But as I always explain at the ranch, when you fill up on foods like these, you have little room left for the fare your body needs. Generally speaking, anything that’s low in sugar and unhealthy fats and rich in satiating fiber and antioxidants gets the green light. But when weight maintenance or weight loss is the goal, some healthy eats—which I reveal below—reign supreme.
For optimal results, pick up my go-to grocery items and use them to prepare your meals and snacks for the days ahead. Many weight-loss winners find that preparing their meals and cutting up produce before the start of a hectic work week helps keep them on track towards success. Be sure to make enough food so that you can eat three well-balanced meals and two healthy snacks a day. This schedule will keep your metabolism humming and help you stay on a path toward total health.
And for more calorie-burning hacks, check out these 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism!
Not only are they good for total health, but the fiber in healthy carbs makes them excellent appetite suppressants. I recommend taking in 45 percent of your daily calories from complex carbohydrates. Here are some of the best bets for your waistline:
It’s finally time to give the humble blueberry proper praise—and add them to your daily diet. What makes them so great? Blueberries may help blast away stubborn belly fat by turning on your get-lean genes, according to University of Michigan researchers. After a 90-day trial, the rats fed a blueberry-enriched diet showed significantly reduced belly fat than the control group. But that’s not all! The sweet fruit also contains compounds that ward off and reverse age-related loss of memory and motor coordination.
This ancient grain is a nutritional hero. Besides being rich in fiber and minerals like iron and magnesium (a nutrient that aids protein synthesis), quinoa is a complete source of protein, meaning it supplies all nine essential muscle-building amino acids the body cannot produce on its own.
Vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. And veggies with a high water content—like cucumbers—are among the best for weight loss because they fill you up for very few calories.
<strong>Eat This! Tip</strong>
Put your peeler away! The skin of a cucumber retains many of its nutrients including vitamin C and vitamin K, which helps regulates blood clotting and contributes to healthy bones.
Most vegetables are loaded with fiber, and broccoli is no exception. Not only do fiber-rich foods boost satiety and aid weight loss, they lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. What’s more, broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increase testosterone and fights off body fat storage. This is a must-eat for any dieter.
<strong>Eat This! Tip</strong>
Add broccoli into your morning omelet and pair it with one of these 22 Best-Ever Teas for Weight Loss!
Thanks to a metabolism-boosting compound, dihydrocapsiate, and their high vitamin C content, sweet red and green peppers can help you shrink your gut. A cup of these bell-shaped veggies serves up to three times the day’s recommended vitamin C—a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones which trigger fat storage around the midsection. Prepare snack-size portions of peppers in advance and store them in the fridge in airtight baggies. This way you’ll always have a healthy on-the-go snack in a pinch. For more low-calorie snack ideas, check out these 8 Grab and Go Snacks under 200 Calories.
Research has found that eating protein not only boosts satiety, but it also helps people eat less at subsequent meals. Aim to consume 30 percent of your daily calories from lean sources of the nutrient. My favorites are below.
A three-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than a skinless chicken breast. It also packs 24 grams of muscle-building protein per serving and 83 milligrams of choline, a fat-incinerating nutrient that helps turn off the genes responsible for belly-fat storage. Add it to your weekly dinner lineup to reap the benefits.
When it comes to steak or burgers, go grass-fed. Grass-fed beef—one of these 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss—naturally has less fat than the traditional grain-fed variety and it’s also a rich source of omega-3s, which help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Like quinoa, soybeans are considered to be a complete protein, making them a smart pick for vegetarians and carnivores alike. The best part? There are tons of ways to nosh on them. Order edamame at your favorite sushi restaurant, pour soymilk in your coffee or cook up some tempeh (fermented soybeans) and add it to a stir-fry or sandwich.
<strong>Did You Know?</strong>
Tempeh is denser than tofu and has twice the amount of protein, too.
