Eat Up! List of Foods to Eat While Trying to Lose Weight
Whether you’re trying to trim up for beach season, improve your overall health, or improve measures of performance, there are plenty of valid reasons to drop a few pounds of unwanted body fat. But, as the old adage goes, “I know how to lose weight, but not how to keep it off.”
List of Foods to Eat
In order to achieve sustainable weight loss, plenty of attention has to go into your exercise routine, your lifestyle choices, and especially the foods you decide to eat. Today, we’ll discuss a list of foods to eat while trying to lose weight, and discover why some foods are better than others when it comes to dropping pounds.
Tip the Scales
As mentioned before on this site, weight loss (or gain) is largely dictated by your long-term energy balance. Consuming more energy than you expend leads to a positive energy balance, and if you maintain a positive energy balance over a prolonged time, you primarily store the excess energy as body fat.
Conversely, consuming less energy (or calories) than you expend leads to a negative energy balance, commonly referred to as a “deficit.” A prolonged deficit highly correlates with weight loss, as your body has to bridge the gap between energy demands and energy consumed by tapping into energy stores in your body (i.e. body fat).
So a list of foods to eat while trying to lose weight is going to include plenty of foods that provide a low “calorie density,” meaning they provide less energy on a gram-per-gram basis than other foods. For instance, as discussed on this site before, pretty much any fast-food item violates this principle. You’re likely to consume 800+ calories in a single sitting.
On the other hand, most fruits and vegetables typically offer about 100 calories (or less) per serving, meaning you can eat a much larger volume of these foods for a fraction of the calories. A kilogram of 80% lean ground beef, for example, weighs in at 2540 calories, while a kilogram of strawberries only provides 320 calories.
Of course, you’re probably not chowing down on a kilo of beef for dinner every night, but this wide discrepancy highlights another key aspect of foods to eat while trying to lose weight: the Satiety Index.
Stretch it Out
Satiety is the sensation of fullness you feel as the result of a meal. Different foods vary widely in their ability to make you feel satiated. One of the biggest determinants of satiety is food volume, represented by the beef vs strawberries example above.
If you’re eating raw strawberries, you can literally eat a kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of food, which would only account for a few hundred calories. The kilogram of weight that now resides in your digestive tract is going to create a lot of physical pressure in your gut, which creates a stretching response in the stomach that contributes directly to satiety.
Fiber content also drastically increases the satiating ability of foods. Different fibers can absorb water and expand to many times their original size. Fiber also slows down the speed at which food moves through your gut.
Both aspects further contribute to the stretching response of the stomach by creating more pressure in your gut for a longer duration, meaning you feel fuller for longer. It’s no surprise that increasing fiber intake is a strong tool for weight management.
In 1995, a study was conducted to determine the satiating ability of different foods, with the resulting scores creating a “Satiety Index.” In general, foods that have low-calorie density and are high in fiber (and water volume) tend to score the highest.
Foods like apples, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, watermelon, and pumpkin should certainly be included on a list of foods to eat while trying to lose weight.
Light the Flame
While fiber is an important factor to consider for satiety, it can also contribute to something known as the Thermic Effect of Food, which will have a positive impact on your ability to lose weight.
Whenever you consume food, your body has to expend a certain amount of energy breaking that food down and digesting it. Unfortunately, no foods cause you to expend more energy than they contain… not yet, at least.
But in addition to fiber, the amount of processing that the food is subjected to and the other macronutrients in the food also contribute to this Thermic Effect. In one study, comparable sandwiches made with more processed vs less processed ingredients differed in thermic effect by nearly 10%, meaning simply swapping out processed foods for whole-food alternatives can increase the energetic “cost” of food by hundreds of calories over the course of the day.
Remember, if you’re expending more than you take in over time, you’ll be in a negative energy balance, which is beneficial for weight loss.
Additionally, the Thermic Effect of Food increases when you include all three macronutrients, including protein, in sufficient quantities. Protein in isolation isn’t more thermic or satiating than any of the other macronutrients, but sufficient protein intake is often treated as an afterthought when people’s sole focus is to lose weight.
This is misguided for many reasons, including the fact that sufficient protein intake can preserve muscle mass during weight loss, meaning you’ll preferentially be losing unwanted body fat.
But according to the Protein Leverage Hypothesis, your hunger levels will not subside until you consume an adequate amount of protein throughout the day. A lot of research has established that consuming at least 1.8 grams/kilogram of body weight (or .82 grams/pound of bodyweight) is sufficient for all populations, meaning you should shoot for this value to subdue hunger as well.
This is not a comprehensive list of foods to eat while trying to lose weight, but this is a good starting point that overlaps with the elements we discussed earlier (non-processed, low energy density, high fiber, high protein).
Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Watermelon, Grapes, Pineapple, Kiwi, Tomatoes (technically a fruit!), Pumpkin (also technically a fruit!)
Vegetables: Kale, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Celery, Spinach, Carrots, Peppers, Artichoke, Baked Potatoes (both White and Sweet, technically vegetables)
Proteins: Chicken Breast, Ground Turkey, Salmon, Shrimp, (Lean) Ground Beef, Low Fat (or Fat-Free) Dairy (like Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Hard Cheeses), Tuna, Egg Whites