doesn’t have to be hard! With Nutrisystem, you can enjoy all of your favorite foods while you lose weight with perfectly portioned meals delivered to your door. Our program will teach you how to cook up healthy meals on your own too, so you can drop pounds and get healthy while eating the things you love.
Of course, some meals are better than others when it comes to losing weight. That’s why we rounded up some of our favorite healthy recipes with superfood ingredients that promote weight loss!
If you need some easy cooking inspiration, we’ve got you covered with these healthy meals for weight loss that can support your goals:
1. Maple Banana Oatmeal
Calories per Serving: 254
On Nutrisystem, Count As: 1 SmartCarb, 1 PowerFuel and 2 Extras
To kick off this list of weight loss meals, we’re starting with a healthy breakfast classic. After all, it’s the most important meal of the day! Nothing fills you up and gets you ready for the day ahead like a warm, comforting bowl of oats. Not only is oatmeal delicious and easily customizable, but it can also help you lose weight. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, oatmeal has a high water and soluble fiber content which can help decrease hunger and appetite. Specifically, it features a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that has been shown to slow down digestion, promote fullness and suppress the appetite.
Begin your day the healthy way with this Maple Banana Oatmeal recipe that’s filled with the flavors of caramelized bananas, maple syrup and crunchy pecans. While it may sound like a lot of work to prepare on a busy morning, it actually comes together in about 10 minutes. After one bite, you’ll be thankful you woke up a little earlier to enjoy this beautiful breakfast bowl. Get the full recipe here! >
If you don’t have the time to whip up a bowl of homemade oatmeal, consider finding an easy-to-prep packaged version that fits into your weight loss plan. But don’t bother scouring the grocery store shelves to find a smart choice: Let Nutrisystem deliver it right to your door instead! Our Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal provides the same delicious maple flavor and is ready in about five minutes. We also offer an Apple Walnut Oatmeal that has real apples, walnuts and a dash of cinnamon. Both are a good source of fiber and contain 150 calories per serving.
2. Instant Pot Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie >
Calories per Serving: 236
On Nutrisystem, Count As: 1 SmartCarb, 1 PowerFuel, 1 Extra and ½ Vegetable
Use your handy dandy Instant Pot to whip up quick weight loss meals! Most potato recipes take a long time to prepare and don’t typically fit into a weight loss plan. However, using an Instant Pot and swapping regular potatoes for sweet potatoes can cut down on time and lighten up your dish.
While white potatoes and sweet potatoes contain about the same amount of fiber, sweet potatoes have less calories and carbs than the standard variety. We use them to make this lightened up version of a classic Shepherd’s Pie, which features lean ground turkey, non-starchy vegetables and a topping of creamy sweet potatoes
Hungry for another quick and easy dinner featuring sweet potatoes? Stock up on Merlot Beef With Root Vegetables from Nutrisystem! Dig into thick-cut beef paired with rustic root vegetables, two types of potatoes (sweet potatoes and roasted red skin-on potatoes) and rosemary in a rich red wine reduction.
3. Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash Baked Feta Pasta
Calories per Serving: 360
On Nutrisystem, Count As: 1 SmartCarb, 2 PowerFuel, 1 Extra and 1 ½ Vegetables
Watching your carbs? You can still indulge pasta! All you have to do is swap out regular white pasta with spaghetti squash. According to the USDA, one cup of cooked spaghetti squash has just 42 calories and over two grams of fiber. Compare that to the same amount of standard cooked pasta, which has 157 calories and less than two grams of fiber.
Get on board with the popular TikTok baked feta pasta trend by preparing our healthier alternative! We sub in spaghetti squash for the standard noodles and add in cherry tomatoes, chickpeas (for extra fiber), creamy feta cheese, olive oil and spices. After 30 minutes in the oven, you’ve got a deliciously creamy pasta dinner that fits perfectly into your weight loss plan.
Of course, regular pasta isn’t off limits on Nutrisystem! We make perfectly portioned versions of all of your Italian favorites. Our Rotini And Meatballs dinner is high in protein and ready to enjoy in minutes. Craving a cheesy meal? Stock up on our frozen Ravioli Formaggio, which packs in 14 grams of protein in each tasty serving!
4. Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Calories per Serving: 103
On Nutrisystem, Count As: ½ PowerFuel, 1 Extra and 1 Vegetable
Calling all vegetarians! If you’re looking for healthy weight loss meal ideas, mushrooms are a great place to start. They provide a satisfying, meaty texture and may also help support our weight loss goals. Even if you’re not a plant-based dieter, mushrooms can still be a smart choice for your meal plan. According to research, published in the journal Molecules, one study found that participants who replaced 20% of the beef in their diet with mushrooms had a lower body mass index (BMI), decreased belly circumference and an increase in satiety “without diminishing palatability.”
When it’s time to get out the grill this spring and summer, skip the steaks and grill up some portobello mushrooms instead! Our recipe for Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms combines the weight loss benefits of mushrooms with delicious flavors like balsamic vinegar, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, spinach and parmesan cheese
Nutrisystem also serves up some tasty meals that feature meaty mushrooms. Our Mushroom Parmesan Soup With Chicken is a satisfying lunch that provides you with 18 grams of protein. And for the vegetarians out there, our Mushroom Bolognese is a delicious Italian-style dinner with a plant-based twist.
5. Slow Cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup
Calories per Serving: 265
On Nutrisystem, Count As: 1 SmartCarb, 1 PowerFuel and 1 Vegetable
Legumes like beans and lentils are rich in fiber and protein yet low in fat, making them a great addition to your weight loss meals. Thanks to their soluble fiber that slows down digestion (just like oatmeal!), they can help fill you up and keep you satisfied. The protein content can also help you stay full.
Grab your slow cooker and whip up a hearty lentil soup that’s packed with flavor! It also contains other healthy ingredients that are good for weight loss, such as kale, sweet potatoes and garlic. We love to whip up a batch on Sunday for easy weight loss meals all week long!
Looking for more easy meals featuring lentils? Nutrisystem’s Harvest Grain Bowl combines good-for-you grains like brown rice and quinoa with lentils and chickpeas. It’s a vegetarian dream with 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber!