March 26, 2023

Diet culture will have us believe that in order to lose weight, we need to eliminate completely healthy foods, like carbs, gluten or dairy. But research shows us that restrictive diets don't work. You're much better off focusing your efforts on eating more of the foods that help you lose weight. We talked with two dietitians to get their recommendations for what to add to your grocery cart to do just that. These 9 foods deliver fiber and protein, while being lower-in-calories—a combination that makes it easy to lose weight, without feeling deprived. Read on to learn more about these dietitian-approved picks. 
"Upping your vegetable intake is a great place to start when trying to lose weight or get healthier in general," Jessica Ball, M.S., RD says. "Tacking on a side salad to your meals is a delicious way to fill you up and add fiber and nutrients to your eating pattern." Leafy greens—like spinach, kale, collards, lettuce and cabbage—deliver fiber and water, meaning they'll keep you hydrated and help fill you up for very few calories. Keeping pre-washed salad greens or a bagged salad kit on hand makes it easy to toss together a leafy green salad when you're in a pinch. Not particularly fond of salads? Throw greens in a smoothie instead.  
See More: 5 Reasons to Love Dark Leafy Greens 
Snacks are especially important when trying to lose weight, as they help prevent you from becoming too hungry in between meals. Choosing a snack like popcorn allows you to eat a large serving for few calories, which means you'll feel nice and satisfied while working toward your weight loss goals. With a crunch akin to chips, it's a good alternative that delivers about 4 grams of satisfying fiber in 3 cups. "If you're hungry, you need something to grab that's low calorie and also going to fill you up," Killeen says. "Popcorn is one of those great ones."
Pairing well with just about anything, olive oil houses a slew of health benefits. One tablespoon contains 14 grams of healthy fat—including mono- and polyunsaturated types, which help keep cholesterol levels in check and protect against heart disease. "Just a little bit of olive oil makes stuff taste so much better," Breanna Killeen, M.P.H, RD, says. "Plus, you need fat to absorb nutrients and keep you satisfied and full. You want to pick something, like olive oil, which is an unsaturated fat that is both healthy but also has that satiating effect." All around, olive oil is a great grocery store buy, and a tasty oil-based dressing levels up any veg-packed salad.
Contrary to what trendy fad diets might suggest, research says opting for whole-fat dairy doesn't contribute to obesity. In fact, it might even help prevent it. The low-fat yogurt varieties lining the shelves might be lower-in-calories, but with the lack of fat, they're also less satisfying. Opting for whole milk yogurt keeps you full longer, which helps fend off mindless snacking later. Yogurt not only builds bone strength (hello, calcium), it also delivers a healthy dose of protein and probiotic cultures that aid digestion. Killeen recommends buying it plain, then adding honey and fruit as a natural sweetener. Or, top with homemade granola.
Small, but mighty, chia seeds might be a best-kept secret when it comes to weight loss. "To me, chia seeds are a no-brainer to add to your shopping list if you want to up your fiber intake. The little seeds boast an impressive 10 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per a 2 tablespoon serving, making them filling and nutritious," Ball says. "Research has shown they can help with weight loss and reduce waist circumference, which is important for keeping your internal organs healthy." Ball recommends popping these powerhouse seeds in oatmeal, smoothies and salads to sneak them into your daily diet.
Arguably the most versatile food of all time, eggs go with any meal. Whether it's egg cups in the morning, a hard-boiled egg for lunch or fried rice with eggs for dinner, they're a quick-cooking option that delivers a healthy amount of protein per serving. "Especially if you're somebody who doesn't want to eat as many carbohydrates, or if you're gluten free, eggs are such a great option," Killeen says. "They're also a good source of fat and micronutrients that you can't get in a lot of other places—like biotin and vitamin D." 
Related: How to Buy Eggs: What Do Organic, Cage-Free and Free-Range Labels Mean? 
Calling all fizz fans! Seltzer, or sparkling water, is a healthy alternative that satisfies the craving for something carbonated, without all the added sugar. Fluids are filling, so sipping on water or seltzer during the day can not only help you stay hydrated but can also contribute to a feeling of fullness. Not to say that water or seltzer should ever replace a meal. Plain seltzer water contains one ingredient only—carbonated water. Squeeze in some fresh lemon or little juice to make it more interesting. 
See More: Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Seltzer, According to Dietitians 
Eating a hearty breakfast is necessary to have a productive, energized day. Research even shows people who regularly eat breakfast tend to be slimmer and keep weight off easier. "Oats are full of fiber, specifically a type called soluble fiber, that promotes feelings of fullness and helps lower cholesterol," Ball says. "Getting plenty of fiber and regularly eating a breakfast like oats can help with weight loss. I eat them almost every morning with some fruit, nut butter and a sprinkle of chia seeds so I know I'm getting a nutritious, fiber-packed breakfast." All things considered, oats are a great way to start out your day. Not to mention, they're affordable and will last forever in your pantry. 
Related: Healthy Oatmeal Recipes 
"If you're not allergic, nuts and nut butters are perfect snack foods to have around the house," Ball says. "They're packed with healthy fats, fiber and protein that can help you feel full in between meals." Like popcorn, nuts are another great snack to have around for when midday munchies hit. Regardless of variety, nuts are packed with healthy fats and some protein, and research suggests eating more of them can help ward off weight gain and diabetes risk. Snack on them alone or swipe nut butter on apple slices or a rice cake for a healthy snack option. Nut allergy? Try seed butter instead. 
Eliminating healthy foods like carbs, gluten or dairy isn't an effective approach for sustainable weight loss. Instead, nourish your body right with foods that wield healthy amounts of protein and fiber, while being lower-in-calories, to increase satiety and keep you full longer—without feeling deprived. Remember to give yourself grace, weight loss is a marathon—not a sprint. And it certainly doesn't require you to abandon all the foods you love.


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