A 3-ounce cooked chicken breast contains just 142 calories and 3 grams of fat but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein—more than half of your daily recommended intake. Add it to your diet to accelerate your slim-down efforts and be sure to check out these 10 Chicken Recipe for Weight Loss to spark your culinary creativity.
Ground turkey is super versatile: It can be used to make chili, meatballs, stuffed peppers or burgers—and that’s just the short list. Since the ground turkey at your supermarket may contain the dark meat parts of the bird (which can spike the fat content up to 20 percent), look for meat that’s at least 95% lean.
Though the farm-raised variety falls short in the health department (more on that here), wild salmon is a nutritional star. Not only is it rich in omega-3, a healthy fat that fights off metabolism-slowing inflammation, but it’s also a great source of protein, a nutrient that increases post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent!
These oily fish are a top source of omega-3 fats, rivaling even salmon. Plus, if you buy the bone-in variety, they’re also a prime source of calcium. You can eat them straight from the can or add them to a salad, but for a more sophisticated approach, you can chop sardines and stuff them inside a peppadew pepper. Pep-a-what?! Peppadews are just one of the 20 Superfoods for Abs You’ve Never Heard Of—check ‘em out and start trimming down!
A half cup of cooked black beans has 215 calories, 8 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. By comparison, a 3-ounce serving of broiled lean sirloin has 158 calories, 26 grams of protein and a whopping 6 grams of fat, almost half of which is unhealthy saturated variety. Go with the beans and amp up the protein count by pairing them with an additional source of protein. Two easy ideas: Whip up a salsa and bean omelet for breakfast or enjoy a black bean mixed with quinoa as a side dish with lunch or dinner.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming 2-3 servings of dairy per day.
While skim milk may be lowest in calories, many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you won’t get all the benefits unless you opt for 1%. Add cow’s milk to your morning oatmeal, cereal, coffee or weight loss smoothie to amp up your protein and calcium count and better reap the total health benefits of your newfound nutrient-rich diet.
Greek yogurt packs two times more protein than the other kinds in the refrigerator section. Choose an unsweetened, low-fat container and look for the phrase “live cultures” on the label, which means it contains probiotics. Aside from aiding digestion and boosting immunity, these healthy bacteria may help you fit into your skinny jeans. Mounting research is drawing a connection between gut-health aids like probiotics and weight control.
Low-Fat Feta & Mozzarella
Noshing on calcium-rich foods–like your favorite cheese–may help ward off weight gain by preventing cellular changes in the body that cause fat storage, studies suggest. Cheese is also packed with protein and fat, which help boost satiety and ward off cravings for unhealthy, processed fare.
<strong>Eat This! Tip</strong>
Pack a low-fat mozzarella cheese stick and a piece of fruit as a mid-afternoon office snack or add some low-fat feta to your dinner salad.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein. A yolk or two is fine (and a great source of belly-fat-incinerating choline), but just remember that they also pack fat and calories, so don’t eat more than two a day. To amp up the staying power of your omelet—without going overboard on calories—mix two whole eggs with a white or two.
<strong>Eat This! Tip</strong>
Look for eggs enriched with omega-3s. The yolks will provide extra health-boosting nutrients.
I recommend taking in 25 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats.
We keep pistachios in ample supply at ‘The Biggest Loser’ ranch. Not only are they a satisfying, heart-healthy snack, they also aid weight loss. Studies suggest having to manually remove the shell helps people eat more mindfully and slows the rate at which they nosh, helping to reduce portion size and calorie intake. That’s why they’re one of the 7 Best Foods to Eat for Rapid Weight Loss!
Regularly eating olive oil has been shown to boost levels of adiponectin, a hormone that breaks down fat. Beyond being an ally in the battle against the bulge, EVOO is a go-to pick for total health thanks to its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Make it your go-to cooking companion. Can’t wait to see that washboard stomach? Pair your olive oil with these 11 Eating Habits That Uncover Your Abs.
Cheryl Forberg, RD is the author of A Small Guide to Losing Big! For more of her slimming weight loss tips, pick up a copy, today!