With the New Year around the corner, you're probably thinking about how to shed an extra pound or two. Luckily, there's a way to lose some weight with the help of food (and, okay, some exercise). To make your meals work for you, opt for the following 20 bites recommended by various nutritionists, dietitians and experts, who offer tips and tricks for good measure, too.
"Loaded with a fiber called pectin that slows digestion, apples keep you fuller longer," says , RDN, TODAY show nutrition expert and founder of Nourish Snacks. "In one study, women who ate three apples a day lost more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories in oatmeal cookies. The apple eaters' blood sugar dropped, too!"
"It's time to give this vegetable a second—or third—chance," says Joy. "One cup has just 38 calories and packs 3.8 g of fiber, and nonstarchy sprouts have the satisfying texture of a heartier starchy veggie. Plus, they deliver immune- boosting vitamin C, which makes them a smart pick for cold-and-flu season."
"These edible seeds contain satiating protein and fiber, plus they absorb liquid and expand to take up room in your stomach. Sprinkle them on oatmeal, cereal or yogurt, or mix into dips, salad dressings and smoothie," recommends Joy.
"Several studies found a connection between spicy foods and weight loss. (The heat may help to slightly rev metabolism and suppress appetite.) You can drizzle hot sauce on eggs, soups, stews, hummus, and more. Frank's Red Hot Sauce, Cholula and Tabasco are great brand options because they have no added sugar," says Joy.
"Let's face it, a big ol' bowl of greens can get a little boring after a while, but you can add some crunch to salads by tossing in water chestnuts," says Joy. One study suggests that people associate the sound of crunchy foods with freshness; the louder the crunch, the better the product was perceived to be. So skip the croutons and perk up your greens with water chestnuts instead, for about 40 calories per 1⁄2 cup. You'll find canned versions in the Asian-foods aisle at most grocery stores.
The high fiber content of pulses, the dried seeds of legumes, such as lentils "help you stay full longer," says registered dietitian .
Higher fiber foods like chickpeas, "result in fewer calories absorbed," Dudash explains. Jessica Fishman Levinson, RDN, founder of , agrees, adding that the amount of fiber and protein in chickpeas "increases feelings of fullness and satiety."
, RDN, recommends black beans as the "ultimate weight loss multi-taskers." Replacing meat with beans, like in tacos or burritos, helps reduce calories while making you feel full at the same time because of the fiber content.
Pistachios are considered the "skinny nut," says , LDN, author of . It's the "perfect snack" for those looking to shed some pounds: the unshelled nuts force the eater to slow down and the remnants "serve as a visual reminder of how much you have eaten," Palinski explains.
Another good nut option is the almond, according to Levinson, because of the good unsaturated fats and vitamin E, the latter of which acts as an antioxidant. Opt for raw and unsalted nuts for the best health value.
Freshly brewed green tea works wonders for weight loss, says Dudash, referring to that have shown the beverage to slightly increase metabolism and facilitate the burning of calories. She recommends drinking three cups a day without sugar, which she says will allow you to "burn 90 more calories" every day.
Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt is great because it's packed full of protein and calcium, with less sugar and carbs than the regular version. Marlene Koch, RDN, author of , points out that it works well in the mornings, mixed with fruit or nuts, in smoothies, or even as a partial substitute for mayonnaise.
Cottage cheese is a lean protein, which is great for "regulating blood sugar levels throughout the day," explains Palinski, adding that it "helps prevent spikes in hunger." Koch further suggests creaming the cottage cheese to use as an alternative for sour cream, mayonnaise and cream cheese.
Using eggs as a replacement for starchy foods can cut calories. Koch's foolproof egg tip: put one-fourth cup of liquid egg substitute to your smoothie for protein, instead of costly and tasteless protein powders. Both hard-boiled eggs and deviled eggs work as healthier snacks, too.
"Mushrooms are magical when it comes to weight loss," Koch says, explaining that the vegetable makes for an ideal meat substitute. If you can't completely forgo flesh, she suggests swapping half the required ground beef in recipes like meatloaf or burgers with minced mushrooms.
Not only does spinach contain tons of iron (which makes it great for working out because it brings more oxygen into your body), it's highly flexible and can be used in almost any recipe. Koch recommends using tender leaves, which have a milder taste.
"Foods that are naturally rich in water," like romaine lettuce, bolster weight loss by "diluting the calories of your meal and keeping you full at the same time," says Koch. She also favors beginning each meal with a salad, which leaves you less hungry.
Dudash endorses all other non-starchy vegetables, which contain less carbs and calories, but a lot of fiber. This includes zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, bok choy, and the list goes on. For taste, she suggests roasting the vegetables, which adds flavor by way of caramelizing.
This food's benefit, as you probably guessed, is fiber. It leaves you feeling full and helps lower the bad kind of cholesterol (both total and LDL), explains Levinson. Koch prefers plain rolled oats, which are "minimally processed and have no added sugar," making them "far more satisfying than sugar-spiked instant packets."
For whey protein, which helps burn fat, try eating part-skim ricotta. It has "just enough creaminess" to satisfy your tastebuds, but none of the downfalls from the full-fat rendition, says Ansel.
Tuna keeps your metabolism up while shedding weight because it's "super lean yet packed with protein," explains Ansel. One tin can contains approximately 32 grams of protein, which is around the recommended amount for every meal to encourage weight loss.
The "fad diet" fruit does actually work. Ansel suggests having half a grapefruit before every meal. Doing this for three months has helped others lose about 3.5 pounds—and hey, fruit is always good for you!
The movie theater snack could be seen as an empty bite, but popcorn is better than the other junk food options out there. "Thanks to its volume, it can fill you up with fewer calories," says Palinski, "while still providing the same great crunch."
The textured "creamy mouthfeel" of avocados is something people crave, and it doesn't hurt that the fruit is already full of fiber and monounsaturated fats. By adding the produce to lunch, says Levinson, you won't feel like you want to eat again anytime soon. Palinski counts a whopping 21 nutrients in avocados and suggests using it in recipes requiring butter.
Water really does a body good. Palinski recommends drinking at least 64 ounces of "very cold" water every day, including one cup before every meal, which can "help curb appetite." Ice-cold water is better because "your body has to use extra energy" to warm up, which leads to "a slight metabolism boost," Palinski explains.
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