If you've been trying to lose weight safely but find that the scale hasn't budged just yet, it may be time to take a second look at the foods you're routinely stocking in your kitchen. Heavily processed foods can make it difficult to maintain steady weight loss, but some of the best foods to help you lose weight are foods high in protein as well as foods that are high in fiber. Fibrous foods are often naturally lower in calories, help keep you full after a meal and also regulate blood sugar levels. Complement that with foods rich in lean protein which also enhance satiety and you have a winning weight loss combo. What's more, research suggests that the more dietary fiber that one incorporates into their daily routine, the more they're able to work against "abdominal fat deposits." Our experts share that fat accumulation around your midsection, also called visceral fat, can be dangerous because it wraps around important internal organs where it may trigger metabolic disturbances that up your risk for certain chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
While fiber and protein are two components of a healthy diet, there's not a single ingredient or beverage you can consume to magically melt away pounds. You'll lose weight (and reduce body fat naturally) by adopting a wholesome diet, alongside moderate exercise. Eliminating processed foods high in sodium and other sugary items is important, as is staying routinely hydrated to aid digestion and fast-track your weight loss efforts overall. When it comes to healthy eating and safe weight loss, these powerful foods loved by our registered dietitians have your back.
Editor's Note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
This legume is a nutritional powerhouse, filled with fiber and plant-based protein that can both assist in your weight loss efforts. Our nutrition pros love that chickpeas are also packed with folate, iron, and immune-boosting antioxidants and bloat-busting minerals. They're a rich source of complex carbohydrates which can help provided sustained energy throughout your day.
Although they are pretty low calorie as it is, what makes chickpeas such a great food for managing weight is their nutrient-density. Research shows that choosing foods with high nutrient density, providing hummus as an example, can help maximize each calorie and provide a slew of unique health promoting ingredients while supporting healthy weight loss.
Chickpeas are a great starting place for tons of fast, easy and healthy recipes. They easily go in soups, stews, salads and side dishes. The tender, buttery beans soaks up any flavors you decide to pair it with. Cooked dried beans are incredible, but canned can be a quick convenient option- just look for lower-sodium varieties when able. You can blend them together to make hummus, or try chickpea flour which is a gluten-free alternative in your favorite baked good recipes.
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With more fiber than quinoa and more potassium than a banana, pumpkin puree is one of your best bets for snacking and cooking purposes. This antioxidant-rich choice is naturally low in calories too and talk about nutrient-dense! One cup only has about 80 calories but is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin gets its bright orange color from beta-carotene, a carotenoid the body uses to make vitamin A. But the benefits don't stop just with the puree; with about 7 grams of protein per snack-sized serving, pepitas (a.k.a. pumpkin seeds) are a great addition to most diets.
Our registered dietitians say that canned pumpkin is a great pantry staple, but give a pro tip to look for 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which is packed with added sugar and artificial
flavorings. Stock up on canned pumpkin in the Fall so you can enjoy it year-round.
Pureed pumpkin works great in smoothies, soups, vinaigrettes, oatmeal, yogurt and pancake batter. You can even sneak it into a cheese sauce to add some extra nutrients to your favorite mac ’n’ cheese dish. Try this the next time you're craving sweets: add pureed pumpkin to unsweetened Greek yogurt with cinnamon and chopped pears for a nutritious dessert.
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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 other important nutrients including protein. One cup of kefir has a little over 100 calories and 10 grams of protein depending on the brand and variety.
Research continues to support the importance of the gut microbiome in overall health, and recent studies suggest that there may be a relationship between gut health and a person's ability to lose weight. Kefir provides diverse probiotics (good bacteria) to help balance the microbiome which in turn yields tremendous digestive benefits. What's more, since all the food and beverages that we consume is broken down in the gut so that nutrients can be delivered throughout our bodies, maintaining healthy gut microbiota is crucial. When it comes to kefir specifically, our experts recommend plain varieties with no added sugar for maximum benefits.
Kefir can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, added to smoothies, used in overnight oats or chia pudding, and even incorporated as the base of your next protein marinade. Not only does kefir’s tangy flavor work well with herbs and spices to impart a fresh flavor, the lactic acid (in kefir) and the live and active probiotic cultures turn tough cuts into tender, juicy masterpieces.
This popular protein powerhouse is fairly low in calories (under 200 calories for a 3 ounce serving) but makes for the ideal meal choice as it is packed with polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential as the body can't produce them and we must get them regularly from our diet. These nutritious omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to a healthy heart, and as well as benefitting cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, and even blood clotting. Plus, the healthy fats and protein combo in salmon make it very satisfying. What's more, when combined with a calorie controlled diet, incorporating seafood like salmon may increase weight loss according to recent research.
