What to Eat to Lose Weight: The Ultimate Shopping Checklist
Eating better always starts at the grocery store. Follow this checklist to load your cart up with healthy, filling foods.
What's the healthiest vegetable on the planet? If you said kale, you would be wrong. According to research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the true powerhouse vegetable is watercress, a cruciferous cousin of kale that grows in fresh spring water and adds a peppery punch to salads. Use spicy watercress raw in smoothies or sandwiches for a good-for-you boost. Other ideas: Gently cook the greens as you would spinach, or try this simple salad of watercress and macadamia nuts from celebrity chef Ming Tsai. Check out these 12 delicious superfoods that will boost your diet.
Wondering what to eat to lose weight? Eating more whole grains could be your golden ticket to losing lingering belly fat, according to experts. In a study that followed participants over a 12-week period, those who replaced calories with whole grains lost more belly fat than other dieters. Which are best? Look for grains that are unprocessed and are low on the glycemic index, says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, and Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, with a ratio of ten to one carbs to fiber. "A better rule in choosing a whole-grain product is to look for those that have, per serving, at least one gram of fiber for every ten grams of total carbohydrate," he says. Another smart choice is steel cut oats that are especially good with these healthy and tasty toppings.
Seeds are the new herbs and spices of the 21st century. Chia, hemp, flax, wheat germ, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, turn up in everything from restaurant entrees to bakery treats, and power up bread, cereals, and waffles. The minuscule super seeds offer a bevy of nutrients including omega-3 and 6 fatty acids (particularly alpha-linolenic acid), protein, fiber, flavonoids, a host of vitamins and minerals, and great flavor and crunch, and should definitely be on your list of what to eat to lose weight. In recent studies, both chia and flaxseeds have been shown to increase satiety and reduce appetite. Add them to smoothies, salads, cookies, or sprinkle over your favorite cereal or vegetable dishes. Find out all the seeds you should be eating regularly.
Filled with healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados also contain nearly 20 of your daily vitamins and minerals. A study on avocados published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half an avocado with lunch reported feeling satisfied longer with less desire to eat more afterward. But there's an avocado caveat: Don't go overboard (avocados clock in at around 230 calories with 25 to 30 grams fat), or you'll probably add pounds, says Caroline M. Apovian, MD, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. "Avocados are very good for you, but any food with that much fat, even if it's a healthy fat, should be used sparingly," advises Apovian, "You still need to reduce calories to lose weight." Find out the 13 things experts won't tell you about weight loss.
Some of the most nutritious and deliciously satisfying vegetables are actually fruits: Think tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. According to Dr. Mozaffarian, these fruits/veggies contain powerful phytonutrients and fiber to provide a lot of bang for your nutritional buck. Eggplant gets high marks for its umami/meat-like flavor and texture as well as its high fiber and water content, which increases satiety and helps stave off hunger pangs. Low in calories—one cup of cooked eggplant has only 35 calories and six carbs—you can enjoy more of it. Eaten skin-on, eggplants contain potent antioxidant phenolics scientists are just beginning to study. (These are the 15 worst weight-loss tips doctors wish you'd stop following.)
A two-tablespoon serving of natural or organic peanut butter—crunchy or smooth—contains 8 grams of protein, 25 percent of your daily niacin, and 16 grams of good, monounsaturated fat, and fiber, making it an ideal stand-in for the saturated fat in meats. A 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating peanut butter in the morning can help rein in your appetite for the rest of the day. Sprinkle with flaxseeds, a few berries and a drizzle of honey. For a quick snack later in the day, spread a tablespoon of your favorite peanut butter onto a firm-ripe banana. The carbs will give you a mood and energy boost, while the protein will keep you going for hours until mealtime. Don't miss the 19 tips a weight-loss coach won't tell you for free.
A carb-free pasta with only five calories a serving? Sign us up! Made from glucomannan, a type of viscous fiber that comes from the root of the Asian konjac plant, shirataki noodles—also called miracle noodles—aid in weight loss (only five calories per serving) as they move very slowly through the digestive track, making you feel fuller longer. Available in many supermarkets where you find other fresh refrigerated noodles, shirataki are vegan-friendly and gluten-free. At about 97 percent water, the virtually flavorless shirataki noodles work well in most Asian noodle recipes like this simple Japanese cucumber-sesame noodle salad.
