What to eat to lose weight?
All calories are not created equal.
Sure, weight loss is achieved by consuming fewer calories than you burn, but the foods you choose to eat should be high in quality.
While there is no single food to magically drop pounds, the foods you eat play a big role in how full you feel.
They also affect how long you stay satisfied and how much you eat throughout the day.
It is important to include a variety of healthy foods into your diet to promote weight reduction and properly nourish your body.
In this article, we will discuss 15 healthy foods to lose weight.
You may also like: 13 Worst Foods for People Who Want to Lose Weight
15 Best Foods To Eat To Lose Weight
1. Greek Yogurt
You will likely find this superfood listed in many articles as a top food to aid in weight loss.
Greek yogurt is a newer alternative to traditional yogurt and is packed with protein, calcium, and probiotics—also known as good bacteria that promote a healthy gut.
It is strained, which eliminates whey and reduces overall lactose content which makes for a great choice for those with lactose sensitivity.
This results in a thicker, creamier texture with a lower sugar and carbohydrate content when compared to other dairy products.
Greek yogurt is packed with protein. Six ounces contain around 15 grams of protein, which is equivalent to 2 ounces of meat.
Oatmeal is one of the healthiest whole grains and makes a great breakfast option for those looking to lose weight.
Packed with fiber and protein, one cup of cooked oatmeal contains just 150 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
It also contains a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan.
Avoid instant oats and those packed with sugar and extra calories.
Due to very minimal processing, steel-cut oats are one of the healthiest types of oats to eat.
Pair with grapefruit or berries for breakfast and you have a perfect blend of nutrients to fuel your day.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are whole grain, gluten-free food that has grown in popularity and has been a staple in many weight-loss diets.
Chia seeds may be small, but they are a nutrient powerhouse.
Chia seeds aid in weight loss due to their high protein and fiber content.
Just one tablespoon contains around 5 grams of fiber and 2.3 grams of protein.
Most of the carbs in chia seeds are not digestible and balanced out by the fiber for a total of 1 gram of digestible or net carb.
Because of the high soluble fiber content, these tiny seeds significantly expand and form a gel when in contact with water.
They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus.
While some people like snacking on natural seeds, they are typically added as an ingredient in smoothies, dressings, and pudding.
Quinoa is a whole grain that is high in fiber and protein which leads to you feeling more full after consumption.
It is also a great option for those with gluten intolerance as it is naturally gluten-free.
Quinoa is a low glycemic index food, meaning it will not spike your blood sugar and it takes longer to absorb into the bloodstream.
Compared to many refined grains, it is packed with fiber and protein and contains fewer calories compared to pasta.
One cup of quinoa has 5 grams of fiber versus white rice with just .6 grams of fiber.
With 8 grams of protein in one cup, it contains nearly double the protein in other grains like white or brown rice
This versatile food can be eaten cold or hot.
It pairs well with tomatoes and chickpeas for a salad or used in a casserole dish.
It is important to make sure you get enough protein in your daily diet.
Not only does your body need it to repair and build tissue, but protein intake also supports weight loss, improves metabolism, and fights obesity.
One study has shown protein has a higher thermogenic effect than carbs and fat.
Approximately 20-30% of calories from protein consumed are used to metabolize the food compared to fat ( <3%) and carbs (5-10%) (4).
Protein does not necessarily have to come from animals, many plant-based foods are high in protein.
More recent studies have shown the benefits of consuming more plant-based proteins in place of animal protein to provide health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and controlling chronic disease.
Good sources of lean protein from animals include chicken breast, turkey breast, tuna, cottage cheese, kefir, and lean ground meat.
Good sources of plant-based protein include chickpeas, pistachios, lentils, and beans such as kidney beans or black beans.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that not only helps regulate blood sugar levels but also reduces inflammation and reduces blood pressure.
The type you use plays a great impact on the health benefits it delivers.
Extra virgin olive oil is considered the healthiest type because it is the least processed and the purest.
It is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that are considered to be healthy fats.
One study in women with obesity showed that diets high in MUFAs are associated with weight loss, decreased fat mass, and smaller waist circumference (5).
There have been many new diet trends that support coconut oil intake, but this is still very controversial.