The key in incorporating salmon into your weight loss regimen is how it is prepared. Avoid frying and instead opt for baking or air-frying methods which require far less oil. Get creative with different herbs and spices on your salmon whenever you can, as this will encourage you to cut back on high-sodium staples and avoid the salt shaker, a major player in weight gain. We love basil, cilantro, rosemary, sage, tarragon, mint, oregano, and black and red chili peppers, to name a few.
You can enjoy salmon on its own or transform it into something creative like delicious salmon burgers. Canned salmon can be a great option as well to have on hand in your pantry for last minute lunchtime salads and more, just stick to varieties with lower amounts of sodium when possible.
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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 oats has at least 4 grams of fiber making it a fantastic nutritious choice. Plus, for the volume that you get with oats, the calories are relatively low coming in at only 150 calories for ½ cup dry oats which expands when cooked to yield 1 cup. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that individuals who eat oatmeal actually tend to be healthier in general and have a lower body weight compared to those who don’t eat oatmeal.
Not only does the soluble fiber in oats help to reduce LDL cholesterol, but weight loss can lower LDL cholesterol as well which makes this a winning combination. What's more, we already talked about how probiotics introduce useful bacterial to your system, but the prebiotics in oats feed the good bacteria already living there, helping it proliferate.
Don't just limit oats to breakfast; they can be ground into oat flour for baking and even transformed into savory oat bowls for lunch or dinnertime. Does your smoothie leave you starving after an hour? Try adding in scoop of nutrient-dense oats. They blend well and add a good source of dietary fiber to your smoothie to keep you fuller for longer.
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Another nutty superstar, walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats — they're an extremely heart-healthy snack compared to 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 have experienced in between meals in the past.
Walnuts also contain great amounts of polyphenols, which are beneficial plant compounds that may play a role in a variety of diseases and health outcomes. Research findings show that when compared to control diets, walnut-enriched diets resulted in significantly greater decreases in total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride too. They also contain prebiotics, an indigestible fiber that fuels probiotics that has been shown to positively impact gut bacteria.
Enjoy walnuts on their own or add them to grain dishes like quinoa, wheat berries or couscous. Chopped walnuts can be folded into ground meat dishes, and they are great to use for added texture and crunch in baked goods.
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One of the highest protein snack nuts, pistachios offer six grams of plant protein per serving and fuel your body with essential amino acids. They also pack in three 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.
Have you ever wondered why pistachios are sometimes sold in their shells? Believe it or not, pistachios are a prime example of a wholesome snack that may end up causing you to slow down and focus on what you're eating due to their shells. Initial research published in the journal Appetite found that the process of shelling pistachios signaled dieters to slow down — the shells themselves served as a reminder of how much they had already ate.
You can enjoy pistachios in the shell as a snack, or buy varieties without shells to add to salads or grind up and use as a better-for-you crust on fish or chicken. They also make a great addition to pesto both in terms of their flavor and natural green color.
All berries are packed with antioxidant polyphenols and vitamins, but compared to other berries, raspberries really reign supreme in the fiber department. They boast a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup, making them the perform low-calorie but nutrient-dense food. They are an excellent addition to an already balanced breakfast, whether it's oatmeal, yogurt, or even a quick smoothie, to make the meal feel even more substantial. One cup only has about 64 calories too.
Animal studies conducted by researchers at Oregon State University found that eating the equivalent of one serving of raspberries daily curbed weight gain in mice, even when they ate an unhealthy and high-fat diet. And since raspberries are free from added sugar, they are a great natural way to sweeten practically any recipe including baked goods and breakfast bowls.
Instead of traditional sugary jelly on a PB&J sandwich, try mashing raspberries for a natural healthy spread to pair with your peanut butter. They add great vibrant color to smoothies, and a refreshing bite in muffins too.
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Some initial research indicates eggs, which are low in calories and are rich in other dietary nutrients, may aid in weight loss over time. High-protein breakfasts, including omelets and veggie-forward skillet scrambles, can be quite satiating throughout the day; but even a hard-boiled egg atop a salad at lunch can also keep you full until dinner.
While you may be tempted to skip the yoke and stick with egg whites to cut down on calories, the yolk is extremely nutrient-dense and houses the filling healthy fats in eggs as well as special nutrients like choline and vitamin D. In this scenario, the small calorie investment will provide a big bang for your buck and keep you fuller longer on your weight loss journey. Plus, the entire egg is only about 70-80 calories making it a low-calorie but nutrient-dense choice.
