LET’S GET the bad news out of the way. Despite what the pop-up ads say, there’s no such thing as “one magic food” that melts away the pounds. Honestly, if brown bananas or coconut oil were all it took, the human race would know about it by now.
“As much as we’d like to believe it, there’s no snake oil for weight loss,” confirms Krista Maguire, R.D., C.S.S.D., a nutrition manager at The Beachbody Company. “However, that’s good news because who wants to eat one food? Luckily, we get to eat multiple healthful foods to obtain our goal weight.”
The trick is to focus on the nutrients within those foods.
First, protein, which helps you feel satisfied because it takes longer to digest than carbs. It also provides amino acids, the building blocks for lean body mass. This means you’ll preserve muscle, even if you eat at a calorie deficit. “It promotes a healthier body composition leaning towards less body fat and more lean muscle,” Maguire explains.
Next, fiber supports weight loss by adding bulk to food so that you feel full longer. It also slows the release of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping your energy levels steady. Adds Maguire: “You’re less likely to experience a sugar crash that can lead to those pesky snack attacks.”
Finally, probiotics are a recent player to the weight loss game, but they could be headed for MVP status by supporting the “good” bacteria in your gut. “Recent research suggests that gut health impacts weight management.” Maguire says.
Shoot for a balance of these three nutrients, along with hydration to fill you up and healthy, flavorful choices to keep you from feeling deprived. Here are seven foods to get you started.
With almost 20 grams in a seven-ounce serving, low-fat Greek yogurt has more protein than the regular kind. It’s also packed with gut-friendly probiotics. The thicker texture and milder flavor make it more appealing for yogurt newbies and it goes with absolutely any fruit. If it’s not sweet enough for you, minimize the added sugar by drizzling in a little honey instead of buying the pre-sweetened yogurt.
No, you don’t need to choke them down raw—although one cup chopped does contain roughly two grams of both protein and fiber, all for a waistline-pleasing 27 calories. Cauliflower’s bland taste is actually its greatest asset. Add it to all kinds of food to help you feel full and crank up your nutrition. Try cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crusts (avoid the cheesy ones), or cauliflower Buffalo wings. Or throw it in your next smoothie. You won’t even know it’s there.
Lentils contain resistant starch, which is a special kind of fiber that research shows may be especially beneficial for weight loss. As a bonus, resistant starch is prebiotic, meaning it’s good for your gut bacteria. One cup of boiled lentils contains about 18 grams of protein and about 16 grams of fiber. They’re good on their own, but they make a welcome addition to almost any soup or stew.
You can peel and slice them raw into crisp, juicy strips that are great for dipping. One cup of sliced, raw jicama is about 46 calories with almost six grams of fiber. Or bake and season them as a low-calorie substitute for French fries.
We all want a little sugar from time to time. By cutting said sugar with cinnamon at a ratio of about four to one, you’ll find you need a lot less to satisfy your sweet tooth. (You might even find you don’t need the sugar part at all.) Try it in tea, coffee, yogurt, or sprinkled on fruit. If you take casein protein before bed, a little cinnamon can jazz it up.
The fact that they’re sweet and delicious should be enough. Raspberries, in addition to being packed with all kind of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, are also filled with fiber. One cup of raw raspberries contains an impressive eight grams of fiber for just 64 calories. And that fiber is prebiotic, meaning it feeds your good gut bacteria. (That’s a good thing.)
Kale, spinach, chard … every leafy green has its merits, so eat them all liberally, but don’t overlook this classic. Romaine lettuce fills you up and hydrates you. Two cups shredded contain about a gram of protein and two grams of fiber, all for 16 tiny calories. If you’re too macho for salads, try quartering a head lengthwise and throwing it on the grill. Sprinkle it with a little ol