It’s hard to say that there are magical weight-loss powers in food, as eating anything won’t automatically help you shed weight in that exact instant. However, there are some foods that are more nutritious than others. And this makes them awesome staples in a diet when you’re looking to drop a few pounds, or even just live an overall healthier life.
“While no single food will cause you to lose weight, foods high in protein and fiber help to keep you satisfied longer so you will likely nosh less and consume fewer calories overall,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Even if you’re not exactly looking to drop some pounds, it’s never a bad idea to stock up on healthy, nutrient-rich foods that each bring their own health benefits. So, here are the most underrated, yet delicious and clean foods that will best help you on your weight-loss journey. And while you’re at it, be sure to stock up on any of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
This often-overlooked gem is versatile, as cottage cheese is fabulous with fruit, on whole-grain toast, in oatmeal, and even mixed in salads. More importantly, cottage cheese has a super high protein content, which helps to keep you full in between meals.
“It’s the secret to creamy smoothies as it’s much less tangy than Greek yogurt, you can mix it into eggs before scrambling for a cheesy, creamy texture, or as a protein boost in pancake batter,” says Harris-Pincus. The possibilities are endless, and you will benefit from about 13 grams of satisfying protein per 1/2 cup serving of cottage cheese. Not sure which option to buy? Here are the five best cottage cheese brands, according to nutritionists.
Chia seeds definitely are thought of as a “trendy” food, but they do live up to the hype.
“These trendy, nutrient packed seeds have a special quality: they absorb more than ten times their weight in water, allowing them to swell in your digestive tract and help to keep you satisfied,” says Harris-Pincus.
They’re easy to incorporate into meals, too. Simply sprinkle a teaspoon or two into yogurt, over your salad, in your oatmeal, or add them to baked goods you’re making yourself. For only 20 calories per teaspoon, you will benefit from protein, fiber, coveted omega-3 fats, and prolonged fullness.
You might overlook pistachios since deshelling them makes them a bit more difficult to eat, but that’s part of their allure.
See, for 100 calories, you get to enjoy approximately 30 nuts. When you purchase the ones in the shell, taking that extra time to open them before you eat gives you more time to feel satisfied.
“The plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats will help keep you full so pre-portion them in zipper bags to grab and go, especially for afternoon snacks or on long car trips,” says Harris-Pincus.
Tend to find yourself skipping breakfast because you don’t have the time to scramble or fry up an egg? An easy fix is hard-boiling eggs.
“For only 70 calories, the high-quality protein and fat will fill you up and help prevent you from mindless noshing and decrease your likelihood of making impulsive food choices,” says Harris-Pincus. Don’t worry about the cholesterol, either. “Research has shown that the cholesterol in eggs is not only lower than we once thought, but it’s also not a contributing factor to heart disease,” she says.
Oatmeal isn’t necessarily thought of as the most exciting breakfast choice, but it’s one of the best meals to start your day with. And that’s because oats really are a stellar health food.
“This healthy whole grain contains a soluble fiber, beta-glucan, which can help to manage cholesterol and blood sugar,” says Harris-Pincus. You can make old-fashioned oatmeal, overnight oats, energy balls, or even grind them into flour to use for baking.
“This warming (or cooling) beverage serves a dual purpose: not only is it full of antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals, but it has the benefit of slightly increasing your metabolism,” says Harris-Pincus.
Fun fact for you: Sipping tea in the evening instead of snacking, or trading in your latte for a cup of iced or hot green tea will lower your calorie intake and may help you burn a few extra. Just remember that adding sugar to sweeten it will defeat the purpose, so sip on it unsweetened! (And here’s how you can learn to harness the power of tea to lose weight.)
An avocado (that happens to be high in fat and fiber) in the morning? Yes, absolutely!
“Incorporating avocados into your breakfast meal (think avocado toast with an egg on top) can definitely help you feel fuller and prevent you from unwanted snacking between meals,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD.
Almonds or peanuts might be the first type of nuts that come to mind when you think of snacking, but don’t forget about walnuts.
A study published in Nutrition showed that healthy, young adults who regularly consume foods that contain polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), like walnuts, may experience favorable changes in appetite hormones associated with hunger and satiety.
“Participants who consumed a PUFA-rich diet had a significant decrease in fasting ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, and a significant increase in peptide YY (PYY), a hormone that increases fullness or satiety,” says Michalczyk. “These hormone changes could help with better appetite control so snack on walnuts or add them to things like salads, yogurt, or trail mix,” she says.
High fiber legumes like chickpeas and black beans are not only a good source of plant-based protein, which will help keep you fuller for longer, but they also contain fiber for a boost.
“This one-two punch of staying power from protein and fiber will make any meals you add legumes to very filling which ultimately can help you eat less from snacking and feel very satisfied from your meals while still trying to lose weight,” says Michalczyk.