You've heard it before but it's worth repeating: Yogurt, preferably plain Greek with your own fresh toppings to keep calories in check, can help you lose pounds and trim your waistline. Most experts point to the yogurt's generous amount of protein (about 18 grams per serving) for helping you feel full and satisfied. But it may be the active cultures that correct your gut bacteria that's been linked to weight loss in women, says Dr. Mozaffarian. (Find out the 12 diet secrets of people who maintained their weight loss.)
Toss in blender, whirl, drink sloooooowly
Smoothies are one of the most convenient delivery systems for protein (especially made with Greek yogurt), fiber, phytonutrients, good fats, and a world of antioxidants—depending on what you add. (For smoothie beginners, start with a combo of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.) If you don't have time to fire up the blender, choose a lower sugar kefir or bottled smoothie product. Smoothies are an easy way to get your five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables and soothe your belly probiotics, says Dr. Mozaffarian—but drink it slowly for optimal results. Slowing down the speed at which you eat (along with cutting out after dinner snacks and not eating close to bedtime) may help to shed the pounds, suggests the latest research published in the online journal BMJ Open.
Break out of your protein routine by choosing fresh fish more often and going vegetarian two to three days a week, says Caroline M. Apovian, MD, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. It's also important to reduce the amount of animal protein you consume, says Dr. Mozaffarian. "It's not so much that it needs to be low-fat meat," he says, "you just need to eat less of it." In research published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that mega-carnivores (those who eat more than 18 ounces per day) were 27 percent more likely to be obese and 33 percent more likely to have excessive abdominal fat than adults who averaged less than one ounce of meat daily. What's more, the biggest meat lovers consumed about 700 more calories per day versus the more plant-focused eaters. The key is to minimize the animal protein you consume during a week.
Eating a healthy real food diet also means eating real chocolate and ice cream, only with clean and natural ingredients and calorie- and carb-friendly sweeteners. Take our new addiction Choczero's Keto Bark, artisanal dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt. It's sugar-free and sweetened with monk fruit fiber blend and other natural ingredients (120 calories per ounce, ten grams of fat, and two grams of carbs). Then there's genius ice cream Halo Top—made with real dairy and coconut milk for vegans, that delivers an authentic ice cream experience—minus gunky fillers and fake sugars—and only about 280 calories per pint for most flavors. Hooray for Halo!
Green or black tea
What to drink with all of this? A freshly brewed hot cup of tea. (Just not herbal.) Brimming with antioxidants called catechins, most of us have heard that green tea (but not iced tea or purchased tea in a bottle) are powerhouses of antioxidants. Now scientists at UCLA have found that black tea may promote weight loss by altering gut bacteria in a good way. "The results suggest that both green and black teas are prebiotics, substances that induce the growth of good microorganisms that contribute to a person's well-being," said Susanne Henning, the study's lead author and an adjunct professor at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Try these weight-loss teas to drop more pounds.
Fruit—lots of it!
The best thing about a real-food diet is that most experts say you can eat all the fruits and vegetables you want as long as you eat a wide variety, that is. This way you'll be getting lots of filling fiber, complex carbs, and powerful mix of phytochemicals to keep you nourished throughout your weight-loss journey. "Focusing on just one fruit isn't really something I endorse, says Dr. Mozaffarian. "Instead, make yourself a fruit cup to eat as a side dish or snack between meals." A cup is only about 65 calories. Dole out portions into individual containers to grab when you're on the go or try one of these natural fruit-infused waters.
Good news for bone broth connoisseurs: One of the simplest, pain-free ways to drop a size is to eat a lower-calorie, broth-based soup before your meals. In several studies examining soup, including this one out of Penn State University, participants who ate soup before consuming a lunch entree ended up eating 20 percent less than those who did not eat soup. Adding vegetables and protein to your soup also helps slow the emptying rate from your stomach so you won't be hungry later on.
Say yes to spicy Korean kimchi, a nutrient-dense probiotic food that's a fermented mixture of Chinese cabbage, salt, vinegar, lots of garlic, and enough chili paste to coat it red. Kimchi's biggest health benefit is its active bacteria strains, which promote a healthy gut and helped participants in a research study (published in Nutrition Research) lose body fat.
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