Weight Loss Meal Substitutions That Taste Amazing

From turkey burgers to tacos, these simple meal ideas will help you lose weight and feel full all day.

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Losing weight—and keeping the pounds off—isn't a quick or easy process, but a few simple diet changes can help along the way. Our favorite: eating lots of protein, fiber, and complex carbs to keep you feeling energized and satisfied.

If you're unsure how to work superfoods into your daily menu, start with these healthy and simple meal ideas that have health benefits beyond losing weight.

And don't forget to see a healthcare provider if you are putting together a weight-loss plan.

BBQ Turkey Burgers

This spin on burgers is a delicious way to cut back on beef and eat more white meat turkey, an excellent source of lean protein and a favorite food of Jillian Michaels, personal trainer, businesswoman, author, and television personality. "Lean protein helps you stay fuller for longer," Michaels told Health. "It has the amino acids that are the building blocks for muscle."

Try This BBQ Turkey Burgers Recipe

In a medium bowl, gently mix ground white meat turkey, garlic, paprika, and cumin. Form the mixture into four (4-inch) patties and season each patty with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to medium-high and cook—flipping the burgers once—until burgers are just cooked through (about 7 minutes per side). Serve with desired toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, hummus, low-fat cheese, or grilled onions, and whole wheat or whole grain buns.

Energy-Revving Quinoa

Quinoa, an earthy whole grain that hails from South America, is packed with protein and fiber—a perfect combination for those looking to stay energized and eat healthfully.

Add some black beans (another excellent source of fiber), fresh veggies, and fragrant spices to the quinoa, and you have a satisfying dish. Make it as a main meal for lunch or as a side dish with dinner.

One cup of quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults consume 50 grams of protein daily as part of a 2,000-calorie diet.

Spinach-Quinoa Breakfast Salad

Looking for a healthy start to your day but tired of oatmeal? Try a breakfast salad! If you struggle to get your greens in, adding them to your breakfast is a great way to get all of those nutritious vitamins and minerals you're looking for.

Trust us, all the makings of your morning parfait help create an unexpected dish with pleasing crunch and pretty pops of color.

Try This Spinach-Quinoa Breakfast Salad With Berries and Granola Recipe

To prepare your plate, spread 1/4 cup yogurt evenly on 2 plates. For the dressing, whisk together 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon each of maple syrup and mustard, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of oil, while whisking constantly until fully emulsified.

Toss together spinach, cooked quinoa, fresh strawberries and blueberries, and half of the dressing in a medium bowl. Divide the salad between the plates, on top of the yogurt. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, and sprinkle with granola.

Steakhouse Salad

When portioned properly you can have a deliciously satisfying 4-ounce top sirloin steak for less than 350 calories per serving per USDA.

This recipe is all the best parts of a steakhouse meal—succulent beef, fresh spinach, and crispy potatoes in salad form. Go ahead, indulge.

Try This Steakhouse Salad Recipe

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon of oil and a pinch or two of pepper and salt. Scatter potatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast potatoes until golden and tender, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle the raw beef with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sear the beef until browned on all sides and a thermometer registers 130°F to 135°F (for medium-rare), about 3 minutes per side, or to your desired degree of doneness. Transfer the beef to a plate and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Reserve any juices in the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium-high. Add sliced or whole mushrooms and chopped or thinly sliced garlic. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons each of water and Worcestershire sauce, and cook for 1 minute. Remove the mushroom mixture into a side bowl to hold. Add chopped tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes to the hot skillet, Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato skin blisters, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil into vinegar mixture.

Serve on a bed of baby spinach topped with roasted potatoes, thinly sliced beef, mushroom mixture, and tomatoes. Drizzle salad dressing over the top, saving some dressing for another day.

Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles

This traditional Mexican breakfast meal requires only eight ingredients, including cooked chicken, queso blanco, and corn tortillas. When finished, it may look indulgent, but because it's baked (rather than fried), it comes in under 300 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.

The key ingredient for weight-conscious eaters is the black beans. They're high in protein, fiber, and lots of minerals, making them another superfood.

Try This Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles Recipe

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add sliced or chopped onion. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add thinly sliced or chopped garlic and sauté for another minute, adding cooking spray if needed. Add 2 cups of cubed cooked chicken and heat through, about 1-2 minutes, as you stir all the ingredients together. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in 1 cup of black beans.

For a sauce, add 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth and 1/4 cup salsa to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside.

Cut 4 corn tortillas into 1-inch strips and layer half of them on the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas and top with the remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Pour the broth mixture evenly over the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup lower-fat grated cheese. Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned and cheese is melted. This makes 4 servings, so you can enjoy it for several meals or share it with others.

Catch a Cioppino

Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which could be crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, and fish. The seafood is combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce.

At only 275 calories per serving, cioppino, a shellfish-laden Italian stew, will keep you feeling full long after you've eaten. Providing more than half your daily recommended protein intake, the shellfish in this stew makes for the perfect pescatarian-friendly food.

Try this cioppino-inspired recipe that is quick to make and can be served with toasted bread to dip into the delicious sauce.

Try a Shakshuka

Eggs are high in protein and low in fat. Rather than the typical scrambled egg breakfast though, try something new—like a Mediterranean shakshuka. It tastes like a hearty breakfast (or lunch), but isn't hearty in calories. In a Shakshouka, the eggs are poached in a tomato, olive oil, garlic, and spice-laden broth.

The Mediterranean diet is great for your gut, reducing inflammation, and promoting heart health, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So give this Shakshuka recipe a try.

