Here are ten appealing foods to help you lose weight, stay trim and healthy and sculpt your figure.
By Holly Corbett
Health & Fitness
August 24, 2014
Fermented foods such as yogurt are weight-loss wonders because they’re packed with probiotics, the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, help your body digest food, and regulate metabolism, says registered dietitian and SuperKids Nutrition founder Melissa Halas-Liang. “But prebiotics, which probiotics must feed off of in order to survive, are equally important. Research shows that prebiotics support weight loss by helping you feel more satisfied—and that means less reaching for junk food.” Artichokes are an ideal source of prebiotics, as are other veggies high in soluble fibers such as leeks, garlic, oats, and soybeans. Artichokes are also packed with filling fiber and protein, so consider using canned hearts to top your salad or round out a pasta dish.
2) Plain Ol' Water
Okay, it’s not exactly a food, but sipping water ensures you don’t mistake thirst for hunger, says registered dietitian Keri Gans,author of The Small Change Diet. “Water fills you up so that you eat less.” And drinking it cold may even help speed up your resting metabolism a tiny bit—say, by about 50 calories a day if you sip six cold cups—according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Make it feel fancier by adding seasonal fruits like watermelon and strawberries or herbs such as ginger and mint. Leaving a cool dispenser—we like Prodyne Fruit Infusion Pitcher, which has a removable rod to hold fruit—out on the counter will help remind you to pour yourself a tall glass.
It’s not too good to be true. One study found that regular chocolate eaters were actually slimmer than people who didn’t indulge as often—even though they ate slightly more calories overall and exercised no longer than the control group. Why? “When you deprive yourself, you’re ultimately more likely to overeat,” says Gans. “If you take the guilt factor away, there's a better chance you'll eat chocolate in moderation, and only until you feel satisfied.” Another theory is that chocolate increases levels of feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which has a calming effect so you’re less likely to keep eating to self-soothe, says Halas-Liang.
4) Almond Butter
High-protein, high-fiber, and healthy-fat-packed nuts are filling and satisfying. In fact, research published in the journal Obesityshows that people who eat a small portion of nuts two or more times a week are less likely to gain weight than those who don’t. And even though nuts are caloric, some research suggests that the body may absorb only about 15 percent of their calories, says Halas-Liang. “It’s hard to eat only one serving of nuts, so I’m a big fan of almond butter, which adds a lot of flavor to snacks,” says Gans. It's also an even better source of magnesium than peanut butter, a mineral that helps support a healthy metabolism. Try adding a tablespoon to oatmeal or a smoothie at breakfast or spreading it on whole-grain crackers for an afternoon snack.
5) Cottage Cheese
“I don’t think any other type of cheese is as filling, and it has tons of protein and calcium," says Gans. "I recommend the low-sodium kind to avoid bloat.” More proof that enjoying low-fat diary such as cottage cheese may be slimming: Research done at the University of Tennessee found that people who ate three to four servings of calcium-rich dairy a day could consume 150 to 200more overall calories and still lose weight when compared to those who ate two servings a day or less. Other studies associate being low on calcium with higher levels of body fat, potentially because conjugated linoleic acid in dairy helps your body burn fat. “The secret is to use healthy staples as toppings, not just as diet foods,” says Gans. Top a baked sweet potato with pesto and cottage cheese, stir it into oatmeal, or add to pasta.
The mild, nutty-flavored fruit is high in appetite-suppressing healthy fats, meaning it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and can take up to six hours to fully digest. Avocadoes are also rich in L-carnitine, an amino acid that may fuel your metabolism. “Research suggests that people who eat avocadoes have lower BMIs and smaller waist circumferences,” says Halas-Liang. “It’s because of the satiating combo of high water volume, fiber, and healthy fat.” Try swapping a serving—about one quarter of an avocado—for butter or mayonnaise on sandwiches to help fill you up, and fold slices into eggs for extra flavor.
“Raspberries are a skinny staple because they help keep you full,” says Gans. “They have more than 85 percent water volume to ward off dehydration and 8 grams of fiber per one-cup serving.” Lay raspberries on a baking sheet and freeze overnight before transferring to a freezer bag. They taste delicious on hot summer days.
If you’re a granola bar or bagel woman, try giving your breakfast a protein makeover. “Eggs enhance satiety, which lowers overall energy intake,” says Halas-Liang. People who eat higher amounts of protein at breakfast feel more satisfied and are less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks later on, according to Obesity. In fact, a high-protein breakfast may keep you from eating an extra 200 calories during nighttime snacking. Hard-boil eggs at night and pop them in the fridge, then have them with fruit for an on-the-go morning meal.
“You can eat volumes of veggies for a lot less calories than most other foods,” says Gans. “Spinach, in particular, is a good choice because it’s full of iron to help keep your energy levels up, allowing you make better food choices.” Iron is also necessary to deliver oxygen to your cells, which they need for energy and to burn fat. For women, the recommended daily allowance of iron is 18 mg, and simply adding a side of cooked spinach to a meal offers 6 mg. Squeeze a vitamin-C-rich lemon over a cup of steamed spinach to help your body better absorb the mineral.
“Pickles are wonderful snacks because they satisfy a craving for something crunchy or salty, but have so few calories that you may burn more digesting them than eating them,” says Gans. “Go for the Kosher dill kind, which are lower in sodium.” We think they’re best eaten the old-fashioned way, so grab a spear and crunch away.