Weight is not the end all be all, and many other factors are equally if not more important, when it comes to overall health.
But if you’re trying to manage your weight and lose weight safely, certain low-calorie but nutrient-dense foods can help.
Heavily processed foods that are high in excess calories and saturated fat can make it difficult to maintain steady weight loss, but some of the best foods to help you lose weight are foods high in fiber, protein, and water.
With more fiber than quinoa and potassium than a banana, pumpkin puree is an antioxidant-rich choice that’s naturally low in calories. One cup has only about 80 calories and contains vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin gets its bright orange color from beta-carotene, a carotenoid the body uses to make vitamin A.
This legume is a vegan powerhouse filled with fiber and plant-based protein, which can assist in your weight loss efforts. Our nutrition pros love that chickpeas are also packed with folate, iron, immune-boosting antioxidants, and bloat-busting minerals. In addition, they’re a rich source of complex carbohydrates, which can help provide sustained energy throughout your day.
As part of a balanced diet, oatmeal can be a great weight loss tool. The fiber and protein content of oats can enhance satiety and keep you full. Just ½ cup of uncooked oats has at least 4 grams of fiber and only 150 calories — and it expands when cooked to yield 1 cup. In addition, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that individuals who eat oatmeal tend to be healthier in general and have a lower body weight than those who don’t eat oatmeal.
With a tart and tangy flavor, kefir is a fermented milk drink with a thin consistency that has been around for over 2,000 years. Since it is a fermented beverage, it is a rich source of probiotics to help regulate a healthy gut and contains other essential nutrients, including protein. One cup of kefir has over 100 calories and 10 grams of protein, depending on the brand and variety.
All berries are packed with antioxidant polyphenols and vitamins, but raspberries reign supreme in the fiber department compared to other berries. They boast 8 grams of fiber per cup, making them the perfect low-calorie, nutrient-dense food. They are an excellent addition to an already balanced breakfast — oatmeal, yogurt, or even a quick smoothie — to make the meal feel even more substantial. One cup has only about 64 calories.
Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats — they’re an extremely heart-healthy snack compared with other grab-and-go items like chips or pretzels. One ounce comes in at under 200 calories and provides 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. But you’ll find that this nut happens to be quite satiating. Previous research has established that walnuts, in particular, help to curb cravings that you may experience in between meals.
This popular protein is relatively low in calories at under 200 for a 3-ounce serving, and it’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential. The body can’t produce them, so we must get them regularly from our diet. These nutritious fatty acids can contribute to a healthy heart and benefit cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, and even blood clotting. Plus, the healthy fats and protein in salmon make it very satisfying. What’s more, incorporating seafood like salmon may increase weight loss, according to recent research, when combined with a calorie-controlled diet.
Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens are low-calorie and low on the glycemic index, making them ideal foods for achieving and maintaining healthy body weight. More importantly, adding more green veggies to a balanced diet can increase dietary fiber intake, improve digestive health and assist in weight management. In addition, plant-based foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber, like dark leafy greens, help enhance satiety.
Some initial research indicates that eggs, which are low in calories and rich in other dietary nutrients, may aid in weight loss over time. High-protein breakfasts, including omelets and veggie-forward skillet scrambles, can be pretty satiating; but even adding a hard-boiled egg atop a salad at lunch can help keep you full until dinner.
One of the highest protein snack nuts, pistachios offer 6 grams of plant protein per serving and fuel your body with essential amino acids. In addition, they pack in 3 grams of fiber per serving at only 160 calories per ounce. Pistachios also give you more nuts per serving; you can eat about 49 pistachios compared to 23 almonds or 18 cashews, making them feel like a more substantial snack.
Credit: STEFANI SASSOS, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., C.D.N., NASM-CPT, and JACLYN LONDON, M.S., R.D.