Many people believe that eating healthy will lead to weight loss. While this is technically correct, many people don’t understand what “eating healthy” really entails or which foods promote fat loss.
Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy does not require the elimination of entire food groups. It also does not require an intense dieting. After all, your body needs adequate fat, carbs, and protein to remain healthy.
This means the best foods to eat while losing weight are energy-enhancing, nutrient-rich foods you already enjoy. The trick is to follow two basic rules:
- Eat fewer calories than you burn (calorie deficit)
- 80-85% of your foods should be nutrient dense
Ready to get started? Let’s break it down!
Calories In vs Calories Out
Calculating a healthy and realistic caloric deficit is an integral part of losing fat. Not only will this help modify your eating habits, but it will allow healthy and incremental weight loss.
How do you know how many calories you should eat to lose weight? Here is an easy equation I like to show clients to determine an estimated calorie deficit:
1. Determine a target weight.
2. Multiply that target by 12
The number you receive from this equation is the estimated number of calories you should eat within a day. It’s really that simple.
However, I would like to make one thing clear: your target weight is not always your end goal. Never reduce your target by more than 20-25lbs than your current weight.
How to Choose Your Daily Foods
Technically, you could lose weight eating only Big Macs or Pop Tarts. But would you feel good? Probably not. Would you be hungry all the time? Most likely.
This is why it’s so important to learn how to make your calorie deficit give you as much satiety and nutrition as possible. Some of my favorite food suggestions, by category, are below.
High Protein Food
Every time we talk about weight loss, we end up discussing protein. While a common diet trope, protein garners attention for some very good reasons.
For one, protein keeps you fuller for fewer calories than fat or carbs. This increases your satiety, reducing overeating and persistent hunger.
Second, the body uses more calories when digesting protein compared to other nutrients. This is due to something called the thermic effect. Through the thermic effect, you can boost your daily calorie burn just by digesting your meal!
Finally, getting enough protein means you don’t have to worry about excessive muscle loss while dieting.
Ideal protein intake, just like a caloric deficit, can be uncovered using a simple equation:
1. Determine your current body weight
2. Take your weight (in lbs) and multiply it by 0.8-1.0
The number you are left with is how many grams of protein you should consume a day. For example, a 150 lb female has an ideal protein range of 120-150 grams/day.
For a bit of inspiration, here are some of my favorite sources of protein:
- Boneless skinless chicken breast
- Lean ground turkey
- Dannon Greek Light & Fit Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg Whites
- Kodiak Cakes Flapjack and Waffle mix
- Legion Whey Protein Powder
- Built Bars
- Nick’s Stick’s Turkey Sticks
High Volume Food
High volume foods are an amazing tool to fight off hunger without taking in added calories. These foods physically take up lots of room in your plate and in your stomach while still being low calorie. The end result is that both your mind and your body feel satiated, reducing overeating.
Some examples of high volume foods are:
- Leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, pickles, zucchini
- Watermelon, Peaches, tomatoes
- Popcorn, Oatmeal
Try eating one really big salad a day to help stay full without loading up on calories!
High Fiber Food
Fiber does way more for the body than regulate digestion– it keeps you full.
High-fiber foods help stave off hunger in two notable ways: they are slow to digest and they retain water.
When we digest fiber, the slow digestion of these materials means they stay in our stomach longer. This physically keeps us full and satisfied. While there, fiber also absorbs water, making it physically take up more space over time.
For suggestions on some high-fiber foods, try incorporating the following into your diet:
- Raspberries, pears, apples, bananas
- Peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes with skin
- Spaghetti noodles, quinoa, oats, popcorn
- Lentils, black beans, chia seeds, pistachios
- Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Cookies
Nutrient Dense Food
Like eating enough protein and calories, eating a nutrient dense diet helps our body stay nourished and satisfied. Having ample micronutrients also keeps us as healthy as possible, meaning we feel better and more energized even while eating fewer calories.
Many clients I talk to however, have the wrong idea about nutrient-rich foods.
See, eating a nutrient-rich diet does not mean eating bland meals and abstaining from all sugar. In fact, a nutrient dense diet does the exact opposite by encouraging you to eat from a variety of food groups and explore a variety of new meats, fruits, and colorful vegetables.
In addition to lean proteins, try some of these!
- Purple grapes, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, mangoes
- Bell peppers, carrot sticks, celery, green beans, cabbage
- Quinoa, barley, oats, farro
- Almonds, Cashews, Pecans
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, chia
Treats in Moderation
If you’re cutting out all the foods you enjoy, or you’re forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t like, your diet isn’t going to work for you. This approach isn’t sustainable.
Use nutritional compromises to include foods that you really want to eat. For example if I want to enjoy ice cream as an after dinner dessert, I may eat a smaller serving of rice at lunch, and only half a banana instead of a full banana at breakfast. I’m choosing where to spend those calories.
Some yummy, but low calories treat that I enjoy include:
- Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars
- Sugar Free Jell-O cups
- Oreo Thins
- Popcorners Kettle Corn Chips
Understanding how many calories you can eat is just as important and knowing what foods to eat. This is because weight loss is a balancing act of getting adequate nutrition, energy, and fullness, all while maintaining a caloric deficit.
However, it’s not always necessary to begin the process from scratch. After all, the internet can be filled with an overwhelming amount of information– some of it may not even be correct.
As a nutritionist, this is why I developed my Eat Smart to Lose Fat 5 day challenge. Through this resource you will learn how to calculate your calorie deficit and receive 5 days of helpful tips straight to your inbox..
Not only is this a quick way to get started, it’s safe advice from a professional in the field.
Are you ready to begin?