16 Healthiest Foods to Kickstart Weight Loss, According to RDs
As you're closely approaching the new year, you might be looking to shed a few pounds or simply just want to strive to eat cleaner, more nutritious foods and want to exercise as a way to feel healthier and more energized, in general. Well, that means it might be time to rethink your diet, eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugar and instead, focused on loading up on more fruits and vegetables, as well as proteins, good fats, and fiber. This way, you'll be able to fill up faster on fewer calories and, most importantly, get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
"While no single food will cause you to lose weight, foods high in protein and fiber help to keep you satisfied longer so you will likely nosh less and consume fewer calories overall," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "And even if you don't lose weight, they are healthy, nutrient-rich foods that bring their own health benefits," she says.
Here are 16 of the top, healthiest weight-loss foods to include in your diet so you can start this next year on a high note. And while you're at it, try out any of these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Almonds contain a combination of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, making a great addition for healthy snacking.
"To help you feel full and satisfied for longer, add almonds to your Greek yogurt bowl, sprinkle them onto your salad or pair them with your favorite fruit," says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN.
Oh, the avocado. It might be a rather trendy food, but it really is packed with tons of health benefits.
"Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and essential vitamins and minerals, which have been shown to reduce belly fat and turn off our hunger hormones," says Schapiro. "For a smaller waistline, pair your savory egg omelet with a few slices of avocado and get up to 4 grams of belly-filling fiber."
Peanuts are considered a "small, but mighty" food as they have a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats to boost satiety.
"Add a tablespoon of peanut butter to your morning smoothie or pair a spoonful with an apple to help you lose weight, and keep it off," says Schapiro.
Lentils provide a quality source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber, so it's great for those who are looking to minimize meat-consumption.
"Greater consumption of fiber-rich foods has been associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and successful weight management," says Schapiro. For a plant-based and weight-friendly meal, enjoy a lentil soup for lunch or cook up a delicious curry for dinner.
Cucumbers contain up to 95% water, making them an excellent choice to add to your diet if you're aiming for weight loss.
"Toss cucumbers into your winter salad or snack on cup up slices for a hydrating, refreshing and lower-calorie option," says Schapiro. To keep its high nutrient and antioxidant content, eat your cucumbers unpeeled.
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"Asparagus is low in calories and high in prebiotic fiber, a gut-friendly nutrient that has been shown to reduce body fat in obese individuals and shed excess or unwanted pounds," says Schapiro. For just 20 calories per cup, pair some roasted asparagus with a lean protein for a tasty, waistline-friendly meal.
If you're looking for a food that is packing with omega-3's, then salmon is your go-to.
"A diet rich in omega-3's has been associated with greater postprandial satiety and lower hunger sensations in folks with sustained weight loss," says Schapiro. Grill, roast, or bake a salmon fillet and pair it alongside your favorite roasted vegetable for a nutritious and easy meal.
Flax seeds are rich in fiber, which helps to fills you up and for longer, too.
"Flax seeds are also known for their alpha-line oleic and lignan content, as these nutrients may help to lower cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body," says Schapiro. Add a tablespoon of flaxseeds to your chia pudding or throw a handful into your morning smoothie for a fiber-rich meal.
Blueberries contain a rich source of fiber and antioxidants, particularly flavonoids.
"Higher consumption of flavonoid-rich foods has been linked to greater weight changes over time and proposed a suitable food for weight management," says Schapiro. Top your oatmeal with a handful of blueberries, blend them into a smoothie, or eat them just the way they are!
"Besides their high fiber and water content, bell peppers are packed with vitamins A [and] C, potassium, and other antioxidants," says Schapiro. Another plus? They're low in calories.
"Add sliced, sautéed, or grilled bell peppers to make chicken fajitas or a veggie-forward omelet without adding the excess calories," she suggests.
"These trendy, nutrient-packed seeds have a special quality: They can absorb more than ten times their weight in water, allowing them to swell in your digestive tract and help to keep you satisfied," says Harris-Pincus.
Chia seeds are rather universal, too. Go ahead and sprinkle a teaspoon or two on yogurt, over your salad, in your oatmeal, or add them to your recipes and baked goods.
"Cottage cheese is the secret to creamy smoothies as it's much less tangy than Greek yogurt and you can mix it into eggs before scrambling for a cheesy, creamy texture, or as a protein boost in pancake batter," says Harris-Pincus. The possibilities are endless, and you will benefit from about 13 grams of satisfying protein per 1/2 cup serving.
For 100 calories, you can enjoy approximately 30 nuts. That's a hefty serving, making pistachios an ideal snack option.
"When you purchase the ones in the shell, it takes quite some time to eat, giving you time to feel satisfied," says Harris-Pincus. So all that work you put into taking the nuts out of the shells pays off more than you realized. Pre-portion the pistachios in zipper bags to grab and go, especially for a quick afternoon snack or as something to pack on long car trips.
"For only 70 calories, the high-quality protein and fat will fill you up and help prevent you from mindless noshing and decrease your likelihood of making impulsive food choices," says Harris-Pincus. Don't worry about the cholesterol either. "Research has shown that the cholesterol in eggs is not only lower than we once thought, but it's also not a contributing factor to heart disease," she says.
When in doubt, it's never a bad idea to start your idea with a bowl of oatmeal.
"This healthy whole grain contains a soluble fiber, beta glucan, which can help to manage cholesterol and blood sugar," says Harris-Pincus. Oats are so versatile, yet another perk! You can make old-fashioned oatmeal, overnight oats, energy balls, or grind them into flour to use for baking, in pancakes or even as a filling add-in to smoothies.
Not sure what exactly you can drink that will help you shed pounds instead of cause you to pack more on? That's where the magic elixir that is green tea comes in.
"Not only is it full of antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals, but [green tea] also has the benefit of slightly increasing your metabolism," says Harris-Pincus. "Sipping tea in the evening instead of snacking, or trading in your latte for a cup of iced or hot green tea will lower your calorie intake and help you burn a few extra." Just remember that adding sugar to sweeten it will defeat the purpose, so sip on it all by its lonesome to get the most benefits.