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains nearly 13 grams of saturated fat compared to one tablespoon of olive oil which contains just 1 gram.
Like any food, olive oil should be consumed in moderation as excess intake can potentially lead to weight gain.
Avocados sometimes get a bad name because of their high-calorie content.
While avocados are higher in calories, they are packed with healthy fats and vitamins that, when consumed in moderation, provide health benefits.
They are a great source of Vitamin C, E, K, B6, potassium, and fiber, and one of the best foods you can eat to promote weight reduction and overall satiety.
Next time you question adding this healthy fruit as an ingredient in your meal, don’t think twice!
Studies have shown that consumption of avocado can help you feel full for 6 hours after you eat it (7).
In general, most seafood is great to include in your diet.
One of the best types of seafood to support weight loss is fish.
It not only contains heart-healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and many other vitamins to reduce the risk of chronic disease, it can promote weight loss.
Omega-3s from fish have also been shown to burn body fat.
In a 6 week study, participants who consumed fish oil lost approximately 1 pound of fat and an increase in fat-free mass (8).
Fish typically provides fewer calories than other protein sources with comparable protein content.
Some of the best choices to make when choosing which fish to eat are tuna, salmon, sardines, and cod.
Fish is a great source of iodine which also promotes healthy thyroid function and metabolism function.
The healthiest way to cook fish is steaming, baking, and grilling.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming two (3.5 oz) servings of fish per week for maximum health benefits (9).
Nuts are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber making them another great addition to your meal plan.
Some people tend to shy away from nuts because of the high-fat content, but nuts are primarily made up of unsaturated fat (the good fat) and are naturally low in carbohydrates.
This superfood also contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to reduce belly fat and fight inflammation.
Some of the best sources of nuts to eat as a snack are almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
You may even try almond butter or peanut butter made from groundnuts.
One of the best ways to limit portion size and ensure you are not consuming more than a serving is to buy pre-packaged almonds or walnut snack packs or measure out a tablespoon of nut butter on a bagel, apple, or celery sticks.
Legumes are a superfood packed with fiber and plant-based protein.
Eating just one serving per day has weight loss benefits.
They contain complex carbs that take longer for digestion leading to longer fullness and reduce hunger and cravings.
Legumes may also increase metabolism due to their high protein content (3).
The best legumes to include in your diet are chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, and soybeans.
Just one cup of cooked beans contains around 15 grams of fiber, this is over half of the daily recommended intake of 25-30 grams.
One study in overweight and obese adults over the course of 8 weeks suggested that eating 5 cups of navy beans and other legumes was as effective as nutritional counseling for reducing fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, and waist circumference (10).
11. Sweet potato
The high fiber content of sweet potatoes helps you feel satisfied which can eliminate mindless snacking throughout the day.
Many people tend to avoid them due to their carbohydrate content, but all carbs are not created equal.
They have a lower glycemic index and are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes than regular potatoes.
They are rich in fiber, potassium, and b vitamins.
A medium-sized sweet potato contains nearly 4 grams of fiber which is over 15% of the recommended daily fiber intake.
This versatile food is greatly baked, broiled, or even made into fries and cooked in the air fryer!
Kale is a superfood that promotes weight loss and provides essential nutrients to the body.
It is very low in calories but high in volume which means you can consume larger quantities and feel full without packing extra calories.
It is a great ingredient to add to salads, smoothies, or baked in the oven for a low-calorie snack.
Paired with celery and other low-calorie veggies, it has been used as a key ingredient in a lot of newer juicing trends.
Kale is full of vitamins A, K, C, calcium, potassium, and manganese.
Vitamin A, in particular, plays a role in fat cell regulation and hormones they release, which supports healthy body weight.
13. Cruciferous Vegetables
Most people do not include enough vegetables in their diet.
One of the best types of vegetables to consume is cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
These Veggies are crucial and play a key part in just about all science-backed weight-loss diets.
Not only are they low in calories, but they are also high in fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
In addition, they contain more protein than many other vegetables.
You may find more traditional salads that used iceberg lettuce have switched to cruciferous veggies shaved down to provide more nutrients.
Pair with a source of lean protein and a light salad dressing, and you now have a complete meal.
As a rule of thumb, it is important to fill your plate half full with veggies to reduce calories and promote fullness.
