19 Weight Loss Staples to Always Have on Hand
Although it may sometimes seem like it, reaching your better body goals isn’t impossible—but it does take some prep work. Tossing out junk like sugary cookies and cereals and stocking your pantry and fridge with healthy, slimming meal-starters and snacks is the best place to start. Why? When your house is filled with healthy foods that aid weight loss, it’s a piece of cake to make smart diet choices consistently—even if you’re tired, busy or craving sweets—which is necessary for long term success.
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Ready to Eat Veggies and Healthy Dips
If you have trouble getting your 5-a-day, all hope is not lost! “My clients are more apt to eat their veggies if they’re prepped and ready to eat,” says Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist based in New York City. “I generally recommend buying and chopping veggies like carrots, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts over the weekend so they can easily be thrown into stews, side dishes, salads and stir-frys mid-week.” For a crunchy snack, Minchen recommends munching on chopped veggies with guacamole or an olive-oil based hummus—two other skinny staples to keep on hand.
This leafy nutritional powerhouse is a rich source of belly-filly fiber and vitamins. We love it because it can easily be added to almost any meal. Besides using it as a base for a colorful salad, it can be thrown on pizza, put it into omelets and sandwiches or mixed into pastas and soups. Since it doesn’t have a strong flavor, it also makes for a health-boosting smoothie addition. (And don't stress about using kale. In fact, spinach is one of 10 greens healthier than kale.)
Portable, Fresh Fruit
“When a sugar cravings strikes, fresh fruit makes for a sweet low-cal alternative,” says Minchen. “I love berries, melon, pineapple, clementines, oranges and red grapes because of their deep colors, which reflect the their antioxidants. Apples, plums and pears are also very nutritious and easy to eat on the run.”
“Frozen produce is great in the winter months when fresh produce doesn’t taste as good or is less readily available. It’s also a great option for those who have trouble eating their produce before it spoils,” says Minchen. Since frozen produce is ready to eat once it’s been zapped in the microwave or thrown onto a hot skillet, keeping it on hand will increase the odds you’ll eat healthfully, even if you have little time to prep and cook. Minchen’s frozen favorites include: spinach, kale, squash, mixed veggies, broccoli and cauliflower mixes, berries, mango and pineapple. She says these are the most nutrient dense options.
We love vitamin and protein-packed eggs for their versatility and top-notch nutritional profile. (Eating the white and yolk provides more essential vitamins and minerals per calorie than nearly any other food.) They can serve as a base for omelets and crustless quiches, consumed hardboiled or deviled as a snack and even used as salad or quinoa bowl topper. And incase you were wondering, eating eggs does not increase your cholesterol. That's only one of 21 Nutrition Myths we’ve busted!
Milk or a Dairy-Free, Fortified Substitute
Milk and fortified alternatives can be poured into smoothies and coffee, used in baking, or eaten with oatmeal. If you plan to buy traditional milk, look for organic varieties that come from grass-fed cows. These animals aren’t given hormones or antibiotics, which means you aren’t ingesting them either when you drink a glass. Milk from grass-fed cows also have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and two to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their corn and grain fed counterparts, which can reduce body fat and help maintain lean body mass. We like 1% Natural by Nature Organic Grass Fed Milk.
Yogurt is loaded with hunger-quelling protein and calcium, a mineral that not only helps maintain strong bones, but can also help to lower body weight. “I recommend unsweetened regular or Greek yogurt because of its low-sugar profile,” says Minchen. The creamy containers make for a quick breakfast on the go or a filling snack. Amp up the taste with a touch of agave and cinnamon or fresh fruit. Don't know where to start? Check out our guide to picking the healthiest yogurt.
Nuts and Nut Butters
“Nuts and nut butters are great sources of protein and healthy fats,” says Minchen. “Since different nuts provide different nutrients, I generally recommend that people pick up different varieties every time they shop. I love adding nuts to Greek yogurt, smearing nut butters on fruit and whole grain crackers or even enjoying some solo on a spoon.” Just remember: nuts and their butters are high in fat and calories, so be sure to practice portion control. Emerald Nut’s 100 Calorie Packs and Justin’s nut butter squeeze packs makes this a cinch!
For those days when you're starving and don't have time to cook, having a refrigerator filled with ready-to-eat protein can help you healthfully tame your rumbling belly. Minchen recommends stocking your kitchen with canned wild salmon, grilled chicken breast and low-sodium, organic deli meats. These picks can easily be added to sandwiches, soups, stews, casseroles and salads. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian BPA-free cans of beans make for decent (i.e. slightly lower-protein) alternative. Add them to salads, salads and veggie and rice dishes.
Steel Cut Oats
Minchen recommends adding this variety of oatmeal to your skinny staple list because it’s less processed than other varieties. Fair warning though, steel cut oats can take up to 30 minutes to cook. If you’re pressed for time try Minchen’s alternative suggestion: Quaker Quick Oats. While many quick-cooking oats are diet no-nos due to their high sugar content, “this variety happens to be rich in minerals, fiber and protein, which can help aid weight management.”
Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
Because of their high fiber and protein content, sprouted whole grain breads keep blood sugar levels more stable than the competition (yes, even 100% whole wheat loaves) which helps support weight loss efforts, Minchen explains. Look for it in the freezer section at your grocery store.
Quinoa or Brown Rice
If you wouldn’t eat a bowl of sugar, consider dumping out those boxes of white rice. This diet-derailing pantry staple converts into the sweet stuff once it’s consumed. Instead, stock your cupboard with quinoa and brown rice. “They are more beneficial than white varieties because they contain the whole grain, which has essential amino acids and healthy fiber,” notes Michen. The best part is that these grains can be made in bulk over the weekend and used to whip up quick dishes throughout the week. Eat the grains plain, use them as salad toppers or use as a base for a breakfast bowl. Or for dinner, try one of Minchen's favorite meals: stuffed peppers with quinoa and ground turkey. She also likes to include brown rice in casseroles with lean ground beef and veggies.
Although dried herbs like dill, sage, thyme and oregano make great salt-alternatives, cayenne pepper–or red pepper–packs a fat-frying punch like no other, earning it a place on our skinny staples list. Capsaicin, the compound that gives the spice its powerful kick, has been proven to reduce belly fat, suppress appetite and boost thermogenesis—the body’s ability to burn food as energy. To add a hint of spice and major fat-burning power to your food, sprinkle cayenne in chili, Gazpacho or guacamole, mix it into dressings, sprinkle it on meats before cooking or add it to your eggs. The possibilities are endless.
Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
Minchen loves cooking with coconut and olive oil and keeps both varieties stocked in her kitchen. “Many oils are not recommended for use in high heat due to their low smoke point, but these healthy varieties hold up well, making them super versatile.” Bonus: Extra virgin olive oil may increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety, and the tropical oil is a great source of lauric acid, which converts into energy more easily than other types of fat. Translation: Using these oils over other less-healthy fats like butter and lard means less flubber is apt to be stored on your frame.