Enjoy eggs in a wide variety of recipes like jammy egg toast, breakfast burritos, frittatas and more. Better yet, simply hard-boil a batch to enjoy as a snack or chop into salad for a major protein boost.
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Plant-based proteins like lentils can prove to be an excellent weight loss food as they are also high in fiber. These little protein-filled bites of plant-based goodness make for excellent soup bases or salad additions to make a meal feel so much more substantial. The fiber and resistant starch within lentils can help you consume fewer calories between meals.
At about 120 calories per half cup and an impressive 8 grams of fiber, lentils are one of the high fiber foods that are excellent for weight loss and an overall healthy diet. Research on pulses including lentils, chickpeas, dry peas and more suggests that they may assist in modest weight loss even without intended calorie restriction. Lentils are also low in sodium and saturated fat, making them a heart healthy choice too.
Lentils come in a variety of different colors and add a richness and earthiness to any meal. Toss them in chopped salads or grain bowls, and add them to meat mixtures like chilis and stews to add more bulk and nutrients. You can even use a food processor to grind down lentils into a paste and transform into a veggie burger or vegan meatballs.
This naturally gluten-free whole grain is extremely high in fiber. But more importantly, it's a complete protein source which means it contains amounts of all nine essential amino acids. It's also one of the few vegan plant-based complete protein sources.
Quinoa provides a filling and nutrient-rich alternative to white refined carbohydrates like white pasta and white rice. It doesn't totally disrupt blood sugar levels due to it's low glycemic index, either. All in all: Quinoa is a must-add to any kitchen to promote sustained weight management.
Actually considered a seed, quinoa is available in several varieties including red, black and white. It has a beautiful nutty flavor and is great as a side dish, substituted for rice in stuffed peppers, and even incorporated into breakfast bowls as a sub for oats. If you haven't tried quinoa before, try it as a side dish to a weeknight dinner meal.
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Produce like spinach and kale are low calorie and come in low on the glycemic index, making them an ideal food for achieving and maintaining a 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. Plant-based foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber, like dark leafy greens, help enhance satiety.
Spinach is loaded with minerals like potassium, which can help offset the effects of sodium. And kale is virtually fat-free and a single cup contains about 30 calories, alongside strong amounts of vitamins A, K, C, B6, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, among others.
Whether it's tossed as a salad or sautéed as a side for dinner, dark leafy greens are a no-brainer for anyone trying to eliminate stubborn pounds. Add them to smoothies for more bulk and a dose of both fiber and key vitamins and minerals.
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Fat is not the enemy! In fact, fats are a crucial part of any diet and eating plan. But choosing good quality healthy fats like avocados are key. Avocados are loaded with fiber, vitamin E, lutein and monounsaturated fatty acids. Since fats are concentrated, portion control is key but even a small amount of healthy fats can prove to be extremely filling.
In a 12 week randomized parallel controlled study, daily Hass avocado consumption in addition to a calorie controlled diet support weight loss among other benefits. Research even suggests that an avocado a day may redistribute belly fat in women towards a more healthier profile.
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This yummy veggie is a weight-loss friendly choice as it's low calorie, high in water content and contains fiber too. One medium spear of asparagus is only 3 calories but has great texture and crunch too. This cholesterol-free, fat-free and low-sodium pick makes for a great addition to several dishes.
The key with asparagus, and any vegetable, is in preparation and not dousing it in excessive amounts of butter and oil. Try air frying it for a great crispy texture without the added need for heavy fats. Low-calorie, water-rich foods like asparagus can help support healthy weight loss as well.
As a prebiotic-filled veggie, asparagus is a great addition to soups, pastas, and omelets, or served as a side dish. Try pairing asparagus sticks with other crudité and dipping in hummus.
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As deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab for the past two years, Stefani Sassos handles all nutrition content, product testing and evaluation. She stays up to date on the latest research to provide evidence-based reporting on all things diet and nutrition, and she also runs large-scale tests and analysis for products ranging from protein bars to supplements. She has a master's degree in clinical nutrition from New York University and has been a registered dietitian for six years, working in the clinical setting prior to Good Housekeeping and obtaining advanced credentials and board certifications in the nutrition field. She takes the pulse of the latest nutrition research and trends, translating to readers what principles are science-backed and worth incorporating into a healthy lifestyle (and what fads are worth avoiding).