Italian Garbanzo Salad

An Italian garbanzo salad is a vegetarian salad that features some of the Mediterranean diet's key pillars: low-fat dairy (low-fat feta cheese), fresh vegetables (tomato, onion), healthy fats (olive oil), and lean protein (chickpeas). Best of all, a one-cup serving is only 159 calories!

The star of this dish is the "powerhouse" food: garbanzo beans, otherwise known as chickpeas, which are packed with fiber and key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can try this Italian White Bean Salad recipe substituting garbanzo beans or using white beans—both are nutrient-packed.

Poached Salmon With Sauce

With 17 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving (according to the USDA) and a rich source of healthy omega-3 fats, salmon may also help regulate your appetite hormones. A 2017 study in Nutrition found that foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (such as walnuts, salmon, and canola oil) lead to an increase in a hormone related to satiety.

Try this Poached Salmon recipe topped with a delicious creamy sauce that uses reduced fat sour cream or substitute plain yogurt to keep it lower calorie and healthy. This recipe serves four, but you can easily cut the ingredients in half if you prefer to make fewer servings. And poaching the salmon in liquid means you don't have to worry about the fish tasting dry.

Crisp Chickpea Slaw

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are loaded with resistant starch. They're also a great source of protein and fiber, which will help keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Make this slaw for your weekday lunch or weekend picnic. Trust us: You and your picnic buddies won't be able to tell how healthy it is.

Try This Crisp Chickpea Slaw Recipe

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon each apple cider vinegar and water, plus a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. In a medium bowl mix together 1 cup each rinsed chickpeas and shredded cabbage and 1/4 cup each chopped celery and shredded carrots. Then toss with the yogurt dressing to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer the slaw to a storage container. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. You may want to shake the slaw to redistribute the dressing before serving. The slaw can be stored refrigerated for up to three days.

Ham, Pear, and Swiss Sandwich

The idea is all about flavors and textures: two ounces of lean ham, one ounce of low-fat Swiss cheese, sliced pear, yogurt-dill sauce, and pumpernickel bread. And it's loaded with filling fiber! One sandwich provides nearly one-third of your recommended daily fiber intake, with the pear alone providing 15% (the USDA recommends women consume 28 grams of fiber daily and men consume 38 grams).

A few tips:

  • Don't peel the pear skin—that's where most of the fiber goodness is found
  • To make the sauce, combine two tablespoons of yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon of freshly chopped dill
  • If you're looking for a hot meal, lightly spray the outsides of the bread with olive oil spray and press in a pan to make a grilled panini.

Pair Egg, Walnuts, and Brown Rice

Brown rice is a hearty, fiber-rich grain that's high in resistant starch—a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and then acts as a prebiotic providing food to good bacteria in the large intestine. Heating up leftover brown rice, then adding chopped walnuts and a poached egg on top makes a quick meal that combines carbs, protein, and healthy omega-3 fats for a balanced meal in a pinch.

Eggs Benedict Done Right

Eggs Benedict is a delicious and classic brunch dish. But English muffins topped with buttery hollandaise sauce isn't exactly the kindest combo for weight loss. For a healthier twist on your favorite savory morning treat, try these substitutions:

  • Swap out the English muffin for a whole-grain English muffin
  • Add omega-3-rich smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon.
  • For a vegetarian version, add portabella mushroom and sauteed spinach instead of Canadian bacon.
  • For the hollandaise sauce, use low fat sour cream, 1% milk and olive oil instead of butter

This eggs benedict recipe includes the healthier hollandaise sauce.

Asian Rice Noodle Salad

An Asian rice noodle salad or bowl is the perfect healthy meal idea when vegetables and noodles are in equal portions. For example, combine 1 cup of cooked noodles with at least 1 cup of sauteed vegetables (cabbage, bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, or any other vegetables of choice), then add a protein (like diced chicken, a scrambled egg, or tofu) and mix-in light soy sauce for a faster-than-takeout meal. Try this heart-healthy salmon noodle bowl.

Swap To Butternut Noodles

Who says you have to totally forgo pasta to lose weight? Choose nutrient-rich pasta like whole wheat pasta or pasta made from legumes (lentils, black beans, and chickpeas to name a few). Make the dish with 50% pasta and 50% vegetables to boost fiber and fillingness while keeping the calories in check. Paying attention to portion size is also key.

Adding parmesan cheese can add great flavor and help it feel indulgent—at less than 300 calories per two-cup serving.

Try a Salad With Quinoa

When the weather gets chilly, a salad likely isn't the first thing you crave. Instead, you're probably tempted to indulge on not-so-healthy comfort foods. But good news: There are plenty of ways to make your meals both nutritious and satisfying.

Try topping salad greens with warm quinoa for a small boost of protein (and comfort). No matter what time of year, a citrus salad with crispy quinoa and avocado is sure to hit the spot.

Warm Up With Lentil Soup

Brothy, thin soups may not fill you up, but lentil soup with whole-grain toasted pita wedges will keep you full until your next meal. Lentils are chock-full of fiber with over 15 grams per cup, according to the USDA. Try this 15-minute lentil soup and other quick and healthy recipes.

Eating healthy, delicious food while losing weight can feel challenging, but now you have 17 meal ideas to help you get started on a successful weight loss journey.

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  1. Stevenson JL, Paton CM, Cooper JA. Hunger and satiety responses to high-fat meals after a high-polyunsaturated fat diet: A randomized trial. Nutrition. 2017;41:14-23.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2017.03.008

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