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10 Foods You Should Eat Every Week to Help You Lose Weight
Including these tasty, satisfying staples throughout the week can help supercharge your weight-loss efforts.
No single food has the power to melt the pounds, but there are plenty of healthy options that can help support your weight-loss efforts when included as part of a healthy diet. In addition to being delicious additions to meals and snacks, nearly all 10 of these foods contain fiber or protein (or both!)—nutrients that deliver when it comes to keeping us fuller longer. Including them regularly during the week is a simple way to make the most of your meals.
1. Chia Seeds
Pictured Recipe: Blueberry-Almond Chia Pudding
When it comes to weight loss, fiber is king. It’s satiating because it slows digestion and keeps us feeling fuller longer. This is super important when we’re cutting back on calories, a common approach to weight loss. Consuming a serving of chia seeds, roughly 2 tablespoons, satisfies a whopping 40% of daily fiber needs. And they’re easy to incorporate into meals, especially breakfast and snacks, with foods like breakfast pudding, berry jam and energy balls. Bonus—chia seeds are one of the best foods to help you go No. 2!
2. Fatty Fish
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming two servings of seafood each week because it contains essential fatty acids that we can only get through our diet. In addition to supporting heart and brain health, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, sardines and tuna may help to reduce body fat. Seafood is also high in protein to help curb hunger, keeping us full for hours. Fresh fish is great, but can be pricy to purchase every week. Consider frozen fish fillets or shrimp, which tend to be less expensive, and don’t overlook canned seafood to whip up easy salmon patties, quick sardine toast or a classic niçoise salad.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and dark leafy greens like kale and arugula. Their health benefits are vast, and a growing body of research links regular consumption of these vegetables to a lower risk of cancer and reduced inflammation. They’re also low in calories and carbohydrates, making them the perfect nonstarchy addition to any weight-loss plan. These vegetables are simple to include throughout the week. Use them as the hearty base for meal-prep salads or as a low-carb swap for grains, or blend them into smoothies.
4. Whole Grains
Pictured Recipe: Chickpea & Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Many people may think they need to give up starches like pasta, bread and rice when they’re trying to shed pounds. Thankfully this isn’t the case, especially if we’re choosing whole grains most of the time. In addition to vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and quinoa contain fiber to keep us feeling satisfied. Plus, our bodies and brains prefer energy from carbohydrates, so consuming these foods alongside protein and healthy fats can help reduce cravings for refined carbs and sugar, which can sometimes sabotage weight-loss efforts.
CREDIT: FRED HARDY
Pictured recipe: Carrot-Apple Smoothie
Like vegetables, fruits are a smart addition to any healthy weight-loss plan. Apples are especially good to have on hand throughout the week because they’re inexpensive, keep for weeks in the fridge and make for a super-portable snack. You can also get creative and work them into meals. Apples are delicious atop salads and toast or whirred into soups and smoothies. Because of their high water content and fiber (be sure to eat the skin), apples are low in calories and filling. Research suggests these factors play a role in helping people lose weight.
6. Fermented Foods
Gut health is a trending topic these days, and for good reason. In addition to supporting immunity and good digestion, a healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract may help to promote fat burning. Aim to include a few bites or sips of probiotic-rich foods most days, in addition to eating prebiotics (like bananas, asparagus, legumes and onions) which provide fuel for our healthy gut “bugs.” Good sources of probiotics include kefir and yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and tempeh.
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon with Broccoli
All nuts can be included in a healthy weight-loss diet. They’re satiating and satisfying thanks to their healthy fat, fiber and protein content. The key is portion control, as a serving of nuts (about ¼ cup) ranges between 160 and 200 calories. Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie nuts, coming in at 160 calories per serving. In addition to being delicious, pistachios come with a slew of health perks. Studies suggest these pretty green nuts can be protective against type 2 diabetes, promote a healthy gut and improve cholesterol levels. And eating them two or more times per week may reduce the risk for future weight gain. We suggest buying pistachios in shells—shelling them as you snack is a simple way to promote mindful eating!
