Let’s face it—losing weight and keeping it off can be hard work. And with all the calorie-rich convenience foods that are readily available 24-7, along with sneaky weight-loss saboteurs like stress and lack of sleep that are often beyond our control, even the most determined dieters can fall of the wagon. However, the key to increasing your odds of success can be achieved by eating more of the foods with proven weight-loss benefits.
To help you achieve your healthy weight goals, nutritionists recommend adding these foods to your shopping list.
“An apple a day may keep extra pounds away,” says Katherine Brooking, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health. A medium apple has around 95 calories and 5 grams of filling fiber. Apple peels are also a rich source of ursolic acid, a natural plant compound that has been shown in preliminary studies to increase fat-burning. In addition, one study reported that women who added three small apples (equal to 200 calories) to their diet per day lost a little more than 2.5 pounds in 12 weeks—more than dieters who did not include the fruit in their diet.
With just 40 calories per cup, asparagus packs in 4.5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, making it one of the best picks to get the number on your scale headed south. “The veggie’s high protein and fiber and low calorie counts make it a top pick for anyone trying to keep hunger at bay,” notes Torey Armul, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Asparagus is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, folate, and iron.
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As a plant-based, protein-packed choice, beans are one of the best foods to enjoy when you’re trying to trim down. “Beansare metabolized slowly, so they may aid in weight loss by keeping you feeling fuller longer,” notes Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN. A half-cup of beans provides about 110 calories and 7 grams of protein, around the same amount of protein as you’d get in an ounce of chicken or fish. Beans are also considered a nutrient-rich superfood providing antioxidants, iron, potassium, and zinc.
Want something sweet to enjoy that can help you trim down and tone up too? Eat more berries, suggests Susan Burke March, RDN. Berries are low in calories, high in fiber, and will satisfy your cravings for something sweet without any added sugar. One study revealed that eating a snack of 65 calories of mixed berries resulted in participants eating 133 fewer calories at dinner, compared to those who ate a 65-calorie sugary treat instead. Another study that looked at the eating patterns of more than 130,000 adults for more than 20 years found that berries were one of the best fruits for maintaining a healthy weight.
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You shouldn’t eat only grapefruit–but citrus fruit can help tip the scale in your favor. Sweet and juicy grapefruit and oranges are a tasty way to help whittle your middle, suggests Brooking. A medium orange has just 60 calories and 3 grams of fiber, while a grapefruit has around 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber. Due to their high water and fiber counts, citrus fruits have lower glycemic index scores and can help temper blood sugar levels to keep you satisfied for longer.
Cottage cheese has a long-standing reputation for being a diet-friendly health food for good reason. “Cottage cheese keeps you satiated because it’s high in protein, and it pairs perfectly with sweet (like fresh fruit and cinnamon) or savory (like salad or your favorite veggies),” notes Taub-Dix. “If you’re watching your weight, even the 4% fat version of cottage cheese [typically] has only 110 calories per serving while low-fat (2%) has around 90.”
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“When clients ask me which foods I recommend when they want to lose weight, protein-rich choices like eggs are always on my list,” explains Elisabetta Politi, MPH, RD, nutrition director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina. “Eggs are great because they’re inexpensive, easy to prepare, and you can carry hard-boiled eggs with you.” A large egg has around 70 calories, 13 essential nutrients, and 6 grams of high-quality protein. Studies show that eating a balanced, egg-based breakfast can help keep you satisfied so it’s easier to limit your overall calories later in the day to help you peel off pounds.
Nutrient-dense dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula only have about 25 to 30 calories per cup and are loaded with fiber, keeping you fuller on fewer calories, notes Malina Malkani, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s important to focus on foods that provide the most nutrients per calories, to help you feel your best while losing weight,” she adds.
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Thanks to its high protein content and lower sugar counts, Greek yogurt (as well as other types of strained yogurt) can help keep you satisfied, explains Armul. Greek yogurt has about twice the protein and half the sugar of traditional yogurts. A study of more than 8,500 European adults reported that those who enjoyed a serving or more of European-style strained yogurt every day were 20% less likely to become overweight and 38% less likely to become obese during the six-year study compared to those who ate fewer than two servings of yogurt per week.
You have to pity the poor potato, with its much-maligned and undeserved reputation for being fattening. Potatoes aren’t the problem; it’s what we do tothem (fry them, turn them into chips, or smother them in sour cream) that hurts our health, explains Burke March. A medium potato has around 160 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. What’s more, taters are tops for satiety, thanks to their fiber and resistant starch, so enjoying a spud can help you achieve your healthy weight goals.