Eating these ten satisfying staples throughout the week can supercharge your weight-loss efforts, and improve health.
No single food has the power to melt the pounds off, but there are plenty of healthy options that can 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
When it comes to weight loss, fiber is king. It's satiating because it slows digestion and keeps us feeling fuller longer. 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 a breakfast chia pudding, berry jam, smoothies. 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
Many people 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 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 reduce cravings for refined carbs and sugar, which can sometimes sabotage weight-loss efforts.
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 super-portable snacks. 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.
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, and here's why: A healthy weight-loss diet is more likely to be effective if it's sustainable. 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) 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 fiber and protein 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.
Written by: Carolyn Hodges, M.S., RDN, EATING WELL