Fruits are an essential part of healthy diets and are great for weight loss.
They are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and contain just enough natural sugar to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Packed with antioxidants, they also can prevent cancer and other chronic diseases by protecting cells against damage.
The best low-calorie fruits for weight loss include grapefruit, berries, blueberries, and melon.
Fruit can be purchased fresh while in season or frozen in which the nutrients are preserved and better than canned which often contains added sugars.
You want to limit consuming large quantities of higher-calorie tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, and banana.
Be sure to avoid fruit juice and other fruit beverages that include extra processing, which leads to added sugar and calories.
15. Dark chocolate
Chocolate is often thought of as a dieting no-no— this is not true!
Dark chocolate has been studied to reduce cravings and increase the feeling of fullness.
In one study in women, consumption and even the aroma itself of dark chocolate decreased appetite and reduced levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger (11).
Another study found that consumption of dark chocolate led to overall mood improvement (12).
By having an improved mood, you might find the extra motivation to exercise or avoid mindless stress eating.
Be mindful though because dark Chocolate does contain a high amount of calories so it’s best to limit consumption to under 1.5 oz (around 150 calories) daily.
Final Takeaway on What to Eat to Lose Weight
The best foods for weight loss are whole foods that include a variety of whole grains, carbohydrates and protein, and dairy along with healthy fats in moderation.
If you notice, the majority of the foods listed are high in protein and fiber.
This is no coincidence as there is an abundance of science-backed research to support the intake of high fiber, high protein foods.
According to one of many studies, a group that consumed a high protein, high fiber diet lost more weight and body fat compared to those who consumed a regular diet.
There is so much false information provided about fad diets and gimmicks claiming to drop weight quickly that simply do not work and can even lead to disordered eating patterns.
The simple way to lose weight and have long-term success is consuming a variety of whole foods, portion control, and eating a generally healthy diet that includes the above 15 foods that help you lose weight.
Be sure to include “unhealthy” foods that you enjoy in moderation to prevent burnout and deprivation which can lead to overeating.
Be kind to your body and fuel it with healthy foods from all food groups.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to make healthy changes, start with your next meal—your body will thank you.
- Weigle, David S et al. “A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 82,1 (2005): 41-8. doi:10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41
- Beck, Eleanor J et al. “Oat beta-glucan increases postprandial cholecystokinin levels, decreases insulin response and extends subjective satiety in overweight subjects.” Molecular nutrition & food research vol. 53,10 (2009): 1343-51. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200800343
- Lejeune, Manuela P G M et al. “Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 83,1 (2006): 89-94. doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.1.89
- Westerterp, Klaas R. “Diet induced thermogenesis.” Nutrition & metabolism vol. 1,1 5. 18 Aug. 2004, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-5
- Kaippert, Vanessa, et al. “Effects of Unsaturated Fatty Acids on Weight Loss, Body Composition and Obesity Related Biomarkers.” Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, vol. 7, no. Suppl 1, 2015, doi:10.1186/1758-5996-7-s1-a139.
- Siri-Tarino, Patty W., et al. “Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients.” Current Atherosclerosis Reports, vol. 12, no. 6, 2010, pp. 384–390., doi:10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6.
- Zhu, Lanjun, et al. “Using the Avocado to Test the Satiety Effects of a Fat-Fiber Combination in Place of Carbohydrate Energy in a Breakfast Meal in Overweight and Obese Men and Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 5, 2019, p. 952., doi:10.3390/nu11050952.
- Noreen, E.E., Sass, M.J., Crowe, M.L. et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7, 31 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-31
- “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.
- Mollard, R C et al. “Regular consumption of pulses for 8 weeks reduces metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese adults.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 108 Suppl 1 (2012): S111-22. doi:10.1017/S0007114512000712
- Massolt, Elske T et al. “Appetite suppression through smelling of dark chocolate correlates with changes in ghrelin in young women.” Regulatory peptides vol. 161,1-3 (2010): 81-6. doi:10.1016/j.regpep.2010.01.005
- Nehlig, Astrid. “The Neuroprotective Effects of Cocoa Flavanol and Its Influence on Cognitive Performance.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 75, no. 3, 2013, pp. 716–727., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.0