The egg really is the perfect protein, especially when it comes to weight loss. Eaten at breakfast, eggs have been shown to enhance weight loss as part of a reduced-calorie diet. Plus, incorporating enough protein-rich foods like eggs at breakfast may keep evening snack cravings at bay. They’re also economical and versatile enough to meal-prep ahead for grab-and-go snacks and lunches for the week, or to top a power bowl at dinner.
Avocados seem to make the cut when it comes to pretty much any diet plan. The reason? They deliver a one-two punch of healthy fats and fiber, plus a buttery texture that adds richness to meals and snacks. While they’re higher in calories than other fruits and vegetables, research suggests avocado eaters—those who consume about half an avocado a day along with a healthy diet—have lower body weights and waist measurements. While you can never go wrong with avocado toast, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy them throughout the day.
10. Dark Chocolate
Yep, chocolate can help you lose weight, and here’s why: A healthy weight-loss diet is more likely to be effective if it’s sustainable for the long term. Research shows that deprivation of certain foods or food groups can lead to intense cravings and may cause bingeing after avoiding the foods for a period of time. Including foods you enjoy but initially perceive to be off-limits, like chocolate, may help you stick with a weight-loss plan. Including an ounce of dark chocolate (aim for 70% cacao content or higher for the greatest antioxidant boost) might be just the indulgence you need to stay on track. You’ll also benefit from its heart-healthy and mood-boosting perks.
Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein and fiber goes a long way in helping with healthy weight loss (1 to 2 pounds per week). These 10 foods are some of the best—and easiest—foods to incorporate into your diet, so plan on adding them as meals and snacks in the coming weeks to help you reach your weight-loss goal the healthy way.
How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight
Using more fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean meats, nuts, and beans, is a safe and healthy way to lose or maintain weight. In addition, diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to eat less food. You can create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables in place of higher-calorie ingredients. The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.
Breakfast: Start the Day Right
- Substitute spinach, onions, or mushrooms for one egg or half the cheese in your morning omelet. The vegetables will add volume and flavor to the dish with fewer calories than the egg or cheese.
- Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for some cut-up bananas, peaches, or strawberries. You can still eat a full bowl, but with fewer calories.
Lighten Up Your Lunch
- Substitute vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, or onions for 2 ounces of the cheese and 2 ounces of the meat in your sandwich, wrap, or burrito. The new version will fill you up with fewer calories than the original.
- Replace 2 ounces of meat or 1 cup of noodles in broth-based soup with 1 cup of chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, beans, or red peppers. The vegetables will help fill you up, so you won’t miss those extra calories.
- Add in 1 cup of chopped vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or peppers, while removing 1 cup of the rice or pasta in your favorite dish. The dish with the vegetables will be just as satisfying but have fewer calories than the same amount of the original version.
- Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they do not, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice with legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, greens, or another favorite vegetable. This will reduce the total calories in your meal without reducing the amount of food you eat. BUT remember to use a normal- or small-size plate — not a platter. The total number of calories that you eat counts, even if a good proportion of them come from fruits and vegetables.
- Most healthy eating plans allow for one or two small snacks a day. Choosing most fruits and vegetables will allow you to eat a snack with only 100 calories.
About 100 Calories or Less
- a medium-size apple (72 calories)
- a medium-size banana (105 calories)
- 1 cup steamed green beans (44 calories)
- 1 cup blueberries (83 calories)
- 1 cup grapes (100 calories)
- 1 cup carrots (45 calories), broccoli (30 calories), or bell peppers (30 calories) with 2 tbsp. hummus (46 calories)
Instead of a high-calorie snack from a vending machine, bring some cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. A 1-ounce bag of corn chips has as many calories as a small apple, 1 cup of whole strawberries, AND 1 cup of carrots with 1/4 cup of low-calorie dip. Substitute one or two of these options for the chips, and you will have a satisfying snack with fewer calories.
Remember: Substitution is the key.
It’s true that fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than many other foods, but they do contain some calories. If you start eating fruits and vegetables in addition to what you usually eat, you are adding calories and may gain weight. The key is substitution. Eat fruits and vegetables instead of some other higher-calorie food.
