On a diet? Eat these foods, say experts—and also make sure they feel right for life. You should like them. Enjoy them. Desire them. “When food cravings are reduced, it is easier to stay within a calorie deficit in order to lose weight,” says Melissa Mitri, MS, RDN, Owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, LLC. “Your body also has to work harder to break down protein than carbs or fats, which burns more calories. The best ‘diet’ is one that you can sustain for life, where you can eat nourishing, energizing foods that help you meet your weight loss goals.” With that in mind, Mitri and Lorraine Kearney BASc, CDN, CEO New York City Nutrition and Certified Dietitian Nutritionist, provided us with their best foods to eat when on a diet. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these 19 Ways You’re Ruining Your Body, Say Health Experts.
“Many of my clients fear eating bread when we first start working towards their health goals, but bread can be part of a balanced diet,” says Kearney. “The glucose from bread and other carbohydrates is the body’s main source of energy and also helps support brain function. Pairing a slice of whole wheat toast with avocado and an egg is a great breakfast option as it contains healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein.”
“Tuna is a low fat, lean protein source that is naturally low in calories. Research shows that diets higher in protein are most effective for weight loss,” says Mitri. “Tuna contains a whopping 29 grams of protein with only 132 calories per 4 ounce serving. To reduce added calories and fat, choose tuna packed in water, not oil.”
“Frozen vegetables are fantastic to have on hand to whip up a delicious meal at home,” says Kearney. “Frozen vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and then blanched to preserve their bright colors, and maintain their nutritional value. Simply add them to a pan with a little olive oil and season with garlic and onion powder and pair with a grain and lean protein.”
“Eggs are one of the best foods to eat when you’re trying to lose weight.” says Mitri. “Eggs are packed with high-quality protein, and are thus very satiating. And unless you have high cholesterol, you can eat the whole egg without worry. Studies have shown that eating eggs specifically for breakfast increased weight loss on a calorie-restricted diet. Having eggs for breakfast sets your metabolism on the right path for the day, so you are satisfied for longer and experience less cravings.”
“Yes, fruit is not a bad food and does not cause weight gain! Fruit has gotten such a bad reputation nowadays, with many popular diets adding fruit to their ‘do not eat’ list. However, there is no research to back this up,” says Mitri. “In fact, studies have shown that those who eat more fruit actually tend to weigh less! Therefore, the old saying of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ still applies today.”
“Dark chocolate contains 3.4g of iron per 1 oz. serving and rich in a polyphenol known as flavonols which helps support insulin sensitivity, increase HDL and lower LDL,” says Kearney. “When purchasing dark chocolate remember to read the ingredient list as some brands include added sugars, artificial flavors and may process the chocolate with an alkali. This alkali processing is also known as Dutch processing and can significantly decrease the antioxidant benefits of flavonols. Opt for a dark chocolate that is 70% or above.”
“Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, and swiss chard are some of the best vegetables for weight loss,” says Mitri. “They are naturally low in calories and carbs, but packed with fiber to keep you full. Fiber is an essential nutrient in any weight loss diet, and may also support a healthy gut and heart. In fact, several studies have shown fiber-packed foods like leafy greens can increase weight loss.”
“Eating more lean protein foods like chicken can support weight loss and reduce cravings. One study showed that consuming at least 25% of your calories from protein can cut food cravings by up to 60%,” says Mitri.
“Bananas are a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C,” says Kearney. “They’re a great pre workout snack as potassium helps prevent muscle cramps and is needed for muscle contraction, plus the glucose from the banana helps with endurance. I love to pair a banana with 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter before breaking a sweat.”
“Diet culture has created a fear of eating fruit as it contains sugar, but there is nothing to fear about eating fruit,” says Kearney. “Fruit has many wonderful health benefits to the body as it contains fiber, vitamins and minerals that are needed to support your body. One cup of raspberries contains 8g of fiber and helps stabilize blood sugar. The fiber keeps you full for longer and can decrease the need or want for snacking later.”
“Many diets on the market focus on restricting foods that you love and make you believe you must omit them to reach your health goals, but restriction can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food to where we view food as ‘good’ or ‘bad.'” says Kearney. “This may lead to binge eating later on and promote feelings of guilt. If you do consume foods that taste good to you, enjoy them and move on! All foods can be part of a balanced diet, and when we tell ourselves we will never eat that XYZ food again it causes an all or nothing mentality – I am going to eat all this food now, because I am never going to have it again. This causes us to eat past our natural hunger and fullness cues to where we feel uncomfortably full.” Keep reading for one more essential piece of advice.
“Next time you eat, pay attention to how hungry you are when you start, and how your body responds as you start to get full,” says Kearney. “We all have a natural fullness scale to where our body identifies when we have consumed enough food, but sometimes we don’t listen to it because we are too distracted when eating, or the ‘rules’ of many fad diets dictate when and how much to eat. The best way to work towards your health goals is to be gentle with yourself, listen to your body’s needs, and pay attention to how food makes you think and feel.” As now that you’ve got a great foundation, don’t miss these additional 19 Weight Loss Foods That Really Work, Say Experts.