Eat fruits and vegetables the way nature provided—or with fat-free or low-fat cooking techniques.
Try steaming your vegetables, using low-calorie or low-fat dressings, and using herbs and spices to add flavor. Some cooking techniques, such as breading and frying, or using high-fat dressings or sauces will greatly increase the calories and fat in the dish. And eat your fruit raw to enjoy its natural sweetness.
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are also good options.
Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as the fresh varieties. However, be careful to choose those without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients that will add calories.
Choose whole fruit over fruit drinks and juices. Fruit juices have lost fiber from the fruit.
It is better to eat the whole fruit because it contains the added fiber that helps you feel full. One 6-ounce serving of orange juice has 85 calories, compared to just 65 calories in a medium orange.
Whole fruit gives you a bigger size snack than the same fruit dried—for the same number of calories.
A small box of raisins (1/4 cup) is about 100 calories. For the same number of calories, you can eat 1 cup of grapes.
Make Healthy Food Choices and Lose Weight There is no magic bullet or single food that will make you lose weight quickly. In fact, the safest way to lose weight is to do it slowly — about a pound a week. Sections How to make healthy food choices to lose weight How to cut fat out of your daily diet How to make healthy choices when you eat out at restaurants There is no magic bullet or single food that will make you lose weight quickly. In fact, the safest way to lose weight is to do it slowly — about a pound a week. How to make healthy food choices to lose weight Go for variety. Buy a new fruit, vegetable, or whole-grain product each time you shop for groceries, to keep from getting bored. Limit sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice, and alcohol. Limit smoked or pickled foods. They tend to have a lot of salt and nitrates. Eat small portions (no more than 6 to 7 ounces a day) of lean meat or poultry without the skin. Eat lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day and 3 ounces or more of whole grains. You will feel full longer and may be less tempted by junk food. Cover your plate with nutrient-dense, fresh foods. Fill two-thirds of your plate with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, and one-third or less with meat and dairy products. Drink water or drinks with little added sugar if you’re hungry between meals, eat fruit, unsalted nuts or vegetables. Avoid lemonade, sweetened ice tea, and juices. Keep fresh, nutrient-dense snacks on hands, such as: carrot and celery sticks bite-sized pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, or other vegetables unsalted nuts apple slices raisins orange sections peach slices frozen berries whole-grain pretzels air-popped popcorn flavored decaffeinated coffee fruit tea or herbal tea water flavored with lemon or lime broth or bouillon How to cut fat out of your daily diet Instead of: Substitute with: Cooking oil in baking recipes Applesauce Sour cream on baked potatoes Fat-free yogurt Whole milk Skim milk Ice cream Fat-free frozen yogurt Butter Fat-free soft margarine How to make healthy choices when you eat out at restaurants Go in with a plan. Look at menus before you go (you can find some on web sites) and decide where and what to eat. Many chain restaurants offer healthy menu options that follow Weight Watchers or other eating plans. Avoid casseroles. They often have sugary or salty sauces and lots of cheese. Choose steamed, baked, or boiled vegetables, rather than those in sauces or with cheese. Choose beverages without added sugar. A 12-ounce glass of soda pop has about 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Water has zero. Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic beverages have no nutrients. And after you have one or two you may be more tempted to order dessert or a plate of nachos. Ask for sauces, dressings, butter, and sour cream on the side so you can control how much you use. Or ask for your dish to be made without sauce or cheese. Order each item separately (a la carte), so you can get everything prepared how you want it, rather than ordering a combination plate with less flexibility. Don’t eat mindlessly. Ask the waitperson to remove the bowl of chips/bread/peanuts after you’ve had a small portion. Order regular sizes instead of jumbo or super sizes. Order meat/seafood that is broiled or baked rather than pan-fried or deep-fried. Order an appetizer portion instead of a meal-size portion. Many restaurants offer the same dishes in both sections of the menu. Wrap it up. Ask for half of your entree to be wrapped up to go when you order. Eat it for lunch the next day. Share an entree with a friend and order an extra side salad with